In South Africa, private security companies have eclipsed the police force, threatening the state’s democratic authority and replicating apartheid-era racial inequality. Is the U.S. next?

Amelia Pollard in American Prospect:

More than two decades after the country democratized, a sense of insecurity persists in daily life in South Africa, and access to the public good of security has remained astonishingly unequal. In lieu of equitable access to security, affluent neighborhoods are adorned with nine-foot cement walls, expandable steel security gates, and armed guards. Even the state itself employs private security officers, hiring private guards to patrol the outside of police precincts and to carry out unseemly land evictions. Private security in South Africa is like a snake eating its own tail, as the government itself invests in the firms that are undermining its own authority.

The size of the private-security industry in South Africa is staggering: There are over three private security guards for every one public police officer. And that’s a conservative estimate, including only those guards who are officially registered and deemed active by the Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority (PSIRA). Despite the fact that white South Africans make up only around 10 percent of the country’s population, they employ private security at much higher rates. According to an annual survey conducted by the Human Sciences Research Council from 2003 to 2017, around 60 percent of white South Africans hire private security firms, while only 5 percent of Black South Africans do so.

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