Security companies urged to obey the law

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Pretoria - Employees of private security companies who carry firearms without the relevant authorisation face the risk of being arrested, Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa has warned.

Apart from the employees, the company could also find itself on the receiving end of harsh penalties, the minister said in response to a Parliamentary question on the issue.

"Any employee of these companies who is found in possession of a firearm without authority, not only risks arrest but we will impose heavy sentences on the company itself. Its licenses revoked render them illegitimate to operate in future," he said.

Mthethwa urged the Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority (PSIRA) to keep track of security companies that own firearms and to ensure that properly registered personnel use them.

Security companies had an obligation to ensure that only legitimate and registered guards used firearms, he added.

The SAPS Central Firearms Registry Office does not keep separate records for security guards applying for competency certificates. Security guards apply for these certificates like all individual applicants and not in their official capacity.

The Police Ministry stressed that no one is allowed to own or use a firearm unless they have been granted a competency certificate, and anyone found to have violated this policy would be investigated and steps taken against them.

"Many businesses and households make use of private security companies to protect their homes and assets. The increasing number of private security guards poses two issues for government. The first issue involves greater cooperation between private security and SAPS. The second involves ensuring that criminal elements are not able to infiltrate the private security industry," Mthethwa added.

A review of PSIRA's functioning last year had identified gaps and weaknesses with current legislation.

The ministry is in the process of addressing the legislation governing the regulation of the private security industry, as well as operational deficiencies.

The review and amendments to the Firearms Control Act will also look at tightening firearms in the possession of security companies and better training for security guards who carry firearms.

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