Quinton Mtyala

THE contentious Private Security Industry Regulation Amendment Bill is still awaiting President Jacob Zuma’s signature, two years after it was passed by Parliament.

Zuma’s spokesperson Bongani Majola said the bill was still under consideration and that no decision had been made regarding whether to sign it into law or return it to Parliament to be reworked.

The bill adds additional regulations to the security industry, but what has had the industry up in arms for the past two years is a provision that security companies operating in South Africa be 51 percent owned by South Africans.

Critics have said the threat of sanctions from South Africa’s major trading partners, the US and EU where many of the companies are headquartered, was the main impetus stalling Zuma’s signature.

Institute of Security Studies’ senior researcher on policing Johan Burger said the bill was contentious because it was not just about the 51 percent ownership provision but also because it would have implications for South Africa’s international relations.

“While the private security industry’s numbers might sound impressive, one has to be mindful that they are spread over more than 9 000 companies, including car guards and locksmiths,” said Burger.

The DA has been vocal in its opposition to the bill, adding that the ANC was placing South Africa at risk over the foreign ownership provisions. But at the ANC’s national general council last month, the party’s secretary general Gwede Mantashe insisted that South Africa would not be taking instruction from the US over its legislation.

The DA’s spokesperson on policing, Zakhele Mbhele, said: “It’s about that section in particular, obviously because of the investment damaging effect it will have on the (industry).

“… we have been calling for it to be sent back to the (police portfolio) committee so that it can be re-worked.”

He said the private security industry provided an “extra layer” of security in many communities where the SAPS was overstretched.

He said there was also a concern about reports from the private security industry regulator about a cluster of companies which were repeat offenders in terms of non-compliance.

Private Security Industry Regulation Authority (PSIRA) spokesperson Mpho Mofikoe said there were just under two million registered security officers in South Africa, while 471 839 of those were active.

Asked about non-compliance from some in the industry, Mofikoe said PSIRA had intensified its law enforcement activities, which included joint operations with the Department of Labour, SAPS and other law enforcement agencies.

“During these joint operations we have been successful in charging companies for violating the code of conduct and arrests were made for violation of immigration laws in instances where illegal immigrants and unregistered security officers were deployed.”

Police portfolio committee chairperson Francois Beukman said the reason for the new amendments was primarily to prevent security companies which did not stick to industry accepted rules.

“They shouldn’t be outside the oversight net,” said Beukman. He said there were many fly-by-night security companies which appointed undocumented foreigners and did not pay their membership fees to PSIRA.

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