'No warning shots' billboard comes under fire
The ad for a security firm promotes illegal behaviour and should be removed, say experts
A controversial billboard is creating a stir in Durban since it suggests the advertised security company doesn’t fire warning shots.
The billboard, erected on November 9 by Mzansi Fire and Security, reads: “Bullets are expensive. We don’t do warning shots! Zero tolerance to crime. Change to Mzansi & you will be safe.”
But the private company, established in 2005, said the wording of the billboard was not intended to promote the use of excessive force but rather to advertise that the company was reliable.
However, the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) said the billboard goes against the spirit and intention of the law, and should be removed.
Mzansi spokesperson Shanice Harinarain said: “Our intention is not to promote use of excessive force but rather that Mzansi is [a] reliable [company] in using the necessary force to treat the different threats communities are exposed to and their officers face daily on the job so that the community is safe and crime is reduced in the area.”
She said the company’s guards went on daily callouts to armed robberies, vehicle hijackings, housebreaking and drug-related petty crimes.
“The company does not promote warning shots as an effective means of crime combating as this use of force is a danger to the community. They can [be] injured if the callous use of firing warning shots is adopted as a means of crime prevention.”
ISS crime, statistics and surveys expert Lizette Lancaster said: “Security companies are required to act within the ambit of the law and the use of force is quite clear in terms of how potential criminals should be apprehended.
“The law is clear: you can‘t shoot to apprehend. The law says you need to act in proportion to what is is required from the situation.
“This type of discussion or this type of message [the billboard is sending] is flaunting illegal practices and the sign should be removed.”
Lancaster suggested the Private Security Industry Regulation Authority (PSiRA) would have the final say about removing the billboard.
PSiRA spokesperson Velisile Bukula said the authority condemns the message.
“In terms of the Code of Conduct for Security Services Providers, 2003 ... A security service provider must at all times act in a manner which does not threaten or harm the public or national interest. The statement as is displayed on the billboard would be contrary to the regulations of the code of the conduct.”
Harinarain said: “The company policy is to be in line with legislation in regards to use of force.”
Bukula said: “The actions of every security service provider are regulated by the Private Security Industry Regulatory Act 56 of 2001 and the code of conduct for service providers, 2003. The code of conduct is binding to all private security service providers and they are expected to abide by the rules. Any act of advertising should not be contrary to the provisions of the code.
“The code of conduct for private security stipulates that a security service provider may only use force when the use of force as well as the nature and the extent thereof is reasonably necessary in the circumstances and is permitted in terms of the law.”
Mzansi is one of the biggest private security companies in Durban, with clients including Metrorail, the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Telkom and Bidvest.
Harinarain said clients “contact us immediately [using panic buttons] and in most cases we contact the police or report the incidents to the local police afterwards”.
According to Bukula there are more private security service providers than police visible in the community. “Where community members are subscribers to armed-reaction service providers, the private security service providers have indicated to be first on the scene before the police, as a result of reaction to the alarms,” he said.
According to the Mzansi control room, the company operates in Cato Manor, Chatsworth, Durban Central, Durban North, Eshowe, Hillcrest, Marianhill, Wentworth and Westville.
Mzansi Fire and Security is no stranger to controversy.
On October 25 2017 a guard from the company shot and killed a client’s son after she had pressed a panic button in her home. Her son, Nolan Naidoo, 35, from Shallcross in Chatsworth, was allegedly a drug addict and had gone to his mother to ask for money. When the guard, Malusi Khathi, 34, arrived a scuffle broke out and the unarmed Naidoo was shot in the chest.
KZN police spokesperson Colonel Thembeka Mbele confirmed that murder charges against Khathi were withdrawn in the Chatsworth Magistrate’s Court in January 2018.
Figures from the latest police crime statistics in the areas covered by the security company: Murder – 361;
Sexual offences – 621;
Assault with intent to inflict grievous bodily harm – 1,799;
Common assault – 3 036;
Common robbery – 857;
Robbery with aggravating circumstances – 2,848;
Malicious damage to property – 1,531;
Burglary at non-residential premises – 1,233;
Burglary at residential premises – 3,779;
Theft of motor vehicle and motorcycle – 1,857;
Drug-related crime – 7,383;
Robbery at residential premises – 438;
Robbery at non-residential premises – 399.