Cape Town – Guards working for companies registered with the private security regulator may be exploiting this by intimidating others or acting as a show of force for certain individuals, while secure in the knowledge that official paperwork could protect them.
And the massive private security industry is growing so rapidly, the regulating body is grappling with trying to monitor it.
News24 has established that two registered private security companies have the same address as a Plattekloof home, searched by police last Friday, belonging to businessman Nafiz Modack, who is said to be heading a new underworld faction taking over nightclub security.
A private security company or guard needs to be registered with the Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority (Psira) to operate legally in South Africa.
Private security companies can apply to police to use firearms as part of their business operations – it is this specifically that is appealing to criminals, sources with intimate knowledge of the matter have told News24.
Several well-placed sources have detailed how some suspected gang members and businessmen with links to the underworld have infiltrated the industry legally, but have done so to access more firearms and in some cases, to try and mask illegal operations.
A source said that some gang members employed others without criminal records to start up security companies, get firearms licences from police, and get registered with Psira.
The gangsters supplied cash to back the process.
Once a team was put together and registered with Psira, the security company and guards were then used to protect the gangsters and to intimidate rivals.
Sources called this "legal intimidation".
As of Monday, according to Psira, more than 2.2 million private security officers were registered in South Africa.
About 495 000 of them were employed – more than double the approximately 194 730 police officers in South Africa.
"The industry is growing rapidly and more inspectors are needed. The authority is doing everything in its power to capacitate the way it regulates the industry," Psira spokesperson Siziwe Zuma told News24 on Tuesday.
"At this stage, the authority is self-funded and relies on fees from the industry to employ inspectors. We are currently maximising the resources at our disposal."
When asked if criminals were getting accredited by Psira in order to access firearms, Zuma would not rule it out.
"We cannot speculate on this issue, however crime is evident in all sectors of our country," she said.
Underworld security battle
Private protection, as well as security surrounding nightclubs, has been in focus recently, especially in the Western Cape where a battle over the bouncer industry has escalated into violence.
Modack is said to be heading a new grouping grabbing control of nightclub security from a more established grouping.
News24 understands that security personnel represent muscle and power in the underworld.
Several underworld figures make use of bodyguards.
WATCH: New grouping taking nightclub scene by force
On Wednesday, July 12, a man believed to be a bodyguard for alleged 28s gangster Ralph Stanfield was arrested outside a Cape Town hospital in which Stanfield, who was wounded in a drive-by shooting on July 6 in Johannesburg, was a patient.
The man was arrested for allegedly having an unlicensed firearm and ammunition.
In recent weeks, a task team – including members of the Hawks, the national intervention unit, and private security regulators – has been clamping down on underworld activities and trying to root out private security personnel who aren't compliant with Psira regulations.
Seven allegedly non-compliant bouncers were arrested during the last week of June and first week of July.
However, sources said this was not the problem.
They said the problem was with security providers registered with Psira, who were acting illegally and then using the Psira certification to protect themselves from legal action.
Security company guns seized
Firearms were confiscated from a company, The Security Group (TSG), in Bellville on July 12.
Some of these weapons had previously been seized on April 21 outside a city centre strip club, where a group of gunmen had gathered.
News24 had witnessed this gathering, and police officers had warned that it was dangerous to be there.
No arrests were made, but several firearms were seized by police.
After this incident, the group obtained a court order to get the confiscated weapons and ammunition back.
The weapons were returned, but some of these were again seized at The Security Group’s premises on July 12.
News24 understands the group is again taking the legal route to try and have the weapons returned.
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During the initial application to have the firearms and ammunition given back, it emerged they belonged to the companies Eagle VIP Security and Skhosana Maponyane Hall Phillips and Khumalo, which is The Security Group’s sister company.
In an affidavit, which was part of an urgent application to initially get the weapons back, Mathys Visser said he owned Eagle VIP Security and that it provided security to clients, including businesses and private individuals.
Visser said Eagle VIP was registered with Psira, as was he.
A lawyer’s letter in the matter said employees had been "on duty promoting safety and security", in line with the Constitution, Firearms Control Act, and Psira regulations.
The firearms were subsequently returned.
A certificate issued by the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission, which formed part of court documents, listed Visser’s company address as a property in Plattekloof – an address which News24 has established is that of a home belonging to Modack.
Last Friday, Modack claimed police officers had burgled this home, stealing cash and "high sensitive classified documents" from a safe.
Modack told News24 that the documents contained "big names on it", such as that of generals and officials.
However, police said an operation was conducted at the house.
News24 did a search of Modack’s Plattekloof address, which revealed it was also the registered address for a private company, Military Protection Services, which was in business and directed by Visser.
A source said a court case, stemming from 2012, was a game changer in criminal circles when it came to Psira regulations.
"Before then, the guys would just buy firearm licences from corrupt police. But they got smarter after that."
Businessmen Mark Lifman and Andre Naude were arrested in 2012 and this resulted in the court matter.
The two had run nightclub security company, Specialised Protection Services (SPS), which was launched on November 1, 2011.
SPS company directors also included brothers, Colin and Jerome "Donkie" Booysen.
Months after its launch, SPS was shut down, as it was not registered with Psira.
Lifman and Naude faced more than 300 charges as a result, but were later acquitted on all the counts.
Getting Psira-accredited as a guard involves security training, ranging from one to five weeks, at an accredited facility.
It also involves writing examinations and practicals.
However, some sources claimed that certificates to show one had completed the training could be bought for between R2 000 and R5 000.
According to Psira, security businesses could apply to the police to use firearms.
Police then issued firearms licences to businesses which met set criteria.
Security officers, who were then issued business firearms, should have undergone training to use a specific calibre of gun and were meant to have a firearm competency certificate issued by police.
Personal firearms were not meant to be used to render a service.