Academic journal article Social Justice

Regulating the Private Security Sector in South Africa

Academic journal article Social Justice

Regulating the Private Security Sector in South Africa

Article excerpt


THIS ARTICLE SEEKS TO ANALYZE THE SOUTH AFRICAN REGULATORY FRAMEWORK FOR the private security industry, an object of investigation that, at least at the domestic level, presents an interesting case study for an effective regulatory regime. (1) Private security as a concept means different things to different people: to some, it means mercenaries, yet, to others, it means private military companies (PMCs) and private security companies (PSCs). Others think of private security as including vigilantes and community police, while some do not see a difference between any of the above. Rightly or wrongly, much has been written on PSCs and PMCs and their association with mercenary activities (Nathan, 1997). Sometimes PMCs or "private military outfits" (and not necessarily PSCs) are recklessly likened to mercenaries (Juma, 2005: 436), without any consideration of the role they play in the contemporary security architecture.

This article focuses on the private security industry within South Africa's borders since this presents an interesting dynamic with respect to its growth, context, and regulatory framework. It refrains from delving much into definitional "gymnastics," which are likely to blur the main objective of this discourse. Due to South Africa's peculiar history, the South African government put in place what could be regarded as the strictest regulatory mechanisms for the operation of the private security sector in Africa. Taljaard (2006: 171) argues that the emergence of PSCs in South Africa was largely informed by the DDRR (disarmament, demobilization, rehabilitation, and reintegration) process, which resulted in former military personnel wishing to supplement their income in the private sector through the formation of PSCs. In particular, the notorious 32 Battalion--a special unit of the former South African Defence Force--"subsequently became key members of PMCs and the desolate mining town (Pomfret), where former 32 Battalion members were left with their families, became a key recruiting ground for PSCs and PMCs" (Ibid.)

The Private Security Industry

PSCs and PMCs form what is broadly referred to as the private security industry. This article focuses mainly on PSCs operating within South Africa. Various scholars, including Shreier and Caparini (2005: 2), have defined PSCs as "companies that specialize in providing security and protection of personnel and property, including humanitarian and industrial assets." Small (2006: 7) defines PSCs as "having the ability to provide a 'proximate capacity' for violence, that is, they provide defensive security services, equipment, and training to (mostly) multinational corporations, businesses, humanitarian agencies, and individuals." She adds that PSCs operate in high-risk environments to protect private property, assets, and individuals (Ibid.). I have argued elsewhere (Gumedze, 2007) that this is due to the fact that private property and individuals are always targeted for various reasons and their security forever remains at stake. Although environments vary in terms of their volatility, PSCs generally operate in a less risky environment than is the case for PMCs. Risks for private security personnel who transport money and are exposed to transit heists differ from those taken by PMCs guarding the premises of a humanitarian organization in a post-conflict zone.

In this context, the private security industry offers security services by security providers as envisaged in the Private Security Industry Regulation Act of 2001. Section 1 of the act defines "security service" as the provision of one or more of the following: protecting or safeguarding a person or property in any manner; giving advice on the protection or safeguarding of a person or property or on any other type of security service as contemplated in the act or on the use of security equipment; (2) providing a reactive or response service in connection with the safeguarding of any person or property in any manner; providing a service aimed at ensuring order and safety on premises used for sporting, recreational, entertainment, or similar purposes; manufacturing, importing, distributing, or advertising monitoring devices as contemplated in the Interception and Monitoring Prohibition Act No. …

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