South Africa Investigates Rise in Illegal Security Firms

By Matthew Harwood

The government body that regulates South Africa's private security industry is re-vetting everyone in their databases to weed out security professionals and companies that have a criminal record, reports the Independent Online.

Siziwe Zuma, a spokeswoman for the Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority (PSIRA) told the paper that her organization is "investigating how many [security professionals] have been found guilty of an offense, and who is still operating within the industry."

But there are more serious concerns with industry besides companies employing individuals with a criminal record.

There are approximately 800 criminal cases pending against private security companies, says PSIRA. The Independent Online also reports allegations that police collude with illegal security firms and that security professionals violate the law with impunity.

According to a police source, they are receiving an increasing number of tip-offs from the public about some members of security companies committing criminal acts.

"Nobody is prepared to come forward and provide a statement, out of fear, which unfortunately means there is little we can do at this stage," added the source.

There are concerns that while private security firms are crucial to fighting crime, there are insufficient checks and balances to vet their employees and the security companies themselves to ensure they are bona fide - leaving the way open for abuse.

Fears also remain that private security employees present an insider threat because of their ability to be compromised. Criminal syndicates offer big bribes to security employees to reveal vital security information, such as the schedule for cash pickups and deliveries at businesses.

The PSIRA's investigations signal it's tightening its regulation of the country's rapidly expanding private security industry worth about $5 billion. The authority also continues to recommend private security companies thoroughly screen their employees backgrounds and comply with Private Security Industry Act.

♦ Screenshot of the PSIRA Web site


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