Soweto Derby, a dress rehearsal for June

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Johannesburg - This weekend's Soweto Derby will be a good indication of the country's preparedness to especially handle large crowds, ahead of the FIFA Confederations Cup in June.

The Derby on Saturday will be used to test readiness in crowd control, security and traffic management, among others.

Soccer giants Kaizer Cheifs and Orlando Pirates are set to clash at Coca Cola Park and tens of thousands of fans are expected to descend on the venue.

Councilor Nandi Mayathula-Khoza, MMC for Community Development, said the event was a rehearsal exercise for both the Confederations Cup and FIFA 2010 World Cup.

"We have chosen the Chief-Pirates Derby to test our measures because of the number of fans involved. About 61 000 spectators are expected to attend the end-of-season fixture," Ms Mayathula-Khoza said.

All of the city's role-players for 2010 will be in action to ensure the safety of soccer fans and smooth running of the event.

Ms Mayathula-Khoza said during the day it would become evident which measures were successful and which needed additional tweaking before the Confederations Cup.

The biggest impact for soccer fans and Johannesburg residents will be the closure of roads in a 1km perimeter around the Ellis Park Stadium precinct, as well as security and emergency measures that will be put in place to satisfy international match conditions.

"Approximately 300 Johannesburg Metropolitan Police officers will be deployed for traffic management, crime prevention and by-laws management purpose. Illegally parked vehicles will be towed away immediately," she said.

The road closures will apply from 5am and access control will start at the Joe Slovo Road off ramp on the M1, where motorists will be informed about the road closures and advised on alternative routes.

Similar road blocks will be in place at all other access roads to Coca Cola Park, including from the inner city and from Bezuidenhout Valley.

Barricades will also be erected by Joburg Roads Agency from 6am and then from 8am the Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department (JMPD), in cooperation and coordination with the South African Police Service (SAPS) will close the roads.

Traffic will be diverted onto alternative routes and two different security layers will be applied to the event.

There will be two levels of security around the stadium, one for specific authorised vehicles, such as emergency vehicles, VIPs and team buses and one for accredited vehicles, such as residents, business owners. There will also be park-and-ride buses.

The second level will also include the drop-off and pick-up areas of the park-and-ride buses and three free park-and-ride stations have been created at Bez Valley - Bez Park, Wits - Enoch Sontonga Street entrance and Nasrec - Gate 2.

"We urge soccer supporters to arrive at the park- and-rides two hours before match kick-off at 4pm. They will have to park at one of the three venues where buses will transport them on a regular basis to the stadium and back.

"Buses will start operating from 10h00 in the morning of the game until 9pm," Ms Mayathula-Khoza said.

The Jeppe station will also be open from early on to accommodate supporters who travel by rail and eight special fan trains have been arranged by Metrorail for Saturday.

"No private vehicle or taxi will be allowed to enter or park in the traffic warning zone and in the traffic free zone.

Residents who live within the demarcated zone will be able to obtain special permits from Jeppe Police Station to allow them and their vehicles to enter the area and access their homes. Similar arrangements will be in place for businesses in the area.

Ms Mayathula said special FIFA access permits will be generated in future for the Confederations Cup, adding that if the city can make a success of this event "we know we will be ready for the big time!"