Multi-national private security industry no threat to national security - SIA

Costa Diavastos says police minister's justifications for PSIRA Act without foundation

Multi-national private security industry no threat to national security

27 May 2015

- SA ratio of police officers to security guards on par with Australia, United States

- Only 1.6% of legal firearms in SA held by private security companies

- All personnel working for international private security firms, from guards to directors, are South African citizens

- No company is allowed, by law, to gather intelligence or participate in mercenary activity

Multi-national private security companies invested in South Africa pose absolutely no threat to the country’s national security, says the Security Industry Alliance, which represents the interests of both local and international private security companies in South Africa.

This follows a statement made by the Minister of Police in March this year, who said the controversial minimum 51% local ownership requirement in the Private Security Industry Regulation Amendment Act is needed because international companies may pose a threat to national security.

If Section 20 of the Act is signed into law by President Zuma, it will force multi-national security firms and those international companies that supply, manufacture, distribute and install security equipment to relinquish at least 51% of their shareholding overnight.

The Security Industry Alliance believes that the Act should be referred back to Parliament for removal of the controversial Section 20 on grounds that companies like ADT, Chubb, Securitas, Panasonic, Sony, Siemens, and so forth pose no threat to national security. 

Industry believes that if implemented, Section 20 will also place South Africa in a perilous position with its global trading partners and will curb the country’s ability to attract much needed foreign direct investment to propel economic growth and the creation of employment opportunities for its people. 

Debunking the notion that international companies pose a threat to national security

Costa Diavastos, Executive Director of the Security Industry Alliance, says: “Private security companies’ role is to protect people, businesses and assets. They have the same powers as ordinary citizens and are only authorised to make citizen arrests, banish trespassers and search private property as mandated by their customers.”

“According to the current legislation (PSIRA Act) every person that works in the private security sector has to be a South African citizen. This includes all employees, from security guards to directors. Every single one of the multi-national companies that are at risk of expropriation is managed and staffed by South Africans, not foreign nationals.”

The Minister of Police mentioned in a speech delivered recently that international private security companies “increasingly gather intelligence, which sometimes can compromise national security”. Minister Nhleko also said “Some of these companies have strong links outside SA and it would be unrealistic not to guard against these potential dangers”.

Diavastos says that contrary to this, the current law does not allow any private security company (international or local) to gather intelligence or participate in mercenary activity. 

“South Africa already has distinct legislation to this effect that is quite separate from the PSIRA Act. These prohibitions fall under the Regulation of Foreign Military Assistance Act of 1998, hence no private security firm is able, nor allowed to gather intelligence or take part in mercenary activity,” says Diavastos.

In addition, the Minister said “the private security industry has been growing at an exponential rate” but Diavastos says that while the private security industry has grown over the last decade, the ratio between private security officers and police officers is similar to countries like Australia and the United States. 

According to a report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), South Africa is not different to many other countries in terms of ratio of Police Officers to Private Security personnel, as can be seen below:

South Africa

2,87 :1




2,26 :1




2,19 :1



“There was also a concern about the number of firearms in the hands of private security officers, but very few private security personnel are authorised to carry weapons and they have to be authorised under a regulated authorisation process, which includes South African nationality as a mandatory test,” says Diavastos.

According to a report delivered by the industry regulator and the Firearms Registrar to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Police in March this year, only 1.61% of all legal firearms in South Africa reside with the private security sector. (PSiRA: 1908 private security companies are responsible for 75 450 firearms. The regulator confirmed that the total legal firearms in South Africa is 4.6 million – therefore, the private security industry accounts for only 1.61% of all legal firearms in South Africa).

Diavastos concluded saying that the assertion that foreign owned private security firms are a threat to national security is a red herring.

“Multi-national security firms make up less than 10% of the entire private security industry in South Africa and are compliant with all the relevant legislation. The real challenge facing the private security industry and South Africa’s security is the many non-compliant firms operating with impunity in South Africa. This new Act will help the industry address this challenge – as long as Section 20 is removed.”

Statement issued by Dani Cohen, Prolog Consulting, on behalf of the Security Industry Alliance (SIA), May 27 2015