World Cup protests continue in Durban, city’s poor join rally

By Mike Corder, AP
Wednesday, June 16, 2010

WCup labor protests continue, FIFA goes quiet

DURBAN, South Africa — About 600 World Cup security workers and supporters marched on city hall Wednesday in a labor dispute that has spread to half the tournament’s stadiums.

The security stewards, along with others upset about the diversion of public funds to the World Cup, sang and chanted slogans during their demonstration. Police kept watch but did not intervene.

Late Sunday, police used force to break up a demonstration by stewards outside Durban’s World Cup stadium, firing rubber bullets, tear gas and flash grenades at protesting workers.

Police have since taken over security at five of the World Cup’s 10 stadiums.

“Our protest is not aimed at disrupting the World Cup. It’s just to remind the government they must get their priorities right,” said organizer Trevor Ngwane.

“When we ask for jobs, better education and houses, they tell us there is no money. But suddenly there are billion rand (available) to build stadiums.”

Stewards at Durban’s stadium say they were turned away from the venue after they complained about being underpaid by a private contractor.

Similar complaints about low pay and poor conditions quickly popped up elsewhere and police have assumed security duties at venues using the same company, Stallion Security Consortium, in Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and Johannesburg. No wage problems have surfaced among stewards hired for the other five stadiums by South Africa’s largest security company, Fidelity.

On Tuesday, the South African Police Service deployed 1,000 officers to screen more than 54,000 fans arriving for Brazil’s 2-1 victory over North Korea at Ellis Park in Johannesburg after security staff walked out hours before the evening kickoff.

“We are confident that we will not compromise the safety of the tournament or our day to day normal policing,” said General Bheki Cele, the force’s national commissioner in a statement issued Tuesday.

Police spokeswoman Major Gen. Leko Mbatha said that officers would be on duty at 84,000-capacity Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg when Argentina plays South Korea on Thursday as part of a “temporary arrangement” with the organizing committee.

She said officers at Ellis Park did “an excellent job. We’re very much confident they will continue to do so.”

South Africa organizers spokesman Rich Mkhondo referred security questions to the police, while FIFA spokesman Nicolas Maingot said he was not aware if the soccer governing body would be required to help fund the policing bill.

Wednesday’s protest in Durban was joined by local fishermen and other workers who say their daily lives have been disrupted by the World Cup.

The rally was peaceful with organizers even urging protesters not to blow on their vuvuzelas — the ubiquitous plastic horn seen at this World Cup.

Fisherman Rajen Inderjeeth said he had been stopped from fishing in a part of the city’s seafront where luxury hotels look onto the sea and a fan zone.

“When we go they chase us away. They are taking away our livelihoods,” said Inderjeeth, who held up a handwritten sign that read “We will fish against your rules.”

Community worker Pravin Nansook said most Durban residents had been excluded from the World Cup festivities.

“They paint a beautiful picture in the center of town for the tourists. But the tourists should see what the rest of (Durban) is like and the problems that are there,” Nansook said.

“People can’t afford to go to the stadiums. … The World Cup is just for the elite.”

AP Sports Writer Graham Dunbar in Johannesburg contributed to this report.

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