A billboard erected on November 9 in KwaZulu-Natal by a security company has been widely criticised, after donning the slogan “Bullets are expensive. We don’t do warning shots!”, reports TimesLive.
Even as part of Mzansi Fire and Security’s zero-tolerance to crime, many believe the billboard is going too far.
The company told TimesLive the intention was not to incite violence, but to assure existing and prospective customers they will curb crime.
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And in light of the recently proposed changes in the country’s firearm possession regulations, the billboard could be seen as a way for the company to encourage customers to rely on them.
The draft bill, if successful, will see hundreds of thousands of South Africans surrendering their weapons, after Gun Owners South Africa (Gosa) in June found that gun ownership was not a fundamental right under the Bill of Rights.
Gun owners would be nervous of handing over their weapons, and Mzansi could potentially capitalise on filling that gap, while assuring its customers that it would use whatever measures necessary to curb crime.
Mzansi explained the intention of the billboard to TimesLive, saying the company did not view warning shots as an effective way to curb crime, and that warning shots could potentially be dangerous and fatal.
However, this is not the first time this particular security company has come under fire for a controversial billboard.
Around the same time two years ago, Mzansi Fire and Security erected a billboard that read: “Better than the boys in blue”, which also came under fire for its ambiguous reference to either SAPS, or rival security company Blue Security, IOL reported.
Mzansi again backtracked on their slogan, saying the billboard was not a dig at SAPS or Blue Security, but that did not stop Blue Security’s lawyers from reminding Mzansi that the ‘boys in blue’ is a global term used to reference police officers.
There are over 9,000 security companies in South Africa, and it is no secret that the country relies heavily on them. In 2015, News24 reported the South African Institute of Race Relations announced that since 1997, the number of private security officers had more than tripled.
Private security companies, especially in KZN, have however come under fire for non-adherence to legislation, hiring former criminals to act as guards, and for gung-ho behaviour such as brandishing and discharging high calibre weapons in public. Guards have also been accused of acting as hitmen in the province’s numerous political killings.
KZN acting police commissioner Lieutenant-General Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi expressed concern regarding private security companies running freely and independently earlier this year.
“When you have a security guard patrolling the suburbs, fully armed, do they have powers to stop you and search you? Because the constitution does not provide for them, they are not police or metro police. So under whose authority do they operate?” he asked.
Multiple private security companies in Durban have a significantly larger presence than police, owing to the sheer number of guards on patrol and companies operating in the region. Mzansi Fire and Security, which operates throughout KZN, forms part of this presence, with clients that include Metrorail, Nissan, Sasol, Telkom, Bidvest, University of KwaZulu-Natal, and Standard Bank, to name a few.
But despite an impressive list of high-profile clients, it seems Mzansi’s brazen festive season campaigns never quite hit the mark, and do more damage than good.