Police to tackle spectator hooliganism at grassroots level

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Police Deputy Minister Bongani Mkongi says the growing incidents of hooliganism at sports events, particularly soccer games, is a matter of national security that also needs to be addressed at grassroots level. 

The Deputy Minister said this when the South African Police Service (SAPS), National Soccer League and the Department of Sports and Recreation appeared before a joint meeting of the Portfolio Committees on Sports and Recreation and Police on Tuesday to give a briefing on the events that led to violent scenes at the recent Nedbank Cup semi-final at Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban. 

“The question of growing hooliganism in South Africa in terms of soccer and other sporting codes is a national security threat [and] if we leave it at this point, it can grow [and become a problem like it has] in… other countries. That is our standpoint in terms of national security,” Mkongi said. 

He said the SAPS would, over and above enforcing the Safety at Sports & Recreational Events Act (SASREA), also look at raising awareness through educational campaigns. 

This, Mkongi said, will include rolling out school safety campaigns as hooliganism can be traced back to school sports grounds. 

The briefing comes after a cup tie that saw Kaizer Chiefs being knocked out of the semi-finals by Free State Stars, resulting in unhappy fans, who had been calling for coach Steve Komphela to resign. The fans invaded the pitch and attacked security personnel and vandalised property. 

Sports Minister Tokozile Xasa, who was also at the briefing, told MPs that she would make a call to the President to establish a judicial commission of inquiry to look into the growing trend of violent acts at sports gatherings, among others. 

Briefing the committee, Major General Singh, an Executive Manager at the office of the National Police Commissioner, said prior to the game, which took place on 21 April 2018, a risk assessment was conducted during the application for the categorization of the cup game. 

Singh said during the application, the Premier Soccer League stated that there was no history of crowd clashing incidents or violence between spectators of participating teams or at the venue itself. 

But the SA Police Service’s Crime Intelligence threat assessment report identified a risk of a possible pitch invasion, sale of illegal parking tickets, traffic congestion and increased crime in the vicinity of the stadium. 

SAPS, Metro Police, private security and PSL security were deployed to strategic points in and around the stadium. 

Singh said a few minutes before the game ended, Kaizer Chiefs supporters started throwing objects towards the technical team area before all hell broke loose. 

Police and security personnel circled the players, match officials and technical staff to ensure safe passage into the change rooms. According to an incident report, 21 people were injured, including one SAPS member, one metro officer, four private security personnel members and 15 spectators. 

TV cameras and speakers were damaged and stadium chairs were set alight. 

Four suspects have since been arrested and released on bail and are set to appear in court on 25 May. 

In his briefing to the committee, Dr Irvin Khoza, the chairperson of the National Soccer League, said the executive committee remained shocked, disappointed and concerned following the “unacceptable events” at Moses Mabhida Stadium. 

“We would like to place on record that the league takes very seriously those specific legislative responsibilities placed upon us to ensure the safety of the millions of law-abiding, valid ticket-holding members of the public, players, officials and match support staff, who attend league sanctioned professional football matches across our country,” he said. 

Dr Khoza said the league would do everything possible within its powers to assist Parliament and government to address the increasing trend of violent and chaotic acts of criminality at football matches. 

He said the league has learnt of the proposed call by Minister Xasa for an official broader inquiry to be established to probe the Moses Mabhida incident, as well as previous similar incidents. 

“We wish to respectfully state that the National Soccer League supports the proposed calling of such an inquiry. The league also respectfully calls on [portfolio the committee], if it has not already done so, to allow the Minister to convene such and inquiry,” he said. – SAnews.gov.za

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