PRESIDENT Jacob Zuma yesterday described the just- ended Fifa Soccer World Cup as a phenomenal success - singling out the security sector for special mention.
In a speech aimed at shoring up SA's achievement in hosting the World Cup, Mr Zuma said the country was going through an emotional moment after doomsayers had warned football fans to avoid coming to SA. "We have been able to show the world that we have what it takes to compete with the best."
However, he denied reports of violence against foreigners, saying there was no proof of the planned attacks.
A distinction had to be made between rumour and fact, Mr Zuma said. "I'm not certain that there have been any threats, what I know is that there have been rumours." Mr Zuma spoke amid reports that police and troops were deployed in force as scores of foreigners sought refuge at police stations in Cape Town and surrounding towns.
Duncan Breen, an advocacy officer at the Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in SA (CoRMSA), said police reaction in the Cape appeared to have been very swift.
"It is quite clear that a number of people are very threatened about their security based on the threats they are receiving and as a result we are seeing people moving out from some of these areas," he said.
The opposition Independent Democrats (ID) criticised the government's "denialist approach towards xenophobia", likening it to the Mbeki-administration's attitude towards HIV/AIDS. "Sadly, g overnment appears to be as ill-prepared for future outbreaks of xenophobic attacks as it was in 2008," said Haniff Hoosen, the ID's spokesman on policing.
Mr Zuma said SA had gained considerable project management experience through hosting the World Cup.
In what appeared an attempt to manage expectations and comparisons, he said organising the tournament had not required the government to choose between pressing socio- economic priorities and successfully hosting the tournament.
Earlier, Fifa president Sepp Blatter gave SA a rating of nine out of 10 for the way the country organised and hosted the 2010 World Cup. Mr Zuma called this a strong performance. "I think it is excellent . a distinction." He said the security establishment had proved to the world "that we mean business when it comes to maintaining law and order".
Institute for Security Studies analyst Anneli Botha ascribed the lack of incidents to high visibility of police , perimeter security around the stadiums and security sweeps for stray bags.
Mr Zuma confirmed that SA was interested in hosting the Olympics in 2020. "Years ago we wanted it. I don't think that appetite has gone away."
Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille described the World Cup in SA as "one of the best football World Cups ever", saying SA had reason to be proud of hosting the event. "We have shown that with firm deadlines, clear budgets, proper planning and good management, we can achieve anything."