/ 12 June 2009

Cops’ Plan B for Confederations Cup

Three days before the Confederations Cup kicked off in Johannesburg, the South African Police Service (SAPS) was scrambling to make plans to take over the entire security component of the tournament after the organising committee (OC) struggled to put qualified private security guards in place.

”Yes, we do have a Plan B if they [the security guards] aren’t properly trained and vetted,” assistant police commissioner Ben Groenewald, who heads the police’s organisation for the Confederations Cup, told the Mail & Guardian this week.

The police’s Plan B entails taking over the event security, which effectively means police officers will guard inside and outside the football stadiums and control access to match venues. According to Fifa guidelines and local policy, all event security is supposed to be handled by the OC.

”This will be the first time that taxpayers foot the entire security bill for a Fifa event,” an industry insider said.

The M&G established that:

  • Urgent meetings took place between ministers in the security cluster and the OC this week after the M&G‘s exposé last week of a problem with the awarding of tenders for private security;
  • The tender for the training of more than 2 000 stewards who will exercise crowd control inside stadiums was awarded to a small Cape Town-based outfit that is known mainly for organising music concerts and is not registered with the Private Security Regulatory Authority (Psira);
  • The training provided to these stewards was invalidated by Sasseta, the security industry’s training authority, after the discovery that trainers weren’t registered with Psira; and
  • By late Wednesday evening no names of security guards or stewards had been given to the SAPS and the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) for vetting purposes. The OC has promised to have a final list ready by Friday.

The M&G revealed last week that the OC awarded the contract for stadium security and VIP protection only two weeks ago — three months after the contract was advertised. After negotiations with a consortium led by Swedish security giant Securitas fell through, the tender was awarded to a small local company, Chippa Protection Services.

Chippa posted 1 200 security guards at the four event stadiums and training grounds this week, but it has not been able to prove to the SAPS that all its guards are registered with Psira. Legislation requires all South African security guards to be graded and registered by the organisation.

According to a Psira source, Chippa had 1 283 security guards registered under its name, but most of them were already placed with other institutions to which Chippa is contracted.

Chippa managing director Siviwe ”Chippa” Mpengesi told the M&G that he was gagged by the OC and could no longer speak to the media.

The M&G sent detailed questions to OC spokesperson Rich Mkhondo. He responded: ”We are just three days away from delivering the best Confederations Cup ever. The teams and spectators are excited about the event. If the Mail & Guardian wish [sic] to discuss tender issues we will be happy to discuss them after the event in July 2009.”

Apart from the tender awarded to Chippa for event security, the M&G established that the OC contracted a consortium led by Cape Town-based Accredited Solutions for Event Stewarding (Acses) to train more than 2 000 stewards appointed to monitor security at stadiums.

Acses director Desmond Grootboom told the M&G this week he was a trained lawyer who had organised jazz festivals and inaugurations in the past.

According to Grootboom, he partnered Chippa and the British-based Events Stewarding Training & Consultancy to form a consortium that tendered for the training contract.

The more than 2 000 stewards are, according to Grootboom, mainly members of community policing forums (CPFs) and were headhunted by the Gauteng and North West departments of community safety. In the Free State a private security contractor allegedly provided stewards.

But patrolling communities and a bit of policing experience might not be sufficient training. According to Fifa’s security guidelines, stewards ”should also have prior experience of the tasks allocated to stewards, particularly at football matches”.

This, coupled with the Psira Act’s requirements of basic security training, might make it unlawful for the OC to deploy these stewards at the four host stadiums from Sunday.

According to Psira’s database, Grootboom himself was still in the process of being registered as a security manager. On Thursday afternoon Psira was still waiting for names of guards and stewards to check whether they are trained and authorised to provide security at the Confederations Cup.

Industry insiders and police officers who spoke to the M&G this week agreed that the last-minute security fiasco could have been avoided had the OC planned better.

”Eighty percent of the event security was supposed to be handled by the OC. The police’s task is to provide national security, not event security. This will only place extra pressure on the police,” a source with knowledge of this week’s scramble told the M&G.

”This is last-minute stuff. This is a big risk,” the source said, adding that the police might have no other option but to deploy more officers to prevent the possibility of criminals being deployed as security guards or stewards.

The organising committee (OC) awarded the contract for the training of more than 2 000 stewards for the Confederations Cup to a consortium led by unknown Cape Town company Accredited Solutions for Event Stewarding (Acses).

‘We’ve delivered successfully’

The Mail & Guardian spoke to Acses director Desmond Grootboom.

”I put this thing together. I was trained as a lawyer, then I started ESP Africa [an events management company]. I organised some jazz festivals, this is how I got into this thing.

Myself and my partner Trevor Tast decided to tender. The other members of the consortium are the UK-based Events Stewarding Training & Consultancy and Chippa Protection Services.

Chippa brought the logistical and security industry background, and the training as well.

Two years ago I realised that there were opportunities for 2010. I come from an entrepreneurial background; I’ve been involved in big events for the past 20 to 30 years.

When you go to big events, like Joy of Jazz or big conference, you always find security but very seldom people who deal with crowds. That’s where my interest came from, and it’s a business thing.

The big companies never trained stewards, they only trained security people. I’ve got a fulltime staff of about eight people. For this project we took on about 30 people.

I realised that what would give us the edge was to find somebody from the UK. I started asking around— I sat down with them. There were quite a few companies interested to partner with us.

Our [Acses’] big role is project management, that’s where our strength lies. Our strength is putting stuff together, making sure we deliver. I can convincingly say that we’ve delivered successfully.”

Asked why all stewards haven’t been registered with Psira, Grootboom said the registration was underway and that it was a ”technicality, in an administrative way. Many must still be registered. Whether Psira will forbid them to work, that’s another separate issue”.