ICYMI: Private security firms under fire
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“Our main problem is the armed security guards,” he said.
Mkhwanazi was speaking at the Durban City Hall yesterday, at the province’s first security indaba.
Manabela Chauke, the chief executive of the Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority, which controls South Africa’s private security industry, voiced his concern over the use of firearms in areas where they were “not relevant”.
He said a firearm audit had revealed that nationally, 2700 security companies controlled about 70000 firearms, a figure down from 101000 in 2013.
“In terms of the types of firearms we have - and that is where part of the problem is - we have hand guns allowed, shotguns and some restricted semi-automatic firearms. Bolt- action rifles are also used in the anti-poaching sector,” said Chauke.
He said replica AK-47s were “commonly seen” brandished in public.
In a September 2017 incident, two bodyguards contracted to protect eThekwini ANC secretary Bheki Ntuli posted a video of themselves cocking and brandishing handguns including what looked like an AK-47 assault rifle. This was later dismissed as not being the case. The ANC fired the guards.
“KwaZulu-Natal has to step up with firearms’ compliance. Sometimes those in the industry display a war zone in a civilian environment,” said Chauke.
Also speaking at the one-day indaba was KZN Premier Willies Mchunu, eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede and MEC for Transport, Community Safety and Liaison Mxolisi Kaunda. Hundreds of representatives and owners of local security companies attended.
Private security companies have come under fire for non-adherence to legislation, hiring former criminals as guards and for gung-ho behaviour such as brandishing and discharging high-calibre weapons in public.
Security guards have also been accused of acting as hit men in the province’s numerous political killings.
Mkhwanazi said that since his arrival in KZN four months ago, “the SAPS security cluster in KZN have recovered over 1200 firearms that have been used in the commission of crimes”.
“When you look at security companies in terms of firearms that they have, it is shocking,” he said.
“You hear of a security company in Phoenix or Verulam that shot people randomly in the street because they suspected them of having committed crimes. What power do these security guards have?
“When you have a security guard patrolling the suburbs, fully armed, do they have powers to stop you and search you? Because the Constitution does not provide for this, they are not the police or metro police. So under whose authority do they operate?” he asked.
“Even the SANDF, when deployed, have to be accompanied by police. But security companies run freely on their own.”
Mkhwanazi said that the majority of security companies were helping police to combat and prevent crime and their assistance was appreciated, but those infringing on human rights had to be taken to task.
“In the same process, we break the law because we allow the security companies to behave as if they are legislated by the Constitution to do what they are doing.”