South Africa needs to rethink the role of private security in the country, especially in support of the South African Police Service (SAPS), President Cyril Ramaphosa has said.
Ramaphosa was speaking at a South African Human Rights Commission hearing on Friday (April 1) about his responses to the mass riots seen in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng in July 2021.
The president noted that the country’s private security industry was playing an important role in riot control and that the government was now prioritizing the development of a “national security strategy” which would see security personnel more closely aligned with national crime strategies.
This follows recommendations made by a panel of experts following the riots, colloquially known as the “Africa Report”, which concluded that Ramaphosa should develop a security strategy, in an open manner that involves all sectors of society.
This strategy should be debated and approved in parliament and should be reviewed every three years, or when circumstances require it, the experts said.
Private security overshadows the police
The Africa Report found that South Africa’s private security sector played an outsized role in the July riots, with SAPS unable to respond effectively to the violence.
He noted that the South African police service is only 180,000 strong out of a population of around 60 million, which has fueled the demand for privatized security services across the country.
“The industry is subject to national regulation under the Private Security Industry Regulation Act. It is well-resourced – some have argued that it is over-resourced – but under-regulated and therefore oversight of how its members conduct business is inadequate.
While official figures put the number of private security guards at over half a million, industry regulator PSIRA says the actual numbers are much higher than that.
“Unchecked, this could be seen as a potential risk to stability. However, PSIRA believes this could be turned into an opportunity, if these trained officers could be mobilized to help SAPS uphold the rule of law.
“Much more thought should be given to the viability of the idea. What is undeniable is that such an initiative should be subject to strict state control, probably by the formal security structures,” the experts said.
Gauteng Premier David Makhura notably raised concerns about the lack of intelligence from the government’s state security structures and said the province’s leadership had to rely heavily on the private security industry. to get information.
“Realizing this apparent inability of the state to deal with these challenges, many middle-class South Africans have resorted to private security companies to guard their homes and businesses.
“The government also relies on private security companies to protect government buildings and infrastructure as it does not have enough personnel in SAPS to meet all of its physical security needs,” the experts said.
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