Private security guards curbing crime in SA

South Africa has one of the world's largest private security industries, employing more personnel than the police.

09 June 2021 | Business

This job is dangerous, I never know if I will be able to go home. Forget Ndlovu, Security Guard: South Africa

GERSENDE RAMBOURG

As night falls over a leafy Johannesburg suburb in South Africa, private security guards’ step into camouflage clothing and load their rifles, preparing to set about on a night patrol.

A commander briefs the men in the gym of the company's headquarters, reviewing interventions that occurred during the previous 12-hour shift.

"Every morning I pray," admitted Forget Ndlovu, 46, while his teammates boarded their vehicles. “This job is dangerous, I never know if I will be able to go home," he said.

But "we help others get a good life," he added, noting that the job was significantly better paid than working for the police.

The Cortac vehicles set off into the pink evening light, driving in slow circles past electric gates and high walls topped with barbed wire to protect the plush homes of Johannesburg's wealthy suburbs.

Joggers and security guards in narrow, wooden Wendy houses, built on properties for live-in domestic staff, waved as the pickups rolled past. “The community is counting on us, not the police," Ndlovu told AFP.

South Africa has one of the world's largest private security industries, employing more personnel than the police, according to the national Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority. The sector creates work for more than two million people in a country where unemployment stands at more than 32 percent.

Requirements

To qualify for Cortac positions, applicants need a driver's license, firearm competency and a clean criminal record.

Many are ex-soldiers and former cash-in-transit guards. Ahead of each night patrol, guards are divided into groups of two or three per vehicle. Some also carry a dog.

"We only use the dog to go inside a house to find a suspect hiding," said 25-year-old Ryan, who did not wish to give his full name.

Most nights are relatively uneventful for the private security teams. There is usually a bit of a rush hour from around 5:00 pm, when residents return from work and accidentally set off alarms, touching off a chorus of dog barks.

But it is better to be safe than sorry in South Africa's crime-laden financial capital, where troubles have been worsened by the fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Burglaries, assaults and car-jackings are a popular conversation topic among better-off locals, who seldom venture around the city on foot for fear of being mugged.

Neighbourhood WhatsApp groups share daily messages on the latest break-ins and seemingly shady movements in the area. - Nampa/AFP

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