The Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority (PSIRA) briefed the Committee on matters in the public domain. It described its role as being to protect the fundamental rights of persons, and to promote a legitimate private security industry which acted in accordance with the principles contained in the Constitution, and with professionalism, transparency and accountability. Sanctions for improper conduct included warnings, reprimands, suspension of registration, fines of up to R1 million and imprisonment of up to 24 months.
PSIRA provided details of several incidents involving private security guards which had been reported in the media. These ranged from events where firearms were an issue, to the handling of Fees-Must Fall protests on university campuses, and school patrollers not being registered or vetted to ensure they did not have criminal records.
Members wanted to know if PSIRA envisioned any possibility of becoming involved in actual criminal investigations. The resemblance of the uniforms used in the private security industry to those used by SAPS and State Security Agency personnel was a major concern that needed to be addressed. The fact that PSIRA wanted to be involved in the issuing of types of firearms was likely to clash with the Firearm Control Act. They asked if there was an existing platform where communities could to report misconduct by private security guards throughout the country. A Member asserted that the way in which some private security guards were armed in parts of KZN could lead people to believe that they were entering a war zone. The issuing of firearms needed to be regulated, as private security guards could not carry weapons like AK47s in places like taxi ranks. Members felt that that the issue of safety in schools was important, and there was a need to have an understanding of the PSIRA Act in schools. The school governing bodies (SGB) should take the leadership in addressing this matter.
The Chairperson said the Committee had scheduled this meeting to look into matters that were in the public domain, and any investigations that were conducted by other institutions. The Committee would evaluate whether there was sufficient investigation on cases of misconduct and whether private security companies were able to adhere to all Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority (PSIRA) regulations.
Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority (PSIRA): Briefing
Mr Manabela Chauke, Chief Executive Officer (CEO): PSIRA, said that the Authority’s role was protecting the fundamental rights of persons, promoting a legitimate private security industry which acted in terms of the principles contained in the Constitution, and professionalism, transparency and accountability. It was also the role of the Regulator to promote the trustworthiness of the private security industry and minimum standards of occupational conduct.
The purpose of the Code was to provide binding rules that all security service providers and employers of in-house security officers must obey in order to promote, achieve and maintain a trustworthy and professional private security industry which acted in terms of the law applicable to the members of the industry. There was also an emphasis on promoting and maintaining compliance by security service providers with a set of minimum standards of conduct which were necessary to realise the objects of the Authority. There was also a need to ensure the payment of the applicable minimum wages and compliance with standards aimed at preventing exploitation or abuse of employees in the private security industry, including employees used to protect or safeguard merely the employer’s own property or other interests, or persons or property on the premises of, or under the control of the employer.
Sanctions were implemented for improper conduct. These included a warning or a reprimand; suspension of registration as a security service provider for a period not exceeding six months; or withdrawal of registration as a security service provider. There was also a fine not exceeding R1 million which was payable to the Authority, or publication of appropriate details of the conviction of improper conduct and any penalty imposed. The improper conduct could also be a criminal offence according to Regulation 28, and this could include a fine or imprisonment for 24 months.
Mr Stefan Badenhorst, Senior Manager: Enforcement and Compliance, PSIRA, said the role of the Authority was to investigate the conduct of security service providers as prescribed in section 4(d) of the Act, and to consider possible suspensions of security service provider registrations in terms of the PSIRA Act, pending criminal and improper conduct cases. There was also a focus on monitoring the affairs and activities of the service providers, and consumer and public education on the role of the private security industry (PSI), with increased reporting. There was liaison with stakeholders and other state law enforcement agencies, including the South African Police Service (SAPS), the National Joint Operational Centre (NATJOC), the State Security Agency (SSA) and other relevant law enforcement agencies. PSIRA had also established relationships with other stakeholders, including the Department of Labour, the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA), chambers of commerce, Universities of South Africa (USAF) and the Campus Protection Society of South Africa (CAMPROSA).
There was a matter of public interest that involved Close Protection Officers (CPOs) in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), in the Mandeni Municipality, where three CPOs had been arrested by the Hawks on firearms-related charges. The findings had shown that all three were registered with PSiRA and competent in firearms. Two of the CPOs were employed in-house by Mandeni Municipality, and the other by a private security company, Pro Secure. The two firearms were legally licensed to Mandeni, and the other to the contracted security company. There were no charges relating to the use of the firearms, but there were improper conduct charges brought against the Mandeni Municipality over compliance with its obligations as an employer of in-house security. The charge sheet and summons were for non-compliance with the Firearm Act regulations.
There was also a famous case of CPOs in KZN who were on a video clip on 7 September 2017, carrying firearms that looked like AK47s. It had to be pointed out that both CPOs were registered and trained as security service providers. The video recording was allegedly made in January 2017 and the CPOs were employed by two different security businesses, both of which were legally registered with PSiRA. There had been no criminal case opened by SAPS. The “enquiry file” on the firearms showed they were legally licensed for security businesses – one semi-automatic rifle, a Norinco-make rifle, which was a look-alike AK 47. Both CPOs registrations as security service providers had been suspended in terms of Section 26 of the PSiRA Act, pending an improper conduct investigation.
Mr Badenhorst added that there was also a case of school patrollers who had been recruited by Department of Community Safety in Gauteng and paid by Department of Education, not being registered. The patrollers were responsible for street patrols / safeguarding, and were supervised by the SAPS. There was no criterion in respect of recruitment, and they were not vetted for criminal records. The patrollers were on a one year contract, and were paid about R 1 700 per month. There was a Soweto incident where a school patroller had been arrested on 87 allegations of sexual assault, and the patroller was not registered with PSIRA. A Code of Conduct docket had been opened against the Gauteng Departments of Community Safety and Education over the unregistered patrollers and the docket was currently with legal services for prosecution. There was also a video clip of an assault of a female victim by security officers in U-Save Market, where three security officers from two separate PSiRA-registered businesses were involved.
The findings showed that all three were registered with PSiRA, but the identity of one security officer had been confirmed as fraudulent. The fraud charges were with SAPS. The criminal cases were originally on the court roll for 25 February 2018, but case had been postponed to April 2018. A decision on prosecution was awaited from National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).
Regarding the improper conduct charges, the business involved had been charged for deploying an unregistered security officer in an unrelated case. It had been convicted and fined R15 000. The security officers had been convicted and fined R25 000 each, suspended for three years. The Code of Conduct against the business that employed the security officer with fraudulent certificates had been finalised. An improper conduct inquiry was held on 8 March 2018, and the business was fined R12 000. The matter was currently pending.
In relation to the #FeesMustFall protests, an industry directive had been issued on the role of PSI versus SAPS. The conduct of the security industry was being monitored and investigated. The prosecution in respect of non-compliance involved two cases of improper conduct for their role in respect of two separate businesses for conduct at universities. The cases were set down for hearings on 28 March 2018 (Cape Town) and 5 April 2018 (Centurion) respectively. There had been interaction with university management – USAF / CAMPROSA and PSiRA -- to develop regulations on the issuing, use and possession of fire-arms, and other weapons and equipment by security service providers.
Mr Badenhorst said that there was also a case of nightclub security in Cape Town, and ten arrests had been made in for contravening the PSiRA Act and regulations. There had been co-operation with SAPS Flash (Firearms Liquor and Second Hand) Goods Control, and a criminal case was pending in respect of firearms. The case had been postponed to 20 March 2018. The investigations on non-compliance continued.
The media had also reported a case in Gauteng and KZN taxi ranks, and the focus was on the type of firearm that was being used in taxi ranks. There was an improper conduct case pending against the security business. The hearing on improper conduct was scheduled for 26 March 2018.
The Chairperson appreciated the presentation that had been made, as it had covered a number of important issues. It had indicated that there was a challenge in the issuing of firearms and it would be important to ascertain whether this was implying that SAPS was ineffective in dealing with the issue of firearms, as this was its mandate. The Committee should be briefed if PSIRA envisioned any possibility of being involved in the actual criminal investigations. The issue of the resemblance of the uniforms of private security industry personnel to that of SAPS and SSA personnel was a major concern that needed to be addressed. The general public should be able to distinguish between different law enforcement agencies.
Ms D Kohler Barnard (DA) said the fact that PSIRA wanted to be involved in the issuing of the type of firearms was likely to clash with the existing Firearm Control Act. There had been an indication last year that PSIRA was likely to achieve a clean audit by the end of the financial year. Was this still possible? There was recently a case where a private security guard had killed a 30 year old man in Eshowe, KZN, and the fact that PSIRA had immediately suspended the licence of the security guard showed a presumption of guilt on the part of the guard. Was this the normal procedure of PSIRA? There had been indications that the life of the security guard had been threatened, and this needed to be factored in.
It would be important to know if PSIRA was working together with SAPS in order for it to be involved in laying criminal charges, as this was not the mandate of PSIRA. There was a video circulating in social media, where protesting students were shown carrying a huge boulder and throwing it down on to private security officers. This was a matter of concern, especially since PSIRA planned to discourage private security guards from carrying firearms at these student protests at universities. What would be the alternative self-defence mechanism to be used by private security guards when being attacked by students? One did not want to hear cases of private security guards being killed because they were unable to defend themselves against vigilantism by students.
Mr P Mhlongo (EFF) said that most issues of misconduct by private security guards or companies were largely reported by the media. The important question was whether there was an existing platform where communities could report misconduct by private security guards throughout the country. There was a lot of abuse undertaken by private security guards in areas of KZN, and this was sometimes a way for them to express the powers they had. The KZN community had also fingered some private security guards that were alleged to be involved in the killings in Glebelands. It was concerning to note that some private security companies could not be separated from army personnel driving in armoured vehicles. The fact that these private security companies were able to use armoured vehicles was really taking them away from being private security to being the “state army.” The way these private security guards were armed in some parts of KZN would have everyone to believe that we were entering a war zone. The issuing of firearms needed to be regulated, as private security guards could not carry AK47s in places like taxi ranks.
Ms M Molebatsi (ANC) wanted to know about the process that was undertaken if there was breach of conduct, particularly whether the suspension was issued to the security officer or to the company involved. There was an issue of an SMS that was being used to notify security guards to renew their certificates at PSIRA offices -- which office did these security guards need to go to? It should be made clear whether the security guards needed to go to the offices in Centurion or in Belvedere. Who was responsible for briefing security guards on the expected and acceptable conduct they needed to adhere to? At what point would one realise that a security guard was not registered with PSIRA? The Committee should be briefed on the process that was being followed if the director of a security company was suspended, and if the company continued to be operational.
Ms L Mabija (ANC) asked about progress on the issue that involved a private security officer at the University of Johannesburg (UJ), where a student had been shot and killed by a private security guard.
Mr J Maake (ANC) enquired whether PSIRA dealt only with registered security companies, and excluded the security officers that were sometimes hired to patrol at schools. In relation to the suspension of the security guard at a nightclub in Cape Town, it was unclear if the nightclub continued to operate, despite the suspension of the security guard.
Mr Chauke responded that PSIRA was not suggesting that SAPS was not doing its work on the regulation of firearms, but it was saying that there was an abuse of firearms within the private security industry. PSIRA believed that there was currently a huge gap in the control of firearms, particularly in the private security industry. The focus of PSIRA was to complement the work that was being done by SAPS on the regulation of firearms. PSIRA had investigation powers, but this power was limited to private security space. There had been a plan for PSIRA to have its own enforcement team which was armed, but this had not been implemented fully because of an issue of funding. PSIRA was able to conduct arrests and that was why it was working closely with SAPS.
PSIRA was currently doing something about the issue of uniforms. It was not forbidding security guards from carrying firearms, but the main focus was on the regulations on the issuing of the type of firearm in a specific location.
A decision had already been taken on how to deal with student protests in various universities throughout the country. The intention would not be to ban firearms completely on university campuses.
PSIRA was still on course to get a clean audit, and there had been improvement in a number of areas when looking at audit outcomes, despite some challenges there and there. The team would not rest until it was able to get a clean audit.
PSIRA had not investigated the incident at the Eshowe farm where the community had burnt a sugar cane field after the killing of a black man on the farm premises. PSIRA focused mainly on the conduct of private security officers. However, there was an investigation on the conduct of the private security guard in the Eshowe. PSIRA also investigated those cases that were supposed to be handed over to the police. PSIRA members were trained on how to open criminal cases, and the majority of PSIRA inspectors were former police officers. It must also be clarified that PSIRA was investigating criminal cases, but the charges had be in respect of contraventions of the Act.
Mr Badenhorst said that there was indeed a need to regulate the issue of uniforms, particularly dealing with the resemblance of the uniforms to those of SAPS members. The strategic plan for the new financial year included a focus on uniforms. The regulations on the uniform and other matters were in draft form. Research had been done, and PSIRA would be sending the draft regulations to the Minister for publication in the Government Gazette by the end of March 2018.
The Committee could be assured that the regulations on the issuing of the type of firearm would not clash with the Firearm Control Act. PSIRA was quite aware of the Firearm Control Act, but wanted to close the existing gaps.
PSIRA did not pre-judge any case, but the PSIRA Act made provision for the suspension of a private security guard if there was prima facie evidence to do so. This had not been a one-sided decision, and the person involved had been given reasons for the suspension, as a committee had been appointed to deal with the issue of suspension. There was then a sub-committee that would evaluate the decision. The Committee could be assured that PSIRA did not just suspend a person “willy-nilly,” but there was a consideration of all issues.
The issue of university protests was really complicated, and it was clear that there was a challenge in relation to the conduct of security officers. There was almost no distinction between private security and Public Order Policing (POP) during the student protests. PSIRA also looked after the interests of private security officers, and not just the students. It appreciated the concerns of Members on the issue of policing during student protests at universities. There was indeed a need to look into security officers’ safety risks, as this was also critically important. PSIRA was involved in number of platforms to address issues involving the conduct of private security officers, including taking part in campaigns.
Mr Chauke added that PSIRA was also very active in the social media space, like Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp, as these were platforms to raise concerns on the conduct of private security guards. Some of the cases that were being investigated emanated from the social media space.
Mr Badenhorst said that PSIRA would formalise a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the type of equipment for private security companies, as this also needed to be regulated. The regulation to be introduced would not be limited to firearms, but would also include equipment.
Mr Chauke said that companies would have to go to the Conventional Weapons Committee and apply for other weapons or equipment with a militaristic resemblance, to buy equipment like armoured vehicles. There was a focus on ensuring that the equipment to be used must be suitable for the civilian space.
Mr Badenhorst referred to the issue on who was to be charged between the private security guard and the company, and said this was dependent on the case and who had committed the offence or breached the code of conduct.
Mr Chauke said that private security guards were called through SMSs to go to Arcadia, and some of them came to Centurion. Arcadia would be handed over to PSIRA by the end of April 2018. PSIRA had terminated the contract of the first service provider and appointed the second best service provider. There would certainly be some finality on Arcadia.
There had been an investigation into the UJ case, and PSIRA had identified the security officer involved, including the company, and the licence to trade for the company had been withdrawn.
PSIRA had been running campaigns with the Department of Basic Education and SSA with a focus on compliance, particularly on the issue of vetting of security guards to patrol schools. PSIRA was quite strict on the vetting of security officers to be deployed to patrol at schools, to avoid hiring former criminals.
Mr Maake asked about what would be done if a corner spaza shop were to hire a security officer, and whether the minimum wage would still apply to this security officer.
Mr Chauke responded that the minimum wage still applied in that case.
The Department of Trade and Industry (dti) was the one responsible for the issuing of trading licences to nightclubs, and therefore the operation of nightclubs was outside the mandate of PSIRA.
The Chairperson said that the issue of safety at schools was important, and there was a need to have an understanding of the PSIRA Act in the schools. The school governing bodies (SGBs) should take leadership and address the issue of safety of children in schools.
Ms Kohler Barnard also expressed concern about the lack of safety in schools, as the protection of youngsters was of paramount importance. There were cases where learners were being abused within school premises, and this needed to be prevented. Mr Mbhele was not present at the meeting today precisely because he was launching a school safety campaign in Pretoria, because the safety of learners was a huge issue. One could not afford to hear another story about pupils being gang-raped by principals and teachers. There were many reported cases of sexual assaults in schools, with other pupils asked to have sex for marks.
Mr Badenhorst said that PSIRA was conducting about 32 000 inspections a year to deal with the issue of registration and to ensure that all security guards were registered with PSIRA. There was labour legislation on the issue of the minimum wage, and in-house security personnel would also be affected by the wage legislation.
Ms Mabija expressed concern about people speaking about the potential for civil war in the country, as this had the potential to threaten its democracy. How did one monitor private security officers so that they did not turn against the state?
The Chairperson wanted to know about the involvement of PSIRA within the Southern African Development Community (SADC). There was cognisance that ownership patterns within the private security industry in the country had changed. The important question was how to ensure that there was monitoring of ownership patterns.
Ms Molebatsi asked about ways to prevent cases where foreign nationals who were deployed as security guards committed acts of misconduct, saying this was not a xenophobic question. How could one ensure that this did not happen in the future?
Mr Chauke responded that PSIRA was playing many roles in the security space, and there was also a counter-intelligence forum in place. This was not known by the public because of the secrecy involved. This forum was there was a look into issues of threats of civil war, including any threat to the nation. The Committee could be assured that there was adequate monitoring in place.
Regarding the changes in ownership, a lot had indeed been happening in the private security space, as ADT had been brought by Fidelity and G4S was looking at selling its ownership to South Africans. The majority of the big companies that used to be foreign-owned were either partly or completely South African-owned.
Ms Molebatsi wanted to know if PSIRA was able to look at the shareholding of these companies.
Mr Chauke responded that unfortunately PSIRA was unable to look into the shareholding of these companies. There was a Bill that was currently looking at issues of shareholder ownership and how to have access to the information.
There was not a lot that PSIRA was doing in terms of being involved in SADC, but the main challenge was funding. PSIRA would be looking at ways to get more involved with other countries, as the priority was to share the expertise with other countries in order to formalise the regulations.
Mr Badenhorst said that PSIRA did employ foreigners who had been legally registered by its predecessor body. The current legislative framework still allowed foreigners to apply to be registered by PSIRA if they met all the necessary requirements. The concern was on the illegal foreigners in the private security industry, and this was a challenge that the Regulator was faced with. PSIRA wanted to get the old certificate out of circulation in order to bring in a new certificate that could not be forged or copied. It must be reiterated that whoever was employed in private security should be legally registered by PSIRA, and was a legal foreigner. There was a definite increase in the penalties imposed for employing unregistered security guards. There was a well-known state entity that had been fined R3 million at the end of last year for employing an unregistered security guard.
The Chairperson appreciated the input that had been made by PSIRA. It was clear that the issue of trustworthiness of the private security industry was critically important. The code of conduct must be adhered to and the Committee would support any measure that ensured that this code of conduct was enforced.
The meeting was adjourned.
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