Private security is making SA safer

May 22, 2014

POLICE Minister Nathi Mthethwa tries to justify enacting a bill that will have a crippling effect on the economy, limit job creation and could also lead to an international trade war and, very possibly, further social instability (Regulation of private security is in SA’s interests, May 20).

The Private Security Regulatory Amendment Bill, if signed by the president, will force all foreign-owned firms that supply, distribute, manufacture or provide private security to give up "at least" 51% of their business to South Africans.

Mr Mthethwa argues that these foreign companies are a threat to national security and their ownership should therefore be restricted.

The opposite is true. South Africa is more secure because of private security.

We have access to world-class companies that consistently transfer global skills and training to local companies and people, increasing the overall standard of the industry.

They are not a threat to our national security.

Foreign-owned companies make up less than 10% of the local private security industry and are legally required to be managed and controlled by South African citizens.

Among other independent voices, the Institute for Security Studies agrees that these firms do not pose a threat to national security, so one has to ask what is behind this move to expropriate foreign assets.

Mr Mthethwa said the bill was drafted taking cognisance of the constitution and our international trade agreements, and that South Africa would "fully honour our commitments", but added that South Africa can, and may, withdraw from protocols that govern these agreements. He said this withdrawal would not negatively affect investor sentiment. I respectfully disagree.

Last week, trade-law expert JB Cronje from the Trade Law Centre for Southern Africa said that if South Africa ignored its obligations, it could ultimately end in a trade war, with World Trade Organisation members refusing to allow South Africa to trade in their countries and nonrecognition of South African intellectual property law.

Mr Mthethwa also said it would not affect jobs. When you frighten off international investors, you limit your ability to create jobs.

Is this the right message when we’re looking for investors to fund our industrialisation and infrastructure development plans?

We all agree that, without the 51% clause, the bill is good. There is a need for better oversight and regulation of the industry.

The section that deals with the 51% expropriation, however, should be conclusively removed from the bill as it will do South Africa far more harm than good.

Temba Nolutshungu

Director, Free Market Foundation

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