Cops hunt men who threatened World Cup fans on TV

Police are hunting two men whose threats on a television programme to kill and rob fans at June’s Soccer World Cup have alarmed authorities worried that South Africa’s reputation for violence will deter foreign visitors.

An interview with the two self-styled criminals on caused an uproar, with both Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa and police National Commissioner Bheki Cele condemning the station.

The men, whose faces were concealed, said in a weekend programme that they would commit armed robberies and murder during the month-long soccer spectacular, which is expected to attract 450 000 foreign fans. They said this was justified as revenge for colonial wrongs.

Mthethwa said the two men could be arrested for intimidation and face charges carrying up to 20 years imprisonment. Cele, who has encouraged a shoot-to-kill policy against violent criminals, demanded that identify the men and give details of their location.

The police minister said the repeated showing of the interview was sensationalist and encouraged crime and a climate of “fear and hysteria”.

“It further provides an unwanted public platform for thugs and criminals to serve to undermine South Africa’s efforts to ensure a safe and secure 2010 Fifa World Cup,” he said.

He assured foreign visitors that the World Cup would be safe. defended the programme, saying it was good investigative journalism that did not glorify criminals.

South African and World Cup officials are sensitive about violence, which is one of the biggest concerns around the tournament. The country has one of the world’s highest rates of violent crime, with about 50 murders a day.

Chief World Cup organiser Danny Jordaan last week angrily dismissed repeated suggestions that the ambush of the Togolese football team at the African Nations Cup in Angola had sharpened the threat of violence at the tournament.

Meanwhile, a British company is marketing stab-proof vests to football fans visiting South Africa for the World Cup, a move denounced on Monday as “scare tactics” to make money off crime fears.

“We think it’s abominable ... it’s not necessary. It’s a money-making exercise using scare tactics,” said Rich Mkhondo, spokesperson for the organising committee.

Protektorvest company is marketing stab-proof vests to tourists who fear being mugged and stabbed during the World Cup at a cost of R510, also offering free delivery at a hotel in Johannesburg or Pretoria.

The company can also customise the vest with team or national emblems.

Jordaan says the country is spending R1,3-billion to beef up security. That includes the 45 000 police officers deployed for the event, but also new equipment including helicopters, water cannons, body armour and 100 new patrol vehicles.—Reuters, AFP

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