Security industry regulator concerned about ‘warzone’ firearms

Heavily armed security guards outside the Uber company offices in Johannesburg, where drivers were demanding to meet with management. Picture: Getrude Makhafola/ANA

Heavily armed security guards outside the Uber company offices in Johannesburg, where drivers were demanding to meet with management. Picture: Getrude Makhafola/ANA

Taxi ranks and schools should be gun free zones and military-calibre firearms should not be used in civilian settings, Psira’s CEO said.

The CEO of the Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority (Psira), which governs the private security industry in South Africa, has voiced his concern over the use of firearms in areas where they were “not relevant”.

Speaking at a private security imbizo organised by the KwaZulu-Natal department of transport, community safety and liaison and held at Durban’s City Hall today, Manabela Chauke said an ongoing firearm audit had revealed that nationally, 2,700 security companies controlled about 70,000 firearms, down from 101,000 in 2013.

“In terms of the types of firearms that we have, and that is where part of the problem is, we have hand guns allowed, shotguns, and some restricted semi-automatic firearms. Bolt-action rifles are also used in the anti-poaching sector,” said Chauke.

He said replica AK47s were “commonly seen” brandished in public.

In a September 2017 incident, two bodyguards contracted to protect eThekwini ANC secretary Bheki Ntuli posted a video of themselves cocking and brandishing handguns as well as what looked like, but was later dismissed, an AK-47 assault rifle. The ANC fired the guards.

“KwaZulu-Natal has to step up with firearms compliance. We have far too many complaints from members of the public saying that firearms are not being used appropriately. Sometimes those in the industry displayed a warzone in a civilian environment,” said Chauke.

“Certain equipment that is used in a military environment should not be used in a civilian environment. We are going to ensure that that doesn’t happen.”

Chauke said Psira was working on regulations to ensure certain calibres of firearms were not allowed in certain civilian environments. He said taxi ranks and schools should be “gun free zones”.

“We have taken a position that we have zero tolerance towards the abuse of firearms. We are setting up a firearm regulation sub-committee that will be looking broadly into a consultative forum together with SAPS to ensure that issues of compliance are prioritised everywhere.

“We are also considering working together with SAPS to come up with a policy to ensure we restrict certain calibres that are conventionally used in the military environment,” said Chauke.

Chauke said that there were about 8,700 active security companies and over half a million active security officers in South Africa.

“Generally the sectors that utilise firearms in the private security industry is the guarding sector, those that are involved in assets in transit, the close protection sector and members in the anti-poaching sector. In the main, these are the sectors utilising firearms.”

“As a regulator, our aim is not to drive security companies out of the industry. It is to ensure that they prosper, that they contribute to the safety of members of the public in general.”

The private security industry has come under criticism on various fronts from poor salaries and job protection for guards to their alleged involvement in tender irregularities, as well as behaving like private armies for various taxi associations.

The industry has also been accused of being involved in the spate of political killings in KwaZulu-Natal.

African News Agency (ANA)

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