For the Security Services Industry in Zimbabwe, has the bubble finally burst?

By Think Local Media
A spate of bizarre robberies over the past few months have caught the nation’s attention. But the last week robbery at Newlands Shopping Center felt more like a handbag snatch because of the casual manner in which two trunks with money were grabbed from seven security guards at an ATM.
For years, the security service industry in Zimbabwe enjoyed unimaginable growth and this was not helped either by the proliferation of unregistered security companies. In a country where almost every indicator is perhaps shrinking (except inflation) as the economic situation worsens, the security service industry was booming.
There is no industry as confusing as the security services industry. In times of chaos and conflict the industry booms and when there is peace and prosperity the industry also grows. This is because in times of prosperity, those accumulating wealth invest in preserving the status quo, ensuring that their assets are protected and assured. When chaos reigns and criminality increases, for those with the means, private security services become an extension of the police services. This is not just a Zimbabwean phenomenon.
Between 2013 and 2014 Kenya experienced a period of instability with the attack on Westgate Shopping Mall by a terrorist group being the most prominent and several other terrorist attacks targeting churches, hotels and police stations. This period witnessed a rise in the demand for security services in Kenya. It is estimated that there are between 3,000 to 4,000 private security firms employing over 400,000 people in Kenya.
South Africa one of the richest countries in Africa is considered to have the largest security services industry in Africa with over 1,8 million registered security officers (Active: 487,058). Legacy issues and structural weaknesses in the economy has ensured that the rainbow nation scores 63.00 on the Gini Index. Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s saying, “When the people shall have nothing more to eat, they will eat the rich” rings true to South Africa. The rise in criminality has boosted the demand for private security services in the country.
Whilst it proved hard to obtain official figures, one organisation, the Zimbabwe Indigenous National Security Association (ZINSA) claimed that they had over 150 members. To register a security service organisation, one must apply and be registered with Zimbabwe Alliance of Private Security (ZAPS) a regulatory authority for security companies under the Ministry of Home Affairs established in 2016. One of the stringent requirements for registration is that at least one Director should have worked in the security sector before.
In a country with high unemployment, security companies find their plate brimful as they are one of the biggest beneficiaries of a wobbly economy. Out of desperation, people (including graduates) find themselves enrolling to be security guards. With only a few security companies having training facilities, training for beginners is usually conducted in open areas. After graduation with nothing but baton sticks and A4 counter books, the recruits are deployed to client premises. They are underpaid and overworked, perhaps this is where the problem starts. Imagine paying someone US$150 to guard a vault with US$200,000 inside, therein lies motive and opportunity.
When a country dollarizes it attracts all sorts of characters including those with criminal intent. Whenever a robbery is committed, the first suspects to be lined up are the supposedly victims, the security guards themselves. After all they are the last men and women standing.

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