POLICE Minister Bheki Cele’s draft amendments to the Private Security Industry Regulations have provoked a flurry of anguished reactions recently, with some going so far as claiming the government is attempting to disarm this growth industry.
Cele wants to stop private security guards from looking like members of the SAPS or soldiers of the SANDF - which many of them already deliberately do in the camouflage combat rigs or their dark blue fatigues they wear. He also wants to limit the use of semi-automatic weapons to the protection of assets in transit, like cash.
This is not disarming the security industry, what it is doing is putting much needed and well-timed limits on an industry that already outnumbers the actual men and women in uniform - and just about outguns them to boot.
In recent weeks, violent crime has led to calls for paramedics to be armed - and even teachers in the classroom. This is insanity. We need to move to a society which is demilitarising; instead we are careering headlong towards a situation more akin to America’s Wild West.
We need law and order, not people taking the law into their own hands. The government’s failure to deliver services - to every South African, not just the poor - has brought us to this state of affairs.
It is right that those who want to can choose to pay extra for health, education and even security, but this can never absolve the government from its responsibility to its citizens in any shape or form.
It can never be the reason for allowing the de facto creation of private armies complete with weapons, cyber security surveillance and biometric access control mimicking the work of the state - creating two very different South Africas in the process, reinforcing the scandalous inequality it has sown and the bitter harvest that we shall all ultimately reap.
Kashiefa Ajam is the editor of the Saturday Star