Private security industry in South Africa

Private security industry in South Africa

The private security industry in South Africa is a complex and vast entity that includes multiple disciplines. Many credit the rise of the Security Industry with the high crime and resultant paranoia after the first democratic elections in 1994. This may be when the Security Industry became a viable economic entity but the Industry has existed for many years previous to this date - the major difference being that pre-1994, the use of private security companies was not as prolific as it became post-1994.

This may be due to either a perceived or real erosion of the moral fabric of society in SA. One fact remains very prominent - the increase in crime post-1994 has been instrumental in the meteoric rise of both the Security Industry and Security companies. This has arguably made SA a world leader in the application of the different disciplines of Security.

It must be pointed out that immediately pre-1994 and post-1994 a very large number of South African Police Service (SAPS) and South African National Defence Force (SANDF) members left these organisations by either resigning or taking early retirement to join the private security industry. This led to a major "brain drain" in both organisations leading in turn to a drop in confidence in (especially) the SAPS by the middle and upper income classes living in SA. Dependent on your opinion, the SAPS (South African Police Service) has still not recovered from this exodus and as a result confidence has not been restored paving the way for the Security Industry to grow even larger than it already is.

History of regulating authorities

Pre-1994, the security industry had been an unregulated industry and many referred to companies involved in the security industry as "cowboys" as they would engage in actions that were not becoming professional practitioners. For some time pre-1994, security companies and practitioners had to comply with the statutory requirements of the Security Officers Board (SOB). The SOB determined wages, accreditation and behaviour for the Security Company and minimum wages (per Grade) and accreditation of the practitioner. The thought process behind the SOB was that it would regulate the industry and would cull unwanted or unsuitable individuals and/or companies from the industry. The problem with the SOB was that it was a "toothless wonder". Security Companies were required by law to register and accredit with the SOB and that ALL employees employed by the Security Company had to be registered and accredited yet a very large portion of the Industry did not comply, giving rise to the "cowboy" perception. Companies employed illegal aliens and paid rates far below minimum wage requirements - this in turn led to the poor service levels and security practitioners being involved in illegal activity, the same activity they were contracted to manage and prevent. The SOB was either powerless to prosecute offenders effectively (due to a lack of guidelines contained in the Act) or due to a lack of manpower to investigate individuals/companies - the bottom line is this - the SOB was a mammoth white elephant or urgent revision was needed.

With the SOB being such a major failure the SA Parliament tabled and accepted the Private Security Industry Regulatory Act no 56 with the Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority ( [] ) as its watchdog. Under PSIRA, the enforcement of the ACT was improved and only lately, PSIRA showed that it had some teeth. After the Security Officers strike in 2006, many rumours are doing the rounds that yet another revision of the Act may be in the pipeline as the conduct of striking security officers was, to say the least, criminal. Other acts, such as the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHS Act), the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA), the Labour Relations Act (LRA), the Skills Development Act and the Employment Equity Act (EE) [] improved the working conditions of the security practitioner although there are still a myriad of companies that either refuse to comply with these acts or are blissfully ignorant (mostly by choice) and as a result, the security industry are still not the professional entity it could or should be. The security industry do not have minimum wages and maximum working hours as described to other sectors in SA Industry, rather it is subject to Sectoral Determination by the Minister of Labour (Basic Conditions of Employment Act, 1997 (No. 75 of 1997)Sectoral Determination 6: Private Security Sector, South Africa 3. Remuneration)

Due to the above, nobody can say for certain how many security companies are in operation and even how many security practitioners are employed and active in the industry. Figures of as much as 400 000 security practitioners are bandied about, but this remains unconfirmed as many practitioners’ are illegal residents in the country not paying taxes or UIF, they are not accredited and registered with PSIRA or they are employed by companies that, sometimes, wilfully do not comply with the PSIRA Act.

Interestingly enough, the PSIRA Act assign different responsibility levels to different accreditations or grading i.e. a Grade "E" Security Officer can only sit at a gate controlling access to a premises, a Grade "C" Security Officer with an additional "Armed Response" grading can respond to emergency calls (non-law enforcement) and only an individual with an "A" grade may be the Director/Owner/Senior Manager in a Security Company. Law Enforcement is exempt from the PSIRA Act.


Various multi-national corporations have invested heavily in the SA security industry. Notably of these are Tyco through Tyco Fire and Security t/a ADT, United Technologies Corporation (UTC) through UTC Fire and Security t/a Chubb SA and Top Holdings t/a Top Security (They have many other companies under their banner that does not trade as Top Security. Many other Multi Nationals tried their hand and is still involved in some way or another but have for the most part sold their stakes to local stakeholders either through economic necessity or as part of a Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) deal. Most notable of these BEE deals are the amalgamations of Group 4, Grey Security and Securicor Falck to form G4S and Khuselani Springbok and Fidelity to resort under the names of Fidelity. Bidvest are also investing heavily in (especially) Electronic Installation companies to source business and express expertise throughout Africa.

Some local based corporates have become Multi Nationals in their own right such as Fidelity, Coin, previously Grey Security (now G4S), Bidvest held companies and even new kids on the block Imvula Protection Services.

Self-regulating bodies

The security industry is trying to instil self-governance through the use of Industry Bodies. This calls for willing and voluntary participation in these bodies and abiding by the regulations that these bodies try to implement and enforce. Dependent on your point of view, this may be a good thing as this shows that the Industry do have a conscience and realises that they have major shortcomings when complying with not only the letter and spirit of legislation, but also the expectations of consumers. Some of the major associations are:• SASA [] - Security Association of South Africa: an association that is not discipline specific and membership are open to any Security Company, • SANSEA [] - South African National Security Employers Association: an association specifically catered towards the employer. This association played a major part in the wage negotiations during the 2006 Security Officers strike, • ESDA [] - Electronic Security Distributors Association: an association specifically aimed at the Importer and/or Distributor of Electronic Security Equipment and peripherals,• SAIDSA [] - South African Intruder Detection Services Association: an association specifically aimed at the alarm monitoring and armed response industry as well as installers of electronic security equipment. To date, a major focus of this association has been the installation of burglar alarms due to the huge amount of false alarms experienced in alarm monitoring centre. This is directly attributable to poor knowledge of and training on electronic security products as well as a fluid implementation and application of these electronic products, • SASSETA [] : Safety & Security Sector Education & Training Authority and • VESA [] Vehicle Security Association of South Africa

There is no one trade union for the security industry but rather a loose amalgamation of unions under the banner of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) []

Different disciplines

The security industry in SA is divided into different disciplines and Security Companies generally tend to specialise in specific principles. There are cross pollination between disciplines as the division are not black and white, but as a general rule, Security Companies tend to practice specific principles.

• Man Guarding or Guarding, • AIT (Assets in Transit) - also known as CIT (Cash in Transit as this is where the discipline had its origin), • Physical Security, • Alarm Monitoring and Armed Response, • Technology (Electronics Installations) and• Security Consulting

Man guarding

Man guarding or guarding has been around since the beginning of time. The person watching the village's cows and goats is a guard. In the context of this article, man guarding is a specialised discipline with higher areas of responsibility assigned the higher the grading/accreditation. Guarding is the single largest employer in the SA security industry worth billions of SA Rand (ZAR) every year. It is also the biggest cause for concern when it comes to unregistered companies - companies that do not comply with PSIRA or any other legislation that pertains to any company in SA.

For the major portion, the companies involved in guarding are well managed entities with some sort of corporate governance system in place. They have good Social Responsibility programs with a major focus on HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention - due to their product involving the sale of manpower and the labour intensive nature of this discipline, this is an absolute necessity to ensure that the knowledge base and skills set remains.

The cross pollination of Guarding with technology (spoken about earlier) is especially evident with CCTV. Techno Guarding is a term that refers to the use of Guards to monitor CCTV and to respond to specific instances identified while monitoring CCTV. This is a rather new concept as the use of CCTV for whatever purposes have not reached maturity in SA.

Guards can also progress, through training and accreditation, to other disciplines within the security industry. A guard with a "C" accreditation can, with the addition of an "Armed Response" accreditation, become an Armed Response Officer. Armed Response will be discussed later.

Guarding in itself has started to specialise in certain areas of commerce. Training is done accordingly and practitioners specialise in these fields. These areas are: Industrial, Corporate, Commercial, Distribution and Domestic.

Industrial guards will specialise in medium to heavy industrial sites with the accompanying OHS training as well as process and process flow training

Commercial guards will specialise in retail outlets

Corporate guards will specialise in Commercial properties and Business parks

Distribution guards will specialise in distribution centres and the training will cater for this environment

Domestic guarding is aimed at the domestic market and will include LSS (Localised Security Scheme or road closure) training. These guards are also more likely to progress into the Armed Response discipline that any other guard.

The major differentiating factor is training but other differentiating factors are education, mannerisms, present ability, speech, communication and kit (uniform)

Assets in transit (AIT)

AIT refers to the transport of (mainly) fluid assets of an economic entity. Due the high crime rate it has become too dangerous for the business owner to deposit cash into the bank account on a daily basis. Enter the AIT Company - they collect and collate the money and are responsible for the transport of money from the business premises to a secure environment (usually a commercial bank).

The reverse is also true; AIT companies will collect money from the bank and transport it to the business. This may be the case for businesses that pays weekly wages in cash (although this is not that prevalent any more due to the Financial Intelligence Centre Act (FICA) whose goal it is to stop money "laundering" by organised crime) and Government Departments that pay out UIF or Government Pensions.

This is not the only form of asset transport as any valuable item (that can be turned liquid very quickly) can be transported by AIT companies.

Historically speaking, the AIT/CIT sector was dominated by a few companies most notably Fidelity (Cash Management Services) and Coin Security. These companies are still two of the few that will transport assets on a national basis. The last few years saw the emergence of smaller AIT companies that are regionally bound and which is more affordable for the SMME/SOHO.

The AIT companies are also major targets for Criminal Syndicates and have lost numerous employees over the last few years to more daring and violent attacks. These attacks occur with military precision and are mind numbingly violent - the sanctity of human life means nothing to the perpetrators of these attacks.

Because of this, the cost of Insurance for the AIT company has increased, salaries has increased and the skills set had to be improved - all of these escalations in cost has been transferred to the consumer making it exceedingly more expensive to safely transport liquid assets.

Physical security

This discipline encompasses a huge section of the security industry. It includes the following: • Security Fencing, • Motor Gates, • Gate and Garage Automation, • Burglar Proofing, • Security Doors and Gates, • Locksmithing, Lock & Safe and • Vehicle Security (Alarms, Anti-theft Devices, Window Filming and Vehicle Tracking and Recovery)

The different areas are so huge that it will warrant another article similar to this on every subject.

By and large, this discipline is the step child of the security industry as the consumer does not think of this discipline as security but rather as an every day product. If you build a house, it needs locks, a gate, automatic garage doors and gates etc. The fact remains; this is a security discipline and a very important one.

Alarm monitoring and armed response

The alarm monitoring and armed response discipline is probably the one that defines security for the consumer in SA. Post-1994 a veritable boatload of these companies opened their doors to provide a service to the domestic market that the consumer perceived the SAPS could not provide. This sudden flurry of new companies that opened helped strengthen the perception of "cowboys" as many of the companies promised services and results that could either not be delivered or could not be delivered legally. Many of these companies required their employees to execute their duties even though it was contrary to the OHS Act and yet others acted like "old school" law enforcement agencies.

But over the years sanity prevailed and the majority of these companies went out of business but their legacy persists. Other companies were bought out by bigger players in the market. There was a major spree of purchasing in 1998/9 and again in 2002. The biggest winners in 1999 were BBR Security and Sentry Security. Sentry Security was later bought by Tyco F&S to become ADT and BBR was bought by Chubb. These to companies are by and large the biggest suppliers of Alarm Monitoring and Armed Response services in SA.

To this day Alarm Monitoring and Armed Response companies spring up all over as it is seen as a quick way to make money. These companies causes so much harm to the image of the security industry as they are not properly funded do not meet legal requirements and more often than not are out of business within a year of opening their doors. Alarm Monitoring and Armed Response is capital intensive and these companies just don't make the grade.

The principle behind Alarm Monitoring is simple but the execution is very complicated indeed. Simply put - the consumer has an Intruder Detection (Alarm) system installed in his premises. When the alarm triggers a signal is sent to a central Monitoring Centre by either RF Transmitter or Line Communicator (similar to a modem), upon receipt of the signal in the Monitoring Centre the operator verifies that it is a genuine alarm activation and dispatches a vehicle (with an Armed Response officer on board) from the closest location to the activation via Two Way Radio. The AR Officer travels to the premises and investigates whether an actual breach (burglary) had taken place. According to what the AR officer finds, the situation is then handled and resolved.

98% of all Alarm Signals received by Monitoring Centres are false signals caused mainly by a) user error, b) meteorological circumstances c) animals or d) wrong application of the Intruder Detection peripherals.

The two major players in the Industry, Chubb & ADT, have stringent Health and Safety regulations that are stricter than the OHS Act. This makes the delivery of the service that the consumer wants very difficult. What the consumer does not realise as that loss of man-hours due to injury is a very costly affair and it is a cost that is eventually transferred to the consumer.

ADT and Chubb also apply the American Corporate Governance System called Sarbanes Oxley.


The technology discipline of the security industry involves the installation of electronic security devices such as intruder detection (burglar alarms), CCTV, access control and related peripherals.

Electronic security devices are only tools to enable some of the other disciplines to fulfil their functions and they perform various functions. Combined they are a powerful security and management tool - the problem is that rarely the consumer sees the value of electronic security or the need to have multiple systems. Electronic security is very much a grudge purchase for the consumer.

Some companies specialise only in the installation of an electronic system and some companies specialise in the total solution and do system integration.

Security consulting

Security consulting is a key part of any of the disciplines above as it is the security consultant that first investigates and then specifies which discipline or mixture of disciplines are required.

It is the duty of the Security Consultant to investigate security shortcomings and to bring it to the consumers' attention and then to supply the best possible solutions. Unfortunately for the Security Consultant, cost is always a factor - CEO's will spend millions on an IT infrastructure but is hesitant to spend paltry amounts on security to protect that investment.

Because of this, the Security Consultant invariably uses the cheapest possible solution which is rarely the best and when incidents/losses occur the Security Consultant is in the firing line


The private security industry in SA is a very diverse undertaking. With security and the application thereof progressing as it is, the SA security industry is or will be shortly, the leaders in their field. For the consumer - the best possible solution is a mixture of all the above disciplines. Crime prevention is a system and all of the above with the inclusion of policing and legislature work towards combating crime and preventing crime.

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