Employing more personnel than the police, South Africa has one of the world’s largest private security industries — according to the national Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority.
Kayn Crawford, Squadron commander for Blue Hawk Tactical, states how these private armed guards operate day-to-day.
"So, the SAPS [South African Police Service] lead the operation because they are public protectors, and then we follow their command. Yeah, so, we give their tactical support. ‘Cause our guys are tactically trained, so we give extra assistance. South Africa doesn’t have enough police officers, so we assist them where we can."
The camouflage-clad armed security details set about on patrol — day and night, in Johannesburg via painted and company-branded pickup trucks.
Many nights do not see overly high numbers of criminal activity in the nation’s financial capital.
But still, the onset of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic which hit South Africa the hardest on the continent — coupled with the growing insecurity, such as jihadist attacks in the Cabo Delgado region of Mozambique, has apparently intensified crime within the region.
Growing insurgency within Southern Africa calls for reinforcing security and has also lead to higher incidents of illegal migration within the region.
As with this case with a particular scuffle at the moment of this report.
Thabani Khosa, a private security officer for Blue Hawk Tactical, explained that two young men who had just been brought into custody were foreign.
"They will be arrested. We are going to take them to the police station, then hand them over to the police. Then the police will do all the paperwork, charge them, maybe screen them because they are not from this country, they are, well, both of them, they are from Mozambique. "
The South African Police Service lacks the capacity to handle a population of over 59 million people in the country.
However, security experts warn that private companies often operate in the grey areas of lawfulness.
Johan Burger, a consultant with the Institute for Security Studies, part of ISS Justice and Violence Prevention Programme, shares his opinion on the growing trend in South Africa as far as sought security measures.
A complex nuance as far as true national security is concerned.
"So the situation, I think, is driving people or organisations such as the police, private security companies, towards a situation where they are seeking closer cooperation, closer alliance, relying on each other, because they face a very, very dangerous situation out there. But you have to ask the question, to what extent is it lawful? And I think that is where our problem is."
The private security sector in South Africa is growing rapidly — providing jobs to over two million people in the African nation that sees unemployment at over 32%.
‘Corta’ — one of South Africa’s leading private security services providers, employs many ex-soldiers and former cash-in-transit guards who require a driver’s license, a good level of firearm mastery and a clean criminal background in order to qualify for private guard positions at the company.
Johan Burger forecasts national behaviour.
"People will increasingly go to private security companies for their security needs. Which does not assist those living in poorer communities that cannot afford private security. So, from especially their side there’s a huge pressure on the government to sort out problems with the police."
As long as there are still incidents of Burglaries, assaults and car-jackings in South Africa, security — no matter the source, will continue to be an important issue for both the government and citizens alike.