Government private security spend amounts to billions

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It’s common knowledge the physical security of many South African police stations is entrusted to private security companies and while nowhere near as prevalent, the wider South African defence sector is also a user of private security.

Against this background a major player in the firearms, weapons and protection sector, Outdoor Investment Holdings, points out national government spends R16 billion plus on contracts with private sector security companies.

“Unable to rely on the SA Police Service (SAPS) to secure the State, national government departments and other organs of State are engaged in hundreds of long-term private security contracts of various lengths, costing the fiscus over R16.9 billion.

“This does not include dozens of month-to-month contracts to which various departments and state-owned entities are party. It also does not include private security contracts involving provincial and local government,” Marco van Niekerk, Outdoor Investment Holdings chief executive said.

By his reckoning, the State spends close to R100 billion annually on private security contracts across all spheres and branches of government to provide services “that ought to be provided by police”.

Van Niekerk said it was not surprising the State was “so reliant” on the private security sector as police are incapable of preventing and investigating all crime.

A further indicator of the spread of private sector security comes from data published in November. It showed “actively employed private security officers outnumber police officers by four to one”.

The ever widening spread of private security Van Niekerk maintains makes it “incomprehensible” for government to continue attempts to enact the Firearms Control Amendment Bill.

“Severe limitations on private security providers’ ability to possess ammunition will render the private security industry effectively unable to use force in fighting violent crime.

“The Bill makes it illegal to own a firearm for self-defence and imposes drastic limitations on hunting and sports shooting licences, which would bring the entire South African hunting industry to an end,” he said.

According to Police Minister Bheki Cele South Africans are murdered at a rate of 68 people a day as per the July/September crime statistics. The 6 163 murders included 897 women and 287 children. Other statistics Cele made public were 9 556 people raped in the same period, an increase of seven percent on the previous quarter. A massive 72 762 cases of common assault and assault with intention to do grievous bodily harm were also reported to police.

“The Bill will leave South Africans — and the State — solely reliant on an ailing police service with no clear plan to improve without the ability to protect themselves with firearms or contract with private security to do so,” Van Niekerk warns.

One example of private sector security in the public defence sector is Armscor. Private security companies are asked to tender for their services at Armscor headquarters in Pretoria as well as test facilities such as Alkantpan and Gerotek.

Suggestions were previously made to use military veterans or even Reserve Force soldiers as guards for these facilities. To date, the suggestions appear stillborn.