Academic journal article Strategic Review for Southern Africa

Legal Changes in the Regulation of the Private Security Industry in South Africa

Academic journal article Strategic Review for Southern Africa

Legal Changes in the Regulation of the Private Security Industry in South Africa

Article excerpt


This article examines certain legal changes affecting the manner in which the state regulates the vast private security industry in South Africa. Certain important changes were introduced in 2002 and have brought South Africa in line with some foreign jurisdictions (such as Spain, France, Brazil and Argentina) where there are strict laws regarding the regulation of private security. It is evident that the new regulatory model has considerably improved regulation of the security industry to promote and protect the national and the public interest. However, regulatory resources remain an obstacle to achieve all the objectives of regulation, there is opposition to regulation, and it is still too early to come to definitive conclusions as to the full impact of the new regulatory model.


South Africa has one of the largest private security industries in the world. Currently it consists of approximately 260 000 active registered security officers and more than 4 100 security businesses. It goes without saying that this industry, which is estimated to be worth R14 000 million per year, plays a vital role in ensuring safety and security through the delivery of a wide range of security services and products.

The private security industry outnumbers the South African Police Service (SAPS) and the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) in terms of human resources. It also wields considerable de facto power. These facts do not only highlight the strategic and economic roles of private security but also provide a basic reason why it should be subject to proper regulation: it is obviously of importance to ensure that the industry does not pose a threat to the public or the national interest and that it acts in terms of certain minimum professional standards.

The tendency internationally is for the private security industry to grow and for more sophisticated regulatory models to be devised to deal with this phenomenon. (1) The general norm in constitutional and democratic states is to allow the security industry to function and expand, but to subject it to proper state regulation. (2)

There is as yet no general theory on the long-term goals of the private security industry and the role that it should be allowed to play in relation to public policing. The general practice is for the security industry to undertake more and more functions regarding safety and security that are traditionally within the jurisdiction of the state.

Crime levels, as well as perceptions and fear of crime, have fuelled the exponential growth of the private security industry in South Africa. The industry has generally grown at a rate of almost 12 per cent per annum in terms of human resources.

Regulation of the security industry in South Africa commenced in 1990 with the establishment of the Security Officers' Board in terms of the Security Officers Act, 1987 (Act No 92 of 1987). This legislation provided for a limited definition of the concept 'security service' in that, for example, the following were not included in the scope of regulation: in-house or internal security services; the provision of security training; the making of security services available to third parties other than consumers; the installation of security equipment; and the occupational activities of locksmiths and private investigators.

It is important to note that representatives of the security industry were appointed by the Minister of Safety and Security to serve on the governing board of the Security Officers' Board and could thus influence the shape and manner in which regulation was undertaken.

However, during 1995 the South African government (hereinafter referred to as 'the Government') took some initiatives to reform the way in which the security industry was to be regulated in future. It was felt, for example, that the scope of regulation was not wide enough, that too many security services fell outside the ambit of regulation, and that the depth of regulation was insufficient since the regulatory body did not have enough statutory powers to exercise proper control over all relevant aspects. …

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