South Africa is currently suffering from a police officer shortage and the South African Police Services (SAPS) will need to employ a further 60,000 people to meet international standards.

The policing issues was highlighted this week, when the South African National Defence Force had to deployed in the Western Cape, to police areas struck by intense gang violence – a problem that has persisted for many years, that the SAPS has been unable to effectively deal with.

Speaking in a television interview in June, police minister Bheki Cele said that South Africa’s police officer to citizen ratio is currently 1 to 383. This is almost double the international standard of 1 to 220.

Cele said that there are currently 193,000 officers in the country, with the SAPS looking to hire a further 14,000 in the next three years.

Security guards

South Africa also has a massive private security sector which dwarfs the current police force, according to the latest 2018/2019 report by the Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority (PSIRA).

The report estimates that as many as 2.36 million security officers are registered in South Africa – with 498,435 currently employed by just over 9,000 registered and active security businesses.

This means that there are as many 2.5 security guards for each police officer in the country.

Most of these security businesses and security officers are operating and employed in Gauteng followed by KwaZulu-Natal (42% and 39% respectively), and the Western Cape.

Legal changes

Cele recently gazetted a number of changes for security guards in South Africa – including new rules around what uniforms they may wear.

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According to the amendment regulations published at the end of 31 May, South African security guard uniforms must:

  • Be suitable for use by the security officer in view of the nature of the security service rendered;
  • Have at least 2 badges, prominently attached to the visible portion of the uniform, with the name of the security business employing the security officer clearly legible on them;
  • Have a badge, attached to the visible portion of the front top part of the uniform, with the name and registration number of the security officer clearly legible on it;
  • Have a badge, which is at least 10 centimetres in length and 1.5 centimetres in height with the words “Private Security” clearly legible on it, prominently attached to the visible portion of each of the front top part and the back top part of the uniform;
  • Not be identical to, an imitation of, or resemble, or reasonably be capable of being mistaken for that of the South African Police Service, the South African National Defence Force, the Department of Correctional Services or any other law enforcement agency.

Cele also gazetted changes to cut down on the firearms that security guards are given access to, and how they may be used.

Read: South Africa needs to employ another 60,000 police officers – here’s what it takes to apply



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