News / Africa

South African Crime Falls as Security Firms Flourish

A private security guard stands outside of an ATM machine in downtown Cape Town, South Africa, June 9, 2010.
A private security guard stands outside of an ATM machine in downtown Cape Town, South Africa, June 9, 2010.
Violent crime has dropped in South Africa while the country’s private security industry has flourished. Experts say the sector likely will continue to thrive into the forseeable future, unless there is a basic, unexpected overall change in society.

Ask the average non-South African what comes to mind when they think of the country, and among the answers may be “murder capital of the world.”
​ OpenTravel.com lists Cape Town among the five most dangerous cities in the world, along with Mogadishu and New Orleans.

But Hamadziripi Tamukamoyo, a crime researcher at the Institute for Security Studies in Pretoria, said there is a common misperception that crime is rampant everywhere in South Africa, especially in the economic capital of Johannesburg.

“I think there is this sort of anomaly that people think Guateng [Province], where Johannesburg is, the murder capital of the world. That is not the case," said Tamukamoyo. "You might actually find 15 percent of police stations in S.A. account for 80 percent of murders. There are specific areas that have got high murder rates.”

Graph of South African security officers, in relation to crime levels (click to expand)Graph of South African security officers, in relation to crime levels (click to expand)
x
Graph of South African security officers, in relation to crime levels (click to expand)
Graph of South African security officers, in relation to crime levels (click to expand)

Not only is violent crime isolated to certain areas, over the past decade it has dropped significantly. In its latest report in September, the South African Police Service said since 2003, the murder rate has dropped 28 percent, attempted murder is down 55 percent and assault is down 32 percent.

A security hut on a street in Parkhurst, Johannesburg, South Africa, October 2012. Many neighborhoods have a security guard posted on their street at all times. (P. Cox/VOA)A security hut on a street in Parkhurst, Johannesburg, South Africa, October 2012. Many neighborhoods have a security guard posted on their street at all times. (P. Cox/VOA)
x
A security hut on a street in Parkhurst, Johannesburg, South Africa, October 2012. Many neighborhoods have a security guard posted on their street at all times. (P. Cox/VOA)
A security hut on a street in Parkhurst, Johannesburg, South Africa, October 2012. Many neighborhoods have a security guard posted on their street at all times. (P. Cox/VOA)
Yet during that same time period, South Africans have become more reliant on private security.

Stock analyst Peter Armitage, the CEO of Anchor Capital, covers two private security companies in South Africa. He said the industry is as strong as ever.

“If you have five robberies in a year - or 10 - you still need the same security," he said. "If there is a slight drop off in incidents, it does not mean the demand for services will drop. Unless things fundamentally change, there is no reason why people would have less security.”

In fact, since 2001, the number of active security officers in the country has more than doubled.  Right now, there are 412,000 private security officers on the ground.  The South African Police Service says it had about 194,000 paid employees in 2011.

Steve Conradie, the CEO of the Security Industry Alliance, said security companies play a considerable role in the nation’s economy, where the unemployment rate is about 25 percent.

“This industry, you should also remember, is the biggest employer of entry level jobs than any other industry in the country. That is quite significant from an employment point of view, as well,” said Conradie.

He agreed that South Africans are not likely to become complacent in terms of security anytime soon.

“Remember it is the individual’s choice to protect himself and his assets. So as long as that need is there for me and you to protect our families, or property, or even transport valuables, then I cannot see that this industry will look significantly different from what it looks now," said Conradie.

Drive down many of Johannesburg’s residential streets and you will catch glimpses only of roof tops, because the homes sit behind three-meter high security walls topped with electric fencing or barbed wire.  

There are sheds every few blocks with private security officers sitting guard and you likely will drive by a security patrol truck. Nearly every home has a sign board advertising it is protected by a private security company, which will respond 24 hours day with arms as needed.

You May Like

UN Fears Rights Violations in China-backed Projects

UNHCHR investigates link between financing development and ignoring safeguards for human rights More

Boko Haram Violence Tests Nigerians’ Faith in Buhari

New president has promised to stem insurgency; he’s scheduled to meet with President Obama at White House July 20 More

Social Media Network Wants Privacy in User’s Hands

Encryption's popularity in messaging is exploding; now it's the foundation of a new social network More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Fox
October 09, 2012 12:14 PM
Elderly people, young people and unsuspecting people are soft targets. Many cannot afford to hire private security Companies to protect them and their families and even if they could there would not be enough Security Companies, to take on this additional task
let alone the manpower. It is indeed a dangerous situation to be in for every law abiding citizen, Policemen and private security
personnel.

by: Anonymous
October 09, 2012 9:52 AM
Interesting. as a foreigner living in south africa, I think south africans have a false sense of security.

by: Low Intensity War
October 08, 2012 1:17 PM
Sadly this is very difficult to believe, given the current crime rate.Criminals are prepared to shoot it out with Police at any time and civillians. Their numbers and "firepower" make them dangerous in the extreme. No death penalty for these killings exacerbates violent crime and even the Police and Security Companies together cannot bring crime under control or prevent deaths of Policemen, civillians and farmers. Please read the Press reports to verify the facts Mr Steve Conradie.
Dont bluff the folk.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugeesi
X
Carolyn Weaver
July 06, 2015 6:47 PM
In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.

VOA Blogs