Private Security Industry Bill gets more criticism

Private Security Bill awaits assent…

Bill is like scoring an SA own goal, say many…

security industryThe Private Security Industry Regulations Amendment Bill, tabled in last year’s parliamentary sessions by former Minister of Police Nathi Mthethwa and now sitting with the President Zuma for enactment, has been the subject of an outcry from a number of sources including legal experts.

When the Bill went to a vote in the National Assembly, the main opposition voted against the Bill, not on the basis of short comings in the security industry but that the Bill, in itself, with its call for the state to be able to fall back on law enabling it to acquire majority holding in a private business, sent the wrong kind of message to the investment world.  They said, “the smell of expropriation was in the air”.

Offending clause

American Chamber of Commerce in SA (Amcham) has now also urged government to remove the clause in the Bill that requires that 51% of foreign owned security companies be handed to South African citizens.

Who the South Africans are that will receive this largesse remains vague, they say.

amcham logoSays Carol O’Brien, Amcham’s Executive Director, “This Bill has sent a chill through those investing and future investors. The line given out by the authorities is that these companies collect intellectual information which can be used against the South African government is hard to believe since the  law as it exists demands that the leadership of security companies must be South Africans.”  Also, she adds,  the vast majority of employees are also South Africans.

Investor damage

O’Brien points out that the foreign owned portion of the security industry only makes up 10% of the security industry as a whole in South Africa.   “Our concern goes further; this clause will violate important international trade treaties (GATT and GSP) and may put the renewal of AGOA for South Africa at risk.  We urge government to withdraw this clause before it does any further damage to investor perception of South Africa” .

Minister Mthethwa told Parliament when he tabled the Bill last year that a review of past anchor legislation for the industry was undertaken to “address gaps that are caused by the lack of effective regulation of the private security industry and added to the surprise of opposition members, “in particular, the threat to national security posed by the participation of foreigners”. He went no further, nor would his department under questioning by opposition members.

Bill hammered through

The controversial clause in the bill proposed was the result, he said.  Opposition members were convinced the offending clauses would be overturned before the Bill was voted through in the National Assembly.   This was not to be the case.  The ANC used their hefty majority to push the Bill through at the last minute before Parliament closed.

Minister Mthethwa never amplified on his remarks whilst in office and new minister of police, Nkosinathi Nhleko, has remained silent on the issue.

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