Armed security guards are a problem for police, says KZN top cop

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Private security companies have come under fire for non-adherence to legislation and hiring former criminals to act as guards.

The “main problem” facing the South African Police Services in KwaZulu-Natal is privately employed armed security guards, according to the province’s acting police commissioner Lieutenant-General Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi.

“Our main problems as the police are [with] the armed security guards. That’s where there are serious problems,” said Mkhwanazi.

He was speaking at Durban City Hall on Tuesday as part of the province’s first security indaba.

The Private Security Regulatory Authority (Prisa) controls South Africa’s private security industry. Its chief executive Manabela Chauke was also in attendance.

Also speaking at the one-day indaba was KZN premier Willies Mchunu, eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede, and KZN MEC for safety and security Mxolisi Kaunda.

Hundreds of representatives and owners of mostly small, local security companies were also in attendance.

Private security companies have 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.

Mkhwanazi said that since his arrival in KZN four months ago, “the SAPS security cluster in KZN have recovered over 1,200 firearms that have been used in the commission of crimes”.

“When you look at security companies in terms of firearms that they have, it is shocking. It is something that has to be discussed,” he said.

“You open the newspaper and you hear of a security company in Phoenix or Verulam that shot people randomly on the street because they suspected them to have committed crimes. What power do these security guards have?

“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.

Even the South African National Defence Force, when deployed in the country, had to be accompanied by police, he said. “But security companies run freely on their own.”

Mkhwanazi said that the majority of security companies were helping police in combating and preventing crime and their assistance was appreciated, but those that were infringing on human rights had to be taken to task.

“In the same process, we break the law because we allow the security companies to behave as if they are legislated by the constitution to do what they are doing.”

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