Ex-cop joins many off to war zones

2015-03-14 00:00

A FORMER Durban police officer and one-time taxi industry security guard has found solace in countering piracy on the high-seas.

Paul Bristow is part of a growing trend of ex-military and police officers from South Africa seeking work in the private security sector in hotspots around the world, including Afghanistan and Iraq.

Earlier this week Beeld reported that a multinational team of over 100 private military experts were on their way to Nigeria to help in the fight against Boko Haram. Former soldiers of the SA Defence Force (the predecessor of the SA National Defence Force) formed the core.

But he said the highly skilled security officers are governed by “various protocols” and that hiring firms feel little for defending your credibility “if you make a mistake”.

“You must know what you are doing. If you make a mistake and it is illegal it is your fault. Your company can abandon you in whichever country you are in,” said the 43-year-old.

But working in the high risk field of protection with high ­velocity firearms is an attractive proposition with salaries in the region of $9 000 (R112 000) per month.

The security companies are always looking for ex-military or ex-police.

This is a starting point towards getting more high-risk jobs where the contracts are longer.

“A lot of my friends went to Iraq. A lot of them came back. Some of them didn’t and some came back mentally and physically damaged.”

Now on his second ship, he said experience counts, as one is isolated and at best 24 hours away from any help.

“On the ocean we can only use lethal force if potential pirates are within 500 metres with a rocket propelled grenade [RPG] or within 300 metres with firearms. If they board the boat you are dead. Our training is to make sure that never happens and protect the crew and cargo,” said Bristow.

Durban born and bred, Bristow was in the SAPS Riot Unit and then the Reaction Unit, after which he spent 10 years in bodyguarding, nine of which were in providing security to the taxi industry in KZN.

“There was a lot of murder and mayhem. I did my last contract in Umlazi. It was nine years in a war zone and it was lawless. It was my little Iraq. Why go overseas when you’ve got it local?” quipped Bristow.

• jonathan.erasmus@witness.co.za

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