South Africa’s crime rate has, for many years, been astoundingly high: so try not to walk around displaying your new LG electronics! Moreover, the nature of the rampant crime has been the cause of public outcry. Murder, rape, assault, violence against women and children, and armed robbery are amongst the assortment of various criminal activities engaged in by South African’s who have decided to disregard the law, and, in many circumstances, the most basic tenants of human decency.
The South African Police Service (SAPS) is understaffed, underpaid, overworked, and, unfortunately, dogged by accusations of corruption and inefficiency. It is thus that many private individuals, property owners and business owners have looked beyond the services offered by the State to security firms for protection. Privately owned and run security firms provide a host of services to patrons that include armed body guarding, armed property guarding, armed guarding of repossessed properties, various forms of unarmed guarding including gate-keeping, etc., asset in transit (AIT) strategies and vehicles, and armed response to alarm signals received from homes and business premises.
Currently, the private security industry is well regulated in order to ensure that those employed in the industry are qualified to carry out their jobs and not abuse the power that they enjoy (many guards are, for example, armed). The rest of this page will briefly outline the history and contemporary situation of the security industry’s regulation by legislation.
The Security Officer’s Act of 1987 stipulated that security industry companies operating in the sector had to comply with the requirements established by the Security Officer’s Board. The latter board (SOB) acted as the body that would decide wage levels, designate accreditation, and author a code of conduct that would be regarded as binding over security firms and their employees.
The immense and rapid growth of the security industry following the establishment of the SOB led to the board becoming an ineffective regulator. Many companies did not comply with the board’s mandates with regards to wages and safety practices, and many did not even bother to register with the board.
Due to these circumstances, parliament passed a new act to address the inadequacies of the existing law. The Private Security Industry Regulatory Act stipulated that an authority be established to ensure that the sector is properly regulated. It was thus that the Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority was set up in the hope that it would be better equipped to oversee the proper functioning of the industry than its predecessor was.
In due course, many parliamentary acts combined to protect employees from unethical employers, and employers from underperforming employees. These acts include the Occupational Health and Safety Act, the Employment Equity Act, the Protected Disclosures Act, the Skills Development Act, and the Labour Relations Act. It was only relatively recently that security industry employees became protected by minimum wage and maximum work hours stipulations. Unfortunately, most minimum wage security industry earners will never have the capital to buy a tablet PC or any other luxury item that those who need their services take for granted. Indeed, even the very cheap hotels in Cape Town are too indulgent for minimum wage earners.
The legislation governing the private security industry does not apply to State executive institutions like the South African National Defence Force, the South African Police Service (SAPS), the National Intelligence Agency, the National Prosecuting Authority, or any of the above bodies’ derivative organisations.