Share this article:
Durban: Private security companies are under investigation for allegedly loaning weapons to civilians during the disturbances in Phoenix.
Police ministry spokesman Lirandzu Themba said four security companies were under investigation by SAPS and the Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority (Psira).
“The companies being investigated for their alleged role in the violence that engulfed Phoenix were KZN VIP Security, Royal Protection, Reaction Unit South Africa and Sealen Security,” Themba said.
She said she was unable to comment further on the investigation.
During a press briefing at Inanda Police Station on Tuesday, Police Minister Gen. Bheki Cele said SAPS was working closely with Psira.
“The investigative team seized 152 firearms from four private security companies operating in the area. They also seized 112 illegal firearms during police operations in Phoenix.”
He said the seizure of firearms fell under the Control Act. The guns were sent for ballistic analysis.
âThere will be a lot of upsides. For example, we will find out that guns are legal and belong to a particular company but in the hands of the wrong person. We are going to be tough on the companies that have allowed their companies to. abused in terms of borrowing firearms. “
Ravindra Maniklall, a lawyer from Durban, said he advised three of the four security companies to turn their guns over to authorities.
“The results of the ballistic test are a possible way for them to erase their names. The allegation that the security companies have handed over weapons to the community has not been brought to their attention.”
Sources close to security companies said Cele was struggling with straws.
“The weapons of some of the security companies were confiscated and taken for ballistic testing as part of the investigation. But none of these security companies gave weapons to the community to defend themselves,” said a source.
Another source said it was premature for the minister to mention the names of security companies without having the results of the ballistic test.
âWe have one company that was not even at the scene of the unrest and another that claims it did not fire any actual bullets. The allegation that these companies were arming residents was never made against them. to discredit them. “
A third source said the companies denied being involved in the unrest or distributing their guns.
“They are sure the ballistic reports will prove their innocence.”
The owners of the security companies declined to comment.
Mary de Haas, an independent violence observer and social scientist, said police and Psira would conduct separate investigations.
âIt is far better that the allegations be properly investigated as it can exonerate them (the owners of private security companies) if they are unfairly accusedâ¦ If they act in terms of the law, then they have nothing to fear, unless the employees are involved in criminal acts. “
She said the investigations should not negatively fuel racial tensions in the community.
âIt should, if done correctly, act as a calming influence. It should be seen as part of the justice process. If there are irregularities in the investigations, the same is true of any other investigation. Those under investigation have recourse to courts and lawyers. If there are no proper investigations, allegations of discriminatory targeting will continue and this could fuel further violence or retaliation.
Karthy Govender, a retired UKZN constitutional law professor, said there was a rule that an accused should not be named before first appearing in court.
âIf any weapons had been sent for ballistic testing, he (Cele) would have had to wait for the results. All the evidence should have been presented to the National Prosecuting Authority to decide whether to prosecute and for the defendants to appear in court.
“If the ballistic results come back and say the guns weren’t used, how is he (Cele) going to fix the lifelong damage to the businesses?” You expect people in positions of authority to be extremely careful. Although there may be some evidence, he should have waited. “
Psira has not commented at the time of posting.
Last month, Psira said she was investigating allegations that some private security providers (companies and agents) were involved in acts of violence during the recent unrest.