Private Security Industry Bill to become law

Minister Cele takes aim at private security industry

….article dated 10 October 2021….

Police Minister Bheki Cele’s private security industry Bill, originally drafted in 2012 but held back at the time, then sent to Parliament for further consideration in 2015 , is finally to become law.  It has been signed unexpectedly by President Ramaphosa.  The legislation aims to tighten up on regulations regarding the operation of private security firms operating in South Africa.

Objected to from the start by opposition parties and a substantial portion of business and industry, the Private Security Industry Regulation Amendment Bill has in its preamble a phrase which many democratic countries would refrain from having their statute book.  The phrase reads “To provide for limitation on foreign ownership.”

Different agenda

In terms of a cabinet statement issued three weeks ago, President Cyril Ramaphosa has finally assented to the amending Bill but gazetted regulations are still awaited.   The circumstances surrounding the apparent rush and sudden re-emergence of this legislation during a period of  emergency regulations as a result of the pandemic, and with communities still recovering from the aftermath of riots and unrest in KwaZulu-Natal,  would lead one to believe that political agendas within the security cluster are at play well outside of the area of parliamentary oversight. 

The Bill, originally tabled in 2012 by police minister Nathi Mthethwa (appointed by past Jacob Zuma and now Minister of Sport) is very much the same document which is now signed describing the establishment of a Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority (the Authority) designed to “regulate the private security industry and to exercise effective control over security service providers in the public interest.”

Cause and effect

The current version,  sitting unsigned in President Ramaphosa’s inbox, was probably re-activated by cabinet as a result of the visit by the portfolio committee on Home Affairs when conducting an oversight visit to KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng  following the unrest from 11 until 23 July 2021. Trade & Industry MPs accompanied the Home Affairs team. Their report which seems rational which was lodged with Parliament awaiting debate.

In this Home Affairs report, there is no reference to  private security companies whatsoever nor the industry nor any need for such services to be controlled but only to note that small traders in KwaZulu Natal, SMME businesses and transport companies  were without SAPS support and that most cannot afford the kind of security needed to meet current crime levels.

President Ramaphosa said when addressing the nation on the causes of the unrest, “Once this crisis has passed, we will undertake a thorough and critical review of our preparedness and our response.” The report was supposed to be part of this process. 

Out of the blue

The sudden re-appearance of the Private Security Industry Regulation Amendment Bill appears to be sleight of hand by Minister Cele in order to take advantage of the moment. The parliamentary report, both detailed and of a high standard, is 150 pages long.    In its recommendation section, the report clearly concludes amongst other issues that the departments of Trade & Industry and Small Business Development are not doing their jobs, at least in a regional sense, and describes various courses that should be adopted by both departments .

In a recent address to Parliament, Minister of Trade and Industry, Ebrahim Patel, acknowledged such facts and laid out some of the remedial course of action for local and municipal entities to follow stating that budgets were the problem.

New law

The Bill describes a “Civilian Secretariat for Police” as the effective entity implementing the regulations to come and:

  • provides for additional powers of the Minister 
  • provides for the appointment of the director and deputy directors for the Authority
  • provides for cooperation with the Civilian Secretariat for Police;
  • provide for the finances and accountability of the Authority;
  • provides for limitation on foreign ownership;
  • provides for the establishment and functions of the Exemption Advisory Committee;
  • regulates security services rendered outside the Republic;
  • empowers the Minister to make regulations for the transportation of cash

From day one

Since inception it has been queried whether this Bill is constitutionally correct. The Democratic Alliance has now issued a statement which says, “When this law was first considered by Parliament back in 2014, foreign embassies made it clear that this forced expropriation of the property of investors would violate the World Trade Organisation’s rules and could result in the expulsion of South Africa from preferential market access agreements.”

The Bill thus had a long history being objected to in the cluster of Bills remaining for some time in the inbox of the Presidency awaiting signature. The outbreak of violence, with any number of reasons supplied for its causation, seems to have the the opportunity taken for the introduction of the Bill as law.

Long standing grievance

The growth of the private security industry for whatever reason (with an estimated 3 security employees to 1  SAPS officer) is obviously in direct ratio to the number of armaments held.  Therefore, whilst over the years SAPS has become somewhat inconsequential it seems in the critical area of  community crime protection  it may have become outgunned as well giving rise to the concern of senior government security personnel.

 Wikipedia says, “The private security industry in South Africa is among the largest in the world with over 9,000 registered companies, 450,000 registered active private security guards and a further 1.5 million qualified (but inactive) guards; many times, more than the available personnel of the South African Police Service and South African Army, combined.  Studies have shown that South Africa had 2.57 private security personnel for every police employee”

 

 

 

 

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