Academic journal article Strategic Review for Southern Africa

Private and Public Security in the RSA: Competition or Co-Operation?

Academic journal article Strategic Review for Southern Africa

Private and Public Security in the RSA: Competition or Co-Operation?

Article excerpt


This article focuses on the increasing role of the private security industry in combating crime, with specific reference to South Africa. In this regard, both the current and potential roles are considered and problematic issues discussed. An overview of the main provisions of the Private Security Industry Regulation Act, 2001 is included. The main conclusion is that although private security provides an important service, it does not replace the need for effective public policing. The possibility of cooperation between private security and the police also requires further investigation.


Various factors have led to the phenomenal growth of the private security industry in South Africa. The increase in crime, as well as perceptions and realities regarding the efficient functioning of the South African Police Service (SAPS), and metro policing, are among the main factors in this regard. More recently, attention has been focused on improving the regulation of the private security industry, and increasingly appeals are made for closer co-operation between the SAPS and private security. It remains to be seen whether increased efficiency on the part of the SAPS or the introduction of metro policing in cities where this does not yet exist, will diminish the need for private security.

In this article, an overview of the private security sector in South Africa and the kinds of services rendered, is given; followed by selected official South African views on private security and current initiatives to regulate the industry. This is followed by an assessment of the current as well as potential role that private security could play in combating crime.


Increased emphasis on the concept of "human security", and at times even equating it to national security, has meant that crime has been recognised as one of the obvious threats to human security. However, it is often, from a human security and/or a national security point of view, not combated effectively.

The two basic components of human security are freedom from fear and freedom from want. Threats to human security are listed as being threats to the following areas (although they tend to overlap), namely economic security, food security, health security, environmental security, personal security, community security and political security. Each of these are seen to require certain conditions, such as a basic income, and physical and economic access to basic food. (1)

Part of the problem regarding an excessive focus on human security is its affordability to the state. Has the threat to individual security reached the stage where it has already, or may soon, become a threat to national security? To what extent does the state have a definite legal obligation to provide aspects of human security; and what is the distinction between the causes, potential causes or potential manifestations of threats to national security and the actual manifestations of these threats? These are often confused.

Threats to human security, such as poverty, could therefore exist without this necessarily manifesting (or even potentially manifesting) as a threat to national security. It has been argued that only if a certain condition or situation leads to violence, unacceptable conflict or state instability, or has the clear potential to do so (including existing indications to this effect), could it possibly be viewed as a national security threat. In this regard, threats to law and order are not necessarily threats to national security, nor is normal national or international competition. The intensity, extent and consequences of for instance violent crime, will determine in a given situation whether it is a threat to individual security and law and order, or also a threat to national security. It has of course also been said that a threat is a threat to national security when a government says it is. …

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