JOHANNESBURG – As South Africa celebrates Human Rights Day on Saturday, an employer association in the private security sector has called on authorities to look into the plight of Zimbabwean security officers being abused by some unscrupulous companies in the neighbouring country.
The Association of Private Security Owners of South Africa (Tapsosa) said foreign nationals, especially those undocumented, were prone to human rights abuses including inhumane treatment and child labour.
Last month, it emerged a security company in the Mpumalanga province was employing teenagers aged 16, interfering with their ability to attend regular school.
Tapsosa president Jones Maphalaphathwa said they knew of companies hiring untrained, undocumented and unregistered officers from different African nations “so they can take advantage of them because they are either undocumented or desperate to keep their jobs because of the situation back home.”
“It can’t be right that we have our African brothers exploited, everyone should have the relevant documentation, and their rights should be respected. On the other hand, no employer should be found to be employing undocumented people for the purpose of exploiting them. It can’t be right,” Maphalaphathwa said.
He added some of these companies were paying below the minimum wage.
Maphalaphathwa said defending human rights applied to all persons “without regard to their nationality”.
Tapsosa is in talks with the Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority (PSIRA) to investigate unlawful business practices and shut down non-compliant companies.
A local company Sniper Protection Services is under investigation for hiring 16-year-olds and 17-year-olds. The law is clear that only persons who are over the age of 18 can be registered as security officers.
“16-year-olds must be in school, PSIRA must take stern action against companies doing this,” said Maphalaphathwa.
Some employees at the company have confirmed they were paid between R2500-R3000. According to the national minimum wage, the lowest paid security officer should be earning R3 643.
A Zimbabwean security officer guarding a complex south of Johannesburg said they had “no choice but to stay in these jobs because things are tough back home and we have families to take care of.”
He added sometimes salaries are not paid, but they could not take it up with the department of labour as they were in the country illegally. PSIRA have said they will engage the department of labour to investigate the matter.
The R45 billion private security sector has guards manning shopping malls, public facilities such as hospitals, the mining industry, residential clusters, and parking lots across the country.