The Zuma government might just be after private security firms – to either take control of them or get rid of them.
This is the opinion of political and legal experts after comments by State Security Minister David Mahlobo during his budget speech in parliament today (Tuesday, 18 may).
The minister said he would look at reintroducing the Private Security Industry Regulation Amendment Bill which was shelved in 2015. If signed into law, the minister of police will be able to expropriate up to 100% of foreign-owned security companies and limit foreign ownership of local private security companies to 49%.
Businesstech.co.za quotes Legalbrief’s Pam Saxby saying by “reiterating government concerns about depending on foreign-owned private security companies to protect the country’s ‘national key points and strategic installations’, the Minister told National Assembly MPs that – once in force – the Bill will be used ‘as a means to ‘secure’ SA’s ‘sovereignty’ and to ‘assist’ in addressing ‘some of the challenges’ entailed”.
Private security company owners are concerned that the bill is focused less on legislating the companies and more on regulating them as businesses. This would mean that the sector would be subject to government’s “transformation” strategies and discouraging foreign investment in favour of South African ownership.
South Africa’s private security industry is massive. There are actually more private security officers in SA than police officers. The Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority (Psira), says there are over 1.87 million registered security officers in South Africa of which almost half a million are “active”.
The South African police service has 153,000 police officers and the Army 89,000 active personnel.
In 2015 when the original bill was shelved, the DA’s Dianne Kohler Barnard said the private security industry in South Africa is the largest in the world.
At the time she said: “The Private Security Industry Regulation Amendment Bill aims to regulate the industry by addressing the lack of adequate resources; proper accountability for firearms in possession of its members; security services rendered outside the Republic by South African security companies; and criminality within the private security industry… The previous Minister of Police determined that foreigners working in this industry could rise up like an army and, without a shred of research or evidence, claimed they were a threat to national security.”
“The last minute reintroduction of a clause that restricted foreign ownership of security companies to 49%, also gave full power to the Minister to determine the percentage of expropriation (up to 100%) and control in respect of different categories of the security business. It is a self-defeating attack on our economy using unproven and unjustified claims against private security companies, especially as the nationalisation debate is being watched by global investors.”