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Clifton beach incident highlights problems with private security in SA

Slaughtering truth on the altar of racism – Clifton’s controversy

LONDON — The Clifton Beach incident was depicted as a racial incident pitting rich white householders and white security guards towards individuals of color utilizing the pristine beach. And like all incidents of this nature, the political events jumped in, seeing a chance to show it right into a vote grabbing second. The Every day Maverick’s Rebecca Davis studies that it has thrust South Africa’s private security business which outnumbers the South African Police Service by greater than two to at least one into the highlight. Critics level to the private security guards overstepping their authorized powers, utilizing worry to persuade individuals into utilizing their providers, their growing use of CCTV, which has privateness points and that they’re working for private good, principally wealthy individuals and never the general public good. Whereas South Africa’s crime fee stays excessive and the Police stay underfunded, the business will carry on mushrooming. Within the meantime the business must be property regulated to make sure that their actions don’t result in one other incident like Clifton Beach. – Linda van Tilburg

By Rebecca Davis

When Dominic September is out on patrol, it’s him vs the baddies.

“Baddies” is a phrase that September makes use of quite a bit. He’s a genial 35-year-old who laughs simply, however relating to discussing his job he grows critical.

“It’s a passion, catching baddies,” he says.

September wears a darkish blue uniform, and rattles off tales of current arrests he has made. It will be straightforward to confuse him with a cop. In actuality, he’s certainly one of 498,435 private security officers presently employed in South Africa — as in contrast with round 190,000 cops.

To September, the position of private security and that of SAPS are merely two sides of the identical coin.

“We are all fighting crime. It’s just a different uniform we are wearing,” he says.

However there are huge variations in the powers granted to police and people afforded to private security officers. They’re variations which aren’t all the time revered in follow.

In December 2018, the difficulty of private security officers overreaching their authorized mandate got here to a head in the pristine setting of Clifton Fourth Beach in Cape City. The story has, by now, been exhaustively reported. Staff of the private agency PPA Security, contracted by Clifton householders, allegedly eliminated beachgoers from Clifton on the night of 23 December following incidents of rowdiness earlier in the month.

A photograph revealed by PPA confirmed the presence of its guards patrolling the beach, although numerous different information concerning the incident — whether or not the guards have been appearing in live performance with police or the Metropolis, as an example — are nonetheless contested.

1/2 The Private Security Business Regulatory Authority says it has concluded its investigation into the security firm concerned in the Clifton Fourth Beach debacle simply earlier than Christmas final yr. #sabcnews

— SAfm information (@SAfmnews) January 15, 2019

One level is undisputed, nevertheless. Private security officers haven’t any powers to implement bylaws or police public areas.

“If people on Clifton had said [to the PPA guards]: ‘We’re not getting off the beach’, there is absolutely nothing they could have done about it,” Gareth Newham, head of the justice and violence prevention programme on the Institute for Security Research, advised Day by day Maverick.

In South Africa, there’s widespread confusion concerning the authorized powers of private security officers.

“Security guards have no more authority to stop and question someone in public spaces than you or I do,” Newham says. “But people often comply with private security companies without knowing that they may not put their hands on them.”


It’s a Tuesday afternoon in the coastal Cape City suburb of Hout Bay, and September is on patrol. He may have firm on the roads: September estimates that Hout Bay has round 13 private security corporations in operation, of which his employer, Deep Blue Security, is the “biggest for guarding”.

There are usually two parts to the private security enterprise, September explains.

Some shoppers need guards put in on or outdoors their premises; others make use of an armed response service. On the prime finish of the armed response worth vary, shoppers will take pleasure in “24-hour surveillance” of their properties, with round the clock CCTV monitoring, in addition to the usual providing of drive-by patrolling and the deployment of officers to a property if the security system’s alarm is activated.

September says that his agency sees about three to 4 “incidents” a shift. By 3pm this specific Tuesday, there had already been some motion earlier in the day.

“There were two incidents where the same lady tried to break a car window in a parking lot,” September says. “We call that a ‘Code 64’. It means the suspect was mentally ill.”

One other incident passed off on the native Spar, the place the agency has a contract for guarding.

“Someone was shoplifting bottles of wine,” September says. “Spier white wine.”

This doesn’t sound like high-octane stuff, however September additionally has a well-rehearsed repertoire of extra dramatic conflict tales, just like the time he chased criminals who had robbed a liquor retailer all the best way from Hout Bay to city in his automotive.

Whereas we speak, September’s two-way radio crackles into life.

It’s a name put out by the world’s neighbourhood watch, alerting any close by security personnel to 3 people behaving suspiciously outdoors a property. The decision means that one of many three might have jumped over the wall.

September steps on the accelerator, and inside minutes we arrive on the related property.

One other Deep Blue officer is already there. We’re quickly joined by an officer from one other native private security agency, ADT, in addition to a consultant from Hout Bay group security group, Group Crime Prevention (CCP).

This flexing of security muscle seems a bit extreme when the three suspects underneath scrutiny develop into younger black youngsters, ranging in age from round eight to early teenagers. They stand obediently on the pavement whereas the guards bark questions at them, and search their pockets.

It’s unlawful for private security officers to conduct searches like this, however the three boys dutifully comply.

They deny any wrongdoing and neither is there proof of any security breaches in the neighborhood.

The security officers smoke cigarettes and chat idly whereas ready for CCTV footage of the alleged incident to reach. It takes not more than 10 minutes for the footage to be despatched to the pill of CCP operations supervisor JJ de Villiers, who evaluations it after which exhibits the remainder of us.

The incident which prompted the call-out appears to have concerned one of many youngsters briefly leaving the pavement after which reappearing. The security officers determine that he probably ducked out of view as a result of he was smoking a joint and wished to flee detection from any pedestrians who may all of a sudden arrive.

The youngsters are launched with a warning.

Driving away, September explains that even when there had been agency proof that the three have been partaking in felony behaviour, private security officers usually are not empowered to take away them from the scene. As an alternative, they’re required to name SAPS to escort the suspects to the closest police station.

“Sixty percent of the time, when police arrive we’ve already arrested a suspect,” he says. “Then police just come and do paperwork.”

What September doesn’t point out is that the powers of private security officers are equivalent to these of peculiar South Africans relating to making arrests. Anyone can carry out a citizen’s arrest on somebody strongly suspected of trespassing, public preventing, or having dedicated a Schedule One offence — rape, homicide, theft, and so forth.

Using drive is just allowed when making an arrest if the suspect resists, flees, or is uncooperative.

However a private security officer who wished to stay nameless admitted to Every day Maverick: “Sometimes we klap them around.”


South Africa’s private security business is booming, with someplace between R40-billion and R50-billion pouring into it yearly. In the course of the 2017/2018 monetary yr, there have been eight,916 registered private security corporations working nationally, in line with figures offered to Day by day Maverick by the Private Security Business Regulatory Authority (PSIRA).

The Institute for Security Research’ Newham says that about 11% of South African households make use of a private security service.

“The growth of the industry has been as a result of the crime situation, but also people not believing that they can rely on police,” he says.

The 2018 Victims of Crime Survey confirmed that public satisfaction with SAPS decreased by eight% over the previous six years, to its present degree of 54%. Criticisms levelled towards police by survey respondents included that officers failed to reply on time, weren’t sufficiently seen in the world, and have been lazy or corrupt.

Beneath the circumstances, it’s comprehensible that those that can afford it’d flip to an alternative choice to the police in order to really feel protected.

However right here’s a startling reality: There isn’t a agency proof in South Africa that paying for private security retains you safer, says Newham. No unbiased analysis has been undertaken on this topic up to now.

Newham factors out that criminals who commit home robberies — one of the feared classes of crime — are often skilled, and “do due diligence” in phrases of scoping out security options in advance.

“Those people are not really deterred by private security,” he says. “So are you really safer with private security? As with most aspects of crime and violence in South Africa, there probably isn’t a simple answer.”

Private security corporations, in fact, are vehement in their conviction that they play an important position in decreasing crime.

With out private security in Hout Bay, estimates September, “crime would be 80% up”.

4 different private security officers interviewed by Every day Maverick had the identical view. All additionally claimed that they didn’t, in follow, prohibit their help solely to their shoppers, however would cease and intervene if they might help in different crime-related contexts as nicely.

Newham factors out, nevertheless, that private security corporations have an apparent incentive to play up anxieties round crime in order to drum up enterprise.

“Private security companies want people to feel like if you don’t use them, you will be the victim of crime. They use fear to get business,” he says.

For a similar cause, probably the most profitable private security companies are typically these which current a very tough-guy public picture.

JP Smith, the Metropolis of Cape City’s mayoral committee member for security and security, informed Day by day Maverick:

“The private security companies that seem the most paraat [military slang for ‘gung-ho’], aggressive, militarised, often shoulder out of the way companies that do their work with greater care and circumspection.”


There was one other incident involving private security in Cape City alongside the prosperous Atlantic Seaboard in late 2018 which acquired much less consideration than the Clifton controversy.

On November 31, a protest by hanging Sea Level department Dischem pharmacy staff that had turned violent was captured on digital camera. In a clip which circulated on social media, a person is proven aiming what seems to be like a paintball gun at protesters, who subsequently retaliated by cornering and beating him.

The person with the weapon was Neil Zive, the proprietor of Talon private security firm, which has its headquarters near the related Dischem outlet.

Zive was reluctant to provide Day by day Maverick an excessive amount of details about the incident, as he stated he was contemplating suing the police for mishandling the “illegal” protest.

In Zive’s model of occasions, nevertheless, the protesters “got into the street and were holding up all the traffic. Then they attacked my vehicle and I did what I had to do to protect myself. I got out unarmed and all I had was my riot control weapon”.

Eyewitnesses to the occasion beg to vary.

“It was a completely peaceful event until this guy came out and tried to shoot people,” one informed Every day Maverick.

Zive says the incident occurred to him in his private capability, and “wasn’t a Talon Security thing”.

However amongst some Sea Level residents, the incident exemplifies Talon’s over-zealous strategy to private security. Talon, in collaboration with PPA, is contracted by the Sea Level, Fresnaye and Bantry Bay Ratepayers Affiliation (SFB) as a part of its Crime & Grime Initiative, aimed toward retaining the world “safe, secure and clean”.

SFB’s web site explains, merely: “SAPS cannot cope”.

The association sees native condominium blocks and companies pay a month-to-month payment to contribute in the direction of the prices of getting seen private security officers in the world, who could be seen day by day patrolling the streets on Segways.

But accusations made by Sea Level residents to Every day Maverick included Talon guards committing assaults, racially profiling unusual residents, and treating homeless individuals with specific heavy-handedness.

Documentary-maker Isa-Lee Jacobson cited one such incident she witnessed.

“I heard shouting on the street outside my Sea Point flat,” Jacobson informed Day by day Maverick.

“As I got to the window, I saw two Talon security guards confronting a homeless man I know. They had backed him up against a wall and were spraying a substance into his face. Shocked by what I had just seen, I shouted out my window for them to stop. The homeless man has never shown any aggression towards me, over a number of years and numerous encounters.”

Provides Jacobson: “For me, it threw up a lot of questions about the remit of private security companies in public spaces in this city.”

Talon proprietor Zive acknowledges that his guards do try to maneuver homeless people who find themselves “making a scene and carrying on”, however denies using extreme pressure.

Zive says: “We have a right to ask them to move. They don’t have to move.”


As with many points in South Africa, the spectre of race and sophistication hangs closely over the private security business.

One of many explanation why the Clifton beach controversy elicited a lot public emotion was that the photograph revealed by PPA of guards on the beach appeared to recommend that a lot of the guards have been white, whereas the individuals they have been allegedly most diligent about making an attempt to maneuver off the beach have been colored or black.

In actuality, nevertheless, the overwhelming majority of private security officers on the streets are usually not white.

Most are males of color drawn from deprived areas, whose job it’s to guard the property of the prosperous — typically by treating with suspicion individuals who come from the identical group as them.

Ridwaan Mathews, the managing director of Sniper Security in Cape City’s southern suburbs, acknowledged to Day by day Maverick that racial profiling was a “massive problem” in the private security business.

When it comes to the kind of people who find themselves monitored most intently in the business, stated Mathews, “it starts with the worst-looking, and then it goes to coloured, and then to black, and then to white”.

He shrugged.

“That’s just the natural progression when you’re in armed response,” he stated.

September was born and bred in Mitchell’s Plain, on the Cape Flats, and now lives in the predominantly colored township of Hangberg, on the outskirts of Hout Bay.

Two different Hout Bay private security officers who didn’t want to be named advised Every day Maverick that they lived in the opposite buttressing township of Imizamo Yethu.

When requested if any of them benefited from private security in their very own houses, all three chuckled dismissively. But the Hout Bay townships expertise much more violent crime than does the well-heeled space itself, the place occasions like homicide and rape are uncommon.

Not one of the private security officers expressed any specific bitterness about this uneven distribution of security assets.

“That’s just the way it is,” September stated.


Again on patrol with September, one other name comes in.

One in every of Deep Blue’s shoppers is a faculty on the sting of Hangberg, and two suspects have been witnessed leaping over the wall. The varsity is locked up, with the varsity yr solely resulting from start the next day.

Once we enter the varsity, September and his colleague cut up as much as seek for the intruders. It’s not lengthy earlier than September finds the culprits: Two 17-year-olds, sitting on a flight of stairs.

They’re college students on the faculty, it emerges, who’ve jumped over the wall in order to entry free Wi-Fi and do some downloading.

September explains that it’s now as much as the shopper to determine the boys’ destiny. He telephones the varsity caretaker, who instructs September to show them into the police. September rolls his eyes.

“This is petty stuff,” he admits. “But it’s up to the client.”

His name to a contact in the Hout Bay police, nevertheless, reveals that the native pressure has only one van out there — and it’s busy.

This can be a widespread drawback, says September. The shortage of police assets is, for him, one other compelling justification for the existence of private security corporations. In Hout Bay, the image sketched by September is among the private security companies and group organisations reminiscent of neighbourhood watches primarily choosing up the police’s slack.

“I make more arrests than the cops,” September claims — although he provides that private security and the police usually “work nicely together” in the world.

The broader relationship between the private security business and SAPS in South Africa is difficult and inconsistent.

A 2013 draft Inexperienced Paper on Policing produced by the federal government said with disapproval that the private security business is “increasingly performing functions which used to be the sole preserve of the police”.

SAPS failed to answer Day by day Maverick for touch upon the present nature of the connection between the 2 entities.

Newham says it’s troublesome to generalise on the subject.

“Sometimes there’s good co-operation between the two, and private security companies are used as a kind of force multiplier,” he says.

“Good relationships tend to be between individuals, though that can result in police turning a blind eye to abuses.”

However there’s typically rigidity between the 2 teams, partly as a result of it’s in the police’s pursuits to downplay the prevalence of crime in an space, whereas for private security corporations the other incentive applies.

The Metropolis of Cape City’s JP Smith says that SAPS is lacking a trick with regards to potential co-operation with private security corporations.

“If [the industry] is properly structured or managed, it could contribute tremendously to plural policing,” he says.

Hout Bay seems to be an space the place police and private security corporations work harmoniously collectively. Sea Level: Not a lot.

“Our biggest problem is that police do not co-operate with us,” Talon’s Zive says.

“We can catch a guy breaking the law, and for two hours, three hours, we sit there waiting [for police]. We’re stuck between a rock and hard place because we don’t have the legal authority to do anything. But private security means 500,000 more eyes and ears on the ground, and police could use that resource if they wanted to.”

On the faculty in Hout Bay, the caretaker decides to not hassle ready for police to arrest the 2 youngsters.

They’re launched — with a warning to seem in the principal’s workplace very first thing the next morning.


One of the crucial efficient instruments in the armoury of private security corporations is, more and more, CCTV.

On the Deep Blue headquarters in Hout Bay, 4 staff sit in a darkened management room, always monitoring a flickering financial institution of screens feeding footage from cameras put in outdoors their shoppers’ properties.

Judy de Beer, technical supervisor of Deep Blue, advised Day by day Maverick that the agency goals to “mostly focus on CCTV now”, fairly than on human patrollers.

The rationale?

“CCTV cameras don’t sleep,” she says wryly.

The corporate additionally makes use of licence plate recognition software program, which permits them to trace automobiles deemed to be suspicious once they enter Hout Bay.

This apply is more and more widespread in each Cape City and Johannesburg, with private corporations utilizing CCTV cameras and licence plate recognition software program to construct up intelligence databases to which each governments and different private security corporations can then subscribe.

“The collection of personal information — which includes motor vehicle registration numbers — by private security agencies as well as private citizens, such as people who are part of neighbourhood watches, is alarmingly widespread,” says Heidi Swart, an investigative journalist who has written extensively on the surveillance of strange South Africans.

“In fact, it is common practice. And it remains, disturbingly, unregulated by a legally mandated, independent regulatory body. It’s basically a free-for-all.”

This situation of private security regulation, or lack thereof, is one which the business’s critics repeatedly return to.

JP Smith rattles off an inventory of the our bodies which conduct oversight on the SAPS, together with watchdog the Unbiased Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) and Parliament’s police committee.

Against this, he factors out, the one entity tasked with regulating the a lot greater private security business is the Private Security Business Regulatory Authority (PSIRA).

PSIRA has an in depth code of conduct with which registered private security officers should comply. In follow, nevertheless, even a few of the most elementary prescriptions — such because the rule that each one private security officers should put on a visual identify badge — are sometimes ignored. Solely two of the 5 security officers on obligation interviewed by Every day Maverick for this reporting have been sporting a reputation badge. (One was September.)

The business regulator offered Every day Maverick with an inventory of attainable penalties for non-compliance, starting from the withdrawal of accreditation to a high quality not exceeding R1-million.

But such sanctions are meaningless if PSIRA lacks the capability to do the required inspections, or investigations into complaints, throughout all the business.

Within the case of the Clifton debacle, says Smith, the Metropolis of Cape City has laid a grievance with PSIRA concerning the conduct of PPA. He has little hope for a passable consequence.

“PSIRA has one gentleman with limited investigative tools [to follow up on such complaints],” Smith says.

The issue of the business’s lax regulation was introduced into the highlight in 2012 when Parliament held public hearings on the Private Security Business Regulation Modification Invoice.

The laws was controversial as a result of it proposed to severely curtail overseas possession of private security corporations, and has but to be signed into regulation.

Past this facet, nevertheless, the resistance of the business to higher regulation was made clear on the hearings.

In reality, one of many arguments made to Parliament by attorneys representing the private security business was that security officers must be granted higher powers — together with the suitable to look suspects as police do.

Since that point, the listing of controversies in which South African private security corporations have discovered themselves embroiled is lengthy and ugly.

It consists of private security officers through the 2012/2013 Western Cape farm protests allegedly capturing protesters; a private security firm serving the Jewish group allegedly partaking in racist harassment; the College of Johannesburg allegedly utilizing undercover security guards to collect intelligence on #FeesMustFall protesters; and the Metropolis of Cape City paying tens of millions to a private security agency to safe an unused property from occupying residents, in the course of which one resident was fatally stabbed by a guard.

Newham warns, nevertheless, that it will be unfair to tarnish all the business as unethical or non-compliant. He factors out that of the inspections that PSIRA did handle to undertake in 2018, solely a small proportion of companies and officers have been discovered to not be complying with the related laws.

Smith is equally cautious about smearing the entire private security business — however he additionally informed Day by day Maverick that the Clifton incident is under no circumstances remoted.

“We are seeing the increasing prevalence of [private security companies] policing public space,” he says.

“I personally get about one or two complaints [about this] every month.”

Such complaints differ from private security corporations “aggressively searching” people in public areas, to reckless driving by officers.

“Clifton was a flashpoint, but it will not be the last [incident],” Smith predicts.


When Day by day Maverick visited Clifton on a current Saturday morning, all was quiet. None of PPA’s private security officers have been to be seen on the beach.

Ask staff of different private security companies what they consider the Clifton incident, and likelihood is good that they’ll profess shock and disappointment in response to PPA’s actions.

Sniper Security’s Mathews reminisced about going to Clifton as a youthful man with his group of associates. As colored males, he stated, they could nicely have been focused by the likes of PPA’s guards.

Query for the South Africa household in relation to the #ReclaimClifton #CliftonBeach protests…If the town of Capetown is towards the racist, white supremacist run private security firm that focused Black beach goers, how and why is that this private firm allowed to function?

— Tariq Nasheed (@tariqnasheed) December 30, 2018

“Who are you to limit my movements in an open space?” he requested.

On the similar time, Mathews expressed some empathy for PPA’s administration.

“They obviously have high-profile clients who can be extremely demanding,” he stated.

However in their state of affairs, Mathews says he would have advised the shoppers: “This is a public space. You can’t limit people’s movements.”

His various answer to assuage the considerations of Clifton’s high-maintenance shoppers?

“We would recommend CCTV in key areas, number plate tracking systems…” DM

  • Further reporting by Leila Dougan and Suné Payne.








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