DURBAN - HUMAN rights activist and violence monitor Mary de Haas has called for the total ban of the use of semi-automatic rifles by security companies.
Speaking to Daily News on Monday, De Haas said there was no reason to issue security companies with semi and automatic weapons unless those companies transport money or high valued goods.
She called on the Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority (PSiRA) to disarm all security companies using these kinds of weapons.
She said these are military weapons and should only be in the hands of the police and army with special permission, as they were dangerous to the people.
De Haas was reacting to the growing concern that security companies seem to have more firearms, ammunition and equipment than the SAPS.
“Security companies should not have these semi-automatic or automatic weapons unless they are cash-in-transit. I have long been arguing for far tighter controls and improved regulation of the security industry starting with companies guarding the taxi industry and bodyguards for politicians,” said De Haas.
She also stated that unless regulations have changed, her understanding was that even ordinary SAPS members were not allowed to carry such weapons unless they book them out for a specific purpose like going out to arrest dangerous criminals.
Recently, PSiRA warned security companies that it would impose a fine of R1 million, a five-year suspension of the company’s operating certificate and its deregistration should the court find security companies were involved in the July unrest in Phoenix.
They were investigating 15 companies and 10 security guards for breach of the PSiRA code of conduct. Police have confiscated 59 guns belonging to security companies for ballistic tests.
Phoenix Community Policing Forum chairperson Umesh Singh said the increase of security companies was a result of the high crime rate.
He said security companies responded immediately to incidents, and were contacted first before the police. Singh also defended the use of lethal weapons, saying criminals use high-powered firearms, so the security guards needed fire power to match.
Magma Security head of operations Shaheen Suleiman said it was not true that security companies had more power than police. He also defended the use of high-calibre guns, arguing that criminals use AK-47s, for instance.
National SAPS spokesperson Brigadier Vishnu Naidoo said the problem must be dealt with by PSiRA because they were a regulatory authority, but PSiRA spokesperson Jan Sambo said issuing and licensing of firearms was the mandate of police.