LONDON, Nov 7 (Reuters) - South Africa plans to expand its police force by some 35,000 ahead of the 2010 soccer World Cup, conscious that high levels of crime could deter fans or mar the tournament.
The country will also train additional railway police, with 5,000 new officers set to be deployed on the rail network starting next year, Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk told reporters on a visit to London.
Critics have questioned whether South Africa can provide stadiums and hotels for the nearly 500,000 foreigners and some three million locals expected at the event and protect them from the country's high levels of violent crime.
South Africa plans to have 187,000 police working by 2010, up from some 152,000 now. Van Schalkwyk said fighting crime, particularly on public transport, was a challenge the government 'was not going to run away from'.
'The concern about the public railway system is a very valid one. Crime has historically been a problem,' he said.
In South Africa, Hangwani Mulaudzi, spokesperson for the Ministry for Safety and Security, said all the police on patrol during the World Cup would be locals and the force's expansion was part of an ongoing plan to boost security.
'We are members of Interpol and as members we would expect advice on some issues that we feel are not up to scratch,' he told Reuters. 'Obviously we exchange with them ... ideas, intelligence.'
British police officers patrolled in Germany during this year's World Cup in an effort to curb English soccer hooliganism.
England's fan group said there were more than 315,000 England fans present in Germany's venue cities for England games. Despite those numbers, there were few disturbances.
Van Schalkwyk said South Africa expected to receive fewer English fans than Germany, given the distance.