Post-looting and Lessons Learned

South Africa awoke to a cabinet reshuffle last week, one that many in the private security industry will say did not go far enough in addressing the issues that arose during the looting and disruption that occurred so recently and cost the country so much.

 

We have long decried the lack of effective, intelligence-led training. Even at the tactical level, police intelligence should be informing the type of training and methodologies to be followed by every man and woman in our ‘thin blue line’ so that the latest strategies and tactics of criminals are thwarted because thought and effort was put in. it’s not primarily the fault of the constable at the sharp end of the fight against a very significant criminal foe, if those constable haven’t been provided with every tool and weapon to combat that foe. Ultimately, police leadership exists to steer the fight, and that is done by providing cops on the front line with the wherewithal and support to win the fight. And it starts right at the top; precisely where we’re not seeing such leadership.

 

Every conversation around a boardroom table, a braai or the family dinner table these past few weeks has been on the criminality that shocked the world. Families are talking about whether to stay in SA or leave, not how the Boks are going to win the Third Test against the British and Irish Lions. And South Africa needs that, perhaps more than we needed the win over England in Japan almost two years ago.

What is clear and will become increasingly clearer as the post-insurrection investigations complete their work, is that the violence and criminality wasn’t random, so what are the lessons for the private security industry to learn from it? What now? ANC deputy general secretary Jessie Duarte says they are aware of communication instigating a second round of anarchy as witnessed last month in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, “The party is holding a briefing on the outcomes of this week’s National Working Committee.”

 

Here are 6 lessons that we believe must be learned:

  1. It was private security companies and private individuals of all races, backgrounds and ethnicities who responded fastest, seized the initiative and stood shoulder-to-shoulder across every conceivable human divide, and effectively protected their homes, communities and businesses.
  2. Many organisations were found lacking, with regard to their contingency planning and ended up scrambling to solve problems in the midst of the chaos, instead of activating plans that had been put together under more peaceful times, as should ideally be the case.
  3. The demand for private security resources, particularly in KZN, was massive, as corporation South Africa and multinational businesses and manufacturing facilities augmented their existing security posture by adding more guards, hiring tactical teams and urgently requiring active intelligence and actionable operational information – all things that government should but couldn’t provide, certainly not fast enough;
  4. The digital age and its smartphone-based social media platforms became both excellent sources of real-time operational intelligence, but also the proliferators of unverified rumour, innuendo and even fake news, which is frustrating but more importantly resource intensive because we must verify before posting intelligence for it to be useful, and that takes time;
  5. The actions of criminals looting malls and shops and pretty much helping themselves, will only embolden others who also want to eat at that trough. Swift justice, although obviously desired and very necessary, is unlikely. Meaning that there will continue to be a demand for credible, effective private security services to the corporate sector, even as their leadership debates “what now?”
  6. There were some unlikely saviours, such as taxi associations, though perhaps not all turned out to have the best interests of the public at heart. There were for example, well-publicised examples of taxi association representatives turning up at locked-down shopping malls offering their ‘protection’ of those malls but in some cases they then demanded some form of payment for their ‘protection services’.

 

NSA SA has provided emergency assistance to numerous of our clients over this period and continues now to assist them in ensuring that they have more robust plans in place, should a repeat of this type of chaos ever happen again.  We seek to be a significant part of an agile, intelligence-led solution, to continue to be thought-leaders together with many excellent colleagues, and in some cases even competitors, as we collectively realise lasting a solution to our clients’ concerns, clients who just want to get on with their businesses;

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