- South African President Thabo Mbeki is full of hope that his country would prove the sceptics wrong and stage a "well-oiled" football World Cup in 2010. This would only be achieved provided South Africa gain victory over criminals, most agree.
Abundant crime in continental Africa's most developed country is the concern of residents and visitors of the country, including the new United States Ambassador to South Africa, Eric Bost. He described it as worrying for crime to concern every ambassador and the US investors in the country.
Though newly appointed, the US envoy was quick to send signals to the South African government to address its fragile security if it wants to organise a successful World Cup in 2010. He was concerned that unless crime is addressed in the country, security fears would refrain people from going to the World Cup - often described as the world's most spectacular sports event.
Undoubtedly, South Africa has been among the countries in the world that are unable to control the high occurrences of major crimes such as murder, armed robbery and rape. South Africa's robust media and opposition have been pressurising the government for its failure to curb crime.
"I look at things somewhat simplistically on occasion and the issue for me is this: who is going to be interested in spending a significant amount of money coming here on holiday, to have a good time, when you're concerned about the possibility of getting hurt?," was what Ambassador Bost told 'Sunday Times'.
Mr Bost said he was crestfallen when a German Ambassador told him the story of a group of German tour operators who had visited South Africa after the 2006 World Cup to look into available facilities for soccer enthusiasts in 2010.
"They were robbed," he said and therefore questioned whether the robbed tour operators would encourage their nationals to visit South Africa.
South Africa, in the words of Mr Bost, is a resource opulent country that is tainted by negative things.
Unlike other diplomats, the US Envoy goes beyond mere rhetorics, which is why he wants his country to map out strategies with South Africa so as to get enough police on the streets to combat and win crime.
Already, South Africa has planned to set aside over US$ 2 billion to stage the world's most prestigious sports event. Of this sum, almost a quarter is enveloped to fight violent crimes of car hijackings, rape, murder and armed robbery. The country's officials have been upbeat that South Africa will organise the best ever world cup in history.
Ahead of the tournament, South Africa also plans to enrol over 10,000 police officers and judicial staff to strengthen security and judicial processes before the event.
Minister of Safety and Security, Charles Nqakula, last week asked whether safety around the event was being questioned, for South Africa has a predominantly black government.
"We don't want to go back to the conflicts of the past. Do we want people to say it is because it is not the white man's sport, but soccer, the black man's sport?" he asked.
Despite the heightened number of crimes, FIFA endorsed that the event would take place in South Africa because of its high level preparations.
Australian officials had said they were ready to takeover the hosting of the world cup if they were called to do so. Worried South African journalists walked out on the officials of FIFA's World Cup organising committee for not being ready to provide answers to their queries.
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