South African private security guards are selling their identity documents and their security training certificates to illegal and "desperate" foreign nationals for cash, the Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority (Psira) has said.
The regulator announced in Pretoria on Monday that it would screen all private security companies and their employees to flush out those with "criminal records" before the World Cup.
The Psira wants to prevent another embarrassing situation after it was found that companies contracted to secure the Confederations Cup earlier this year were found to be illegal because they were not registered with the body.
Legislation requires that all private security guards and their companies be graded and registered with the Psira.
Private security firms are expected to be part of the 42 000-strong security force for the tournament.
The chairperson of the ministerial intervention task team, Benjamin Ntuli, said they wanted a major shake-up in the industry that would see all 1.4-million registered security guards and 6 392 service providers re-register to ensure that they complied with legislation.
"This selling of documents where you find foreign nationals being paid less than the minimum wage, although they work longer hours, is a slave mentality of labour exploitation.
"We don't know how many illegal foreign nationals work in the industry, but this is a serious problem," said Ntuli.
The Psira's acting director, Hendrick Mahlangu, said: "We will do our best to eliminate the criminals within the security industry."
However, lack of funding and capacity to conduct inspections was hindering the regulatory process, he said.
The task team was appointed by Minister of Police Nathi Mthethwa to find solutions to the challenges facing the industry.
Ntuli announced that they would lobby for the promulgation of Section 22 of the Private Security Industry Regulation Act - which deals with renewals - and intended starting the process in October next year.
The Psira's manager for law enforcement, Stefan Badenhorst, said many of the country's security guards might no longer be working in the industry because only 375 315 were registered.
"But many have been convicted of scheduled criminal offences, others received irregular training and some were charged with improper conduct and had their certificates suspended.
"Some of the companies owe us money, while others are simply not registered and we cannot allow any of them back into the industry," said Badenhorst.
He said the authority would approach Mthethwa to make representations on proposed policy changes.
Ntuli has warned that some companies and employees may not be allowed back into the industry should they fail the vetting process.
"Our own investigations have highlighted the high number of fraudulent Psira certificates (being used by shoddy service providers), identity theft and the illegal infiltration of immigrants within the security industry.
"A further effect of the reregistration requirements is that not all applications (from service providers) will be able to have security clearance and so the admission to or exclusion from the industry is based on proper grounds," said Ntuli, who also called for the establishment of an ombudsman's office.
As part of the reregistration process, all service providers and their employees will be screened for previous criminal offences to ensure that "dangerous criminals cannot be legally deployed to protect the public", said Ntuli.
"The new measures will promote an honest and trustworthy occupation by excluding from the industry undesirable elements who act outside the law or in breach of the code of conduct," he said.
The vice-president of the Security Association of South Africa, Leba Mashao, praised the proposed measures.
"Any change is uncomfortable, but we (security companies) are not all clean. But we need to clean this industry and we will definitely accept them. We have been calling for strict measures for some time now because we are concerned," said Mashao.
By Xolani Mbanjwa
This article was originally published on page 2 of The Daily News on December 08, 2009