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Durban - Private security companies in KwaZulu-Natal have accused Police Minister Bheki Cele of trying to disarm the industry.

Representatives of some of the province’s biggest security companies yesterday rejected the draft proposals set out by government regulating the use of firearms in the private security sector. They believe the proposals would see crime spiral out of control, giving criminals an upper-hand over an under-staffed police force.

At issue were the types of firearms that the proposals state should be used in different scenarios. It would see companies in some instances having to use less powerful firearms.

Security companies voiced their concerns at a stakeholder engagement, hosted by the Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority (Psira), on the proposed regulations, which were gazetted last month.

Psira deputy director of law enforcement, advocate Linda Mbana, said the purpose of Wednesday’s gathering was to gauge the response to the regulations from members in the security industry.

She said Psira has 8851 companies and more than 500000 private security guards registered with it.

Members of private security companies contracted to guard taxi ranks in the province spoke of their plight when they were often confronted by heavily-armed gangs due to the spate of taxi-related murders in KZN.

Wellington Mthembu, who has been in the private security industry for more than 20 years, said if the regulations were passed in their current form, they would leave companies having to bury members every other week.

“We’re heading for a disaster. Immediately when we are disarmed, we’re sending a clear signal to criminals, telling them to help themselves. When there are hijackings and housebreakings, we’re the first to respond, regardless of the time. Now how can we meet fire with a toy gun? There are criminals carrying R-5s, AK-47s,” he said.

The draft regulations were also rejected at a similar consultation in Johannesburg on Tuesday.

Attorney Mike Hood, who specialises in legal matters related to firearms, said he attended the meeting in Johannesburg. He said companies had rejected the regulations as Psira had failed to explain why new regulations were needed. “This isn’t a matter of making up new regulations, but rather enforcing the regulations currently in place. The way in which the regulations were drafted was illegal,” he said.

Hood said private security companies should have been consulted before the regulations were drafted.

A committee was formed at yesterday’s hearing, made up of representatives from each leg of the private security sector. The committee said it would draw up their grievances and possible solutions.

Cele’s spokesperson, Reneilwe Serero, could not be reached for comment.

The Mercury