By BILL CORCORAN in Cape Town – FEARFUL FOREIGN visitors attending the month-long World Cup in South Africa are flocking to local security companies to hire bodyguards to protect them from crime during their stay, according to local security consultants.
Company executives and rich families, predominantly from the United States and Europe, are paying up to €400 a day for a private armed bodyguard who helps plan their itinerary and accompanies them during their daily excursions.
Kyle Condon, who runs the Johannesburg DK Management Consultants, one of the country’s more prominent security companies, told The Irish Times his company had taken on an extra 45 bodyguards for the tournament period.
Many bodyguards in South Africa are former soldiers or police officers who have gone into the private sector, where salaries are much higher.
Most are trained marksmen, careful planners and proficient in emergency driving and first aid.
“We have hired an extra 45 bodyguards who are being assigned to different VIP protection projects, and we might have to recruit more before the end of the tournament in July. Our business has doubled in size due to clients seeking protection for the world cup.
“People started to feel us out about our services around November last year, but in the last two months we have seen a surge of people looking to book security,” he said.
South Africa has made significant strides in tackling its high levels of crime in recent years. However, around 50 people are still murdered each day, and certain offences, like burglary and rape, have been on the rise.
The high crime rate, which peaked in 2003, has also given rise to a lucrative private security industry, and there are now 6,400 accredited security firms.
Travel through any middle or upper class neighbourhood in a South African city and you will encounter people living behind high walls with electrified fences. Most of the homes also have security alarms that can call out armed response units.
According to Gareth Newham, head of the crime and justice programme with the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), the security industry has grown so rapidly because it preys on people’s fears.
“The security situation in South Africa has improved significantly over the last few years and police analysis shows that between 60 and 80 per cent of violent crimes are between people who know each other. So I’m not sure foreigners need to have bodyguards.
“Violent house burglary is particularly feared and reported on, but in Johannesburg, where there are three million households, less than half a percent are robbed each year. So there is only a very slight chance it will occur.”