The great age of pri­vati­sa­tion

Finweek English Edition - - Economic trends & analysis - GARTH THE­UNIS­SEN

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.

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