Bheki Cele takes aim at private security guards' high-calibre weapons

20 June 2019 - 07:30 By Orrin Singh
Police minister Bheki Cele has gazetted two amendments to the Private Security Industry Regulation Act of 2001.
Police minister Bheki Cele has gazetted two amendments to the Private Security Industry Regulation Act of 2001.
Image: 123RF/Roger Lamkin

The government's proposed draft amendments to the Private Security Industry Regulation Act of 2001 aim to disarm private security companies of certain high-calibre weapons.

It will also deem it illegal for private security uniforms to resemble that of SAPS, SANDF or Correctional Services. 

Two separate proposals were gazetted on May 31 by police minister Bheki Cele. One refers to uniforms, insignia and badges, while the other focuses on the regulation of firearms within the private security industry. 

During a press conference in Durban on Wednesday, deputy director for law enforcement at the Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority (PSIRA), advocate Linda Mbana, informed local security companies that they were holding nationwide consultations. 

She said the private security industry in South Africa played an important role in protecting civil society on a daily basis.

"The private security industry in South Africa is bigger than SAPS and SANDF combined. As of April, we have 8,851 registered companies with over 500,000 individual private security officers," she said.

In its 2017/2018 annual report, SAPS indicated that it had 150,791 members employed - meaning that for every police officer in the country, there were three private security guards. 

Mbana said PSIRA was engaging with its registered members, who she deemed "experts in the industry."

"This is nothing but a draft proposal. We are hosting these consultations to garner your comments, which you will need to submit to PSIRA in writing and will be forwarded to the office of the minister," she said.

A short presentation by PSIRA's Jan Sambo highlighted some of the draft amendments to the firearm regulations. Sambo said most private security companies had issues pertaining to which firearms they would be allowed to use, should the amendment be adopted as law. 

According to the proposed amendment, handguns and shotguns may only be issued to security officers involved in:

  • reaction services or armed response services;
  • protection of valuables that are being transported (cash-in-transit);
  • private investigation services;
  • environmental protection or anti-poaching services;
  • close protection services; and
  • protection and security services at national key points.

Bolt-action rifles (often used in hunting) may only be used by environmental protection services and anti-poaching services.

Semi-automatic rifles may only be issued to security services protecting valuables that are being transported (cash-in-transit security personnel). 

This point was met with contention by members working in the taxi protection service industry. 

"We are in the most serious part of the industry, which is the taxi violence industry. Not even cash-in-transit comes close to it, and yet they are classified as the officers that will be allowed to use semi-automatic rifles to protect assets, which are insured, to protect money, which is insured. But we are protecting lives - we are protecting people, human beings," said one member. 

Security companies have until July 12 to submit their comments to PSIRA, which will then be compiled into a single document and submitted to Cele's office.