South Africans, wealthy and otherwise, are spending at least R50 billion a year on private security to feel secure. The Star newspaper reports Gauteng, the smallest province in the country, makes up about 80% of that spend according to retired Gauteng deputy police commissioner-turned-private security expert Major General Bushie Engelbrecht.
According to the Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority, Gauteng has the highest number of registered private security companies operating in it – 2667, compared to KwaZulu-Natal (the second highest) with 982. In 2005, Gauteng had 1139 security busineses, meaning the number has grown 134% in five years.
The newspaper reports residents’ associations across the city’s wealthier suburbs have been hiring these exclusive services in their areas, getting individual households to sponsor the costs by paying anything from R200 to R1 500 a month towards the services. “Residents get two armed guards at a time, trawling their suburb 24 hours a day, seven days a week in a large intimidating truck with lights mounted on the top, stopping and questioning loiterers,” the paper reports.
Dr Johan Burger, the senior researcher in the crime and justice programme at the Institute for Security Studies says with the number of police officers – some 193 000 nationwide – there could be more-visible policing. “Police resources are not always well managed. We don’t have visibility and a good response time, and that has left a gap for private security to fill,” he told the paper.