South Africa is losing skilled Special Task Force (STF) law enforcement officers to private security companies as they search for higher wages, the Sunday Times reports.
In some instances, these skilled cops can earn up to three times their current salaries as bodyguards or protectors for high-risk business people and taxi bosses.
STF officers reportedly earn up to R35,000 per month on average, whereas they can earn up to R98,000 with private security firms.
Citing a senior officer, the Sunday Times reported that Task Force loses between five and ten officers monthly.
The paper’s sources explained that the state was essentially paying for recruits to be trained, only for private security firms to scoop them up with nothing preventing the young officers from leaving.
“If you don’t create opportunities for people to grow, especially for people who specialise, you must have a clear progression plan for those people,” the senior officer said.
Nurse Mdletshe, the provincial manager of the South African Policing Union KZN, said that of an original complement of 53 STF members in KwaZulu-Natal, fewer than 15 remain.
Crime experts say the exodus of specialised police forces means the country is becoming ever more vulnerable to crime.
However, Fidelity Services Group CEO Wahl Bartmann disagrees.
He believes the influx of highly skilled officers to private security firms like theirs better equips them to help fight organised crime.
“We’ve seen over the years that a lot of these experts resign and join the private security companies, where we use their expertise to support us and assist in the business that we do,” Sunday Times quoted Bartmann as saying.
With many of these companies being foreign-owned, President Cyril Ramaphosa received backlash in October when he signed the controversial Private Security Regulation Amendment Bill into law.
The bill aims to restrict foreign ownership of private security firms in South Africa, and it was signed into law just months after the destructive July 2021 riots.
Several organisations and political parties, including the Democratic Alliance (DA) and Freedom Front Plus, opposed the bill.
DA MP Okkie Terblanche said the riots in July 2021 exposed the shortcomings of the South African Police Service (SAPS), making it clear that private security companies are essential.
“Not only were SAPS unable to restore peace and order, they could not protect communities from the violence and residents had to fend for themselves,” said Terblanche.
“And now the ANC government is making the private security industry that many residents rely on to protect them, vulnerable.”
Freedom Front Plus leader Pieter Groenewald said the party heavily opposes the new bill.
“July’s unrest and riots showed that the biggest threat to the state lies in its own ranks,” he said.
“In addition, the fast-growing private security industry is of the ANC government’s own making seeing as it failed to combat crime and ensure the public’s safety effectively.”
Groenewald added that no research had been conducted to measure the extent of foreign shareholding and how many job losses would result from the new law.