The South African police pray that American president Barack Obama does not attend his team’s matches during the World Cup.
“No, we can’t,” is essentially what the director of the South African national police, Bheki Cele, meant when he evoked the possibility of Obama’s visit during the World Cup. The tournament is set to begin on June 11.
“We are praying that [the United States] does not make it through the first round,” Cele declared recently during a speech about the measures taken to guarantee that the competition runs smoothly. The police chief fears having a security headache on his hands if Obama decides to come and support his team.
The South African minister of foreign affairs, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, brought up Obama’s potential attendance during a visit to Washington. “I remember hearing him say that he might come if the United States went on to the quarterfinals, that he was thinking of coming if they made it to the semi-finals, and that he would come if they were in the finals,” she said. “I am a witness to that,” joked his American counterpart, Hillary Clinton.
A Period of Tensions
The director of the national police estimates that assuring Obama’s security would also mean “assuring the security of the 43 other heads of state in South African territory” during the tournament. This is a difficult mission to perform considering the country’s other problems with security that have taken place only one month before the opening of the World Cup.
Furthermore, on May 6, the police announced the arrest of a “certain number of persons [who] were planning to test their explosives in any one of the black townships [ghettos].” These arrests took place after the murder last month of the pro-apartheid militant, Eugene Terre’Blanche.
The United States will begin in the group tournament pitted against England, Slovenia, and Algeria. Winning second place would be enough to pass to the next round or quarterfinals. With regard to France, the director of the national police can rest assured: he will not have to assure Nicolas Sarkozy’s security for too long…