Military veterans eye private firms for state security

Boots and all: ‘Patriotic’ Umkhonto weSizwe veterans may soon be employed to guard national key points. (Paul Botes)

Boots and all: ‘Patriotic’ Umkhonto weSizwe veterans may soon be employed to guard national key points. (Paul Botes)

The ANC’s policy conference has adopted a proposal to include Umkhonto weSizwe military veterans in its plans to have South African-owned private security companies guard the country’s national key points.

Presenting the proposals on peace and stability on Tuesday, David Mahlobo, the state security minister and national executive committee member, said the commission discussed how best to use the skills of military veterans.

This coincides with the ANC’s view that security service jobs should go to South Africans.

And the security service industry is lucrative: South Africans spent in excess of R45-billion on private security last year alone.

“The issues of the experience with military veterans, how do we use them? Especially on the issue of private security to have a private security for South Africans owned by South Africans so that you can be able to do their deployment,” Mahlobo said.

“And so the view by MKMVA [Umkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans Association] is receiving support and veterans, whether from the former liberation movement or military veterans, they will all have an opportunity to [guard keypoints].”

Mahlobo said some military veterans had experience in supplying security services and so there was “nothing unique” about what the ANC was proposing.

One of the policy resolutions at last month’s MKMVA national elective conference was to lobby government to give more veterans access to business opportunities, especially in the field of security.

At the start of the conference, President Jacob Zuma encouraged the former MK combatants to deliberate robustly on the matter.

Kebby Maphatsoe, president of the veterans’ association, told the Mail & Guardian after the conference: “On security we were very specific that we want our comrades to be employed [to protect our national key points], not companies that are owned by foreigners.

“We want MK members to be the ones who are in those national key points, because they are patriotic and they will be able to protect the security of our country.”

Mahlobo said foreign security companies were employing poorly trained individuals who used very powerful weapons.

In its policy discussion document on peace and stability, the ANC highlighted concerns about the widespread use of private security companies, which amounted to the “outsourcing of state security and military functions”.

It claims that about 50% to 60% of these companies are foreign-owned. Some of these companies guard state facilities such as prisons.

Private security companies have previously been blamed for instigating mafia-style killings between rival taxi associations in KwaZulu-Natal.

The defence minister and chairperson of the peace and stability subcommittee, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, said the party’s main reason for reviewing private security firms was that some of the activities of certain firms were problematic.

“Of course we don’t want to antagonise them. But we need to find a way of balancing the relationship between what we have as the state and private security,” she said.

“It’s not so much the existence of the private security industry, but it’s some of the activities they are involved in that have become a problem.”

The Private Security Industry Regulation Amendment Bill, which was passed by Parliament in 2014, is awaiting the president’s signature.

If passed it will see foreign-owned private security firms required to sell off at least 51% of their shares to South Africans.

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