South Africa: Private Security - a Commodity Ripe for Subversion in the COVID-19 Crisis


A day before the lockdown was enforced on March 26, the private security industry received a last-minute go-ahead to continue operating as an essential service. At three times the size of the SAPS, the sector is a major driver of employment. But, during a time of reduced movement and economic activity, why is private security so essential, and who is guarding the guards?

On March 27, only a few hours into the nationwide lockdown, candidate attorney Elisha Kunene, 26, and his brother David, watched from behind the security gate at their Melville home as a group of police threatened to burn the belongings of a homeless man. According to Kunene, the policemen were flanked by several private security guards in white, black and red uniforms, at least one of whom had his face covered by a balaclava.

When the heavily armed group noticed the brothers, Kunene said at least five men forced their way into his two-bedroom house, patted him down and searched the premises, pouring out alcohol and screaming abuse for over 10 minutes.

"I knew every aspect of what they were doing was unlawful," said Kunene, "but I didn't want to antagonise them further by saying so." Instead,...

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