The great age of privatisation
SOUTH AFRICA has effectively privatised its police force. That much is apparent from a simple comparison between the numbers of police and private security personnel in the country.
In 2006 the SA Police Service (SAPS) had approximately 155 000 staff, of whom only about 105 000 were police officers. That compares to roughly 300 000 registered private security guards – 200 000 more than were registered in 1996.
What’s more, according to the Security Industry Alliance, when one takes into account people employed in the broader security industry, the number of private security personnel swells to 500 000.
That means that private security personnel outnumber police officers by around 5:1, implying that South Africans have effectively outsourced the fight against crime.
That’s reflected in the fact that roughly R40bn is spent each year on private security compared to just over R30bn that was allocated to the SA Police Service in the 2006 budget.
Interestingly, this trend is by no means peculiar to SA. A paper by Julie Berg of the Institute for Criminology shows that privatisation of both the police and penal systems is a growing phenomenon worldwide, particularly in developed Western economies.
It’s also likely that the bulk of private security expenditure in SA originates from a fairly wealthy sub sector of the population.