World Cup fuels booming private security trade

2010-06-05 09:43

The phone rings endlessly in Kyle Condon’s office. As the World Cup

nears, tourists and foreign businessmen spooked by South Africa’s crime rate are

calling him to hire bodyguards.

Condon, who runs D&K Management Consultants, said: “We have

brought in 45 contractors who are being assigned to different projects, but we

might have to recruit more. We have increased our revenues and our turnover by

about three-fold thanks to the World Cup.”

His clients are spending R2 000 to R4 000 a day, depending on their

level of risk, to be accompanied by a man or a woman carrying a nine-millimetre

pistol.

Many of the bodyguards are former soldiers or police. They’re

trained in marksmanship, emergency driving, first-aid, and fastidious

planning.

Condon said: “It’s not about jumping in front of bullets. That’s

for movies with Kevin Costner. We plan your life for you during your stay. We

are a kind of personal assistant.”

His clients, all well-heeled but from varying backgrounds, know

that South Africa has one of the world’s highest crime rates, with an average 50

killings a day.

They call Condon for “peace of mind and convenience“, he

said.

Fear of crime isn’t limited to foreigners. Private security

services are a mushrooming business in South Africa, posting 13% annual growth

since the end of apartheid in 1994.

The 6?400 security firms accredited by the government have a

collective turnover of R14 billion. That jumps to R40 billion when makers of

electric fences, video surveillance and other services are included.

Gareth Newham, a researcher at the Institute for Security Studies,

said: “Crime in South Africa generally increased from 1994 to 2003-2004. Since

then crime has dropped by 24% globally but certain categories of crime have

increased like house robberies, business robberies and car hijacking, and those

crimes cause a lot of fear.”

Security companies, he said: “use an existing fear to sell their

products. People are scared. If they can afford it, they will get it.”

As a result, many upmarket neighbourhoods resemble bunkers. Houses

are surrounded by tall walls topped with electric fences. Some streets have

checkpoints and all are patrolled by private security firms.

South Africa has 375 000 private security guards, and 180 000

police.

Behind the walls, gardens have motion detectors linked to alarm

systems and illuminated by spotlights. Windows have metal bars and doors have

multiple locks.

Inside, “panic buttons” let owners alert the security firm to a

break-in, while metal gates lock off bedrooms from the rest of the house. Big

dogs and hidden safes are also common.

Poorer neighbourhoods use barbed wire, broken bottles and nets on

windows to keep intruders out.

Junior Yele, an official at Boa security services, which has won

about 20 bodyguard contracts, said: “Everyone wants to protect themselves.

People have guns, knives and batons, among many other things.”

But he says there’s a much cheaper solution to avoid criminals:

“The main advice in South Africa is don’t show that you have money, don’t

attract attention.”

 

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