South Africa: The Legal Responsibilities Of Private Security Companies In South Africa: Duty Of Care And "Reasonable" Security Standards

Last Updated: 21 May 2012
Article by Aubrey Magerman and Aalia Maine

Loureiro & Others v Imvula Quality Protection (Pty) Ltd [2011] JOL 27991 (GSJ)

The plaintiffs contracted with a private security company to provide them with a 24 hour Grade D armed security guard. This guard would be stationed in a guardroom at the entrance to the plaintiffs' premises.

The security company had been instructed by the plaintiffs to ensure that no one would be permitted onto the premises without the express permission of the occupants of the house or the staff. The security guard could not control the main gate, and was only allowed to open the pedestrian gate for visitors with the family's permission.

While one of the security guards employed by the security company was on duty, armed intruders (disguised as police officers) gained access to the plaintiffs' house, robbed the family of their belongings and held them captive at gunpoint for some time (the incident).

As a result of the incident, plaintiffs instituted action against the security company for:

  • contractual damages resulting from its breach of the agreement and/or negligence with regard to such agreement; and
  • delictual damages from its negligent failure to meet the duty of care owing to them and the standard of security services required of security service providers.

The security guard on duty did not ask the armed robbers for identification because he assumed that they were police officers. He opened the pedestrian gate in order to find out what they wanted. He was then confronted with a gun and held captive inside the house with the plaintiffs and their family.

It emerged that the security guard on duty at the time of the incident was an unarmed, Grade A security guard. The security company had not provided him with a means of contacting the security company in the event of him being under duress and requiring assistance.

From the evidence, it appears that the security guard was not properly instructed by the security company. He was not informed that he should not let anyone enter the property without authorisation.

On the strength of previous dicta of the Constitutional Court,1 the South Gauteng High Court held that society has a significant interest in the control and training of the private security force. There is a need for regulation of the private security industry as well adherence by that industry to appropriate standards. The risk to the public if such standards are not maintained and regulated is considerable, if not life-threatening.

In this regard, security personnel must inter alia:

  • have training in the use of weaponry;
  • be licensed to carry firearms;
  • not be convicted felons; and
  • be registered as security officers.

Furthermore, the South Gauteng High Court held that:

  • the private security industry must be diligent with regard the compulsory training and grading of security personnel;
  • security companies must provide their security personnel with the particular instructions related to each of their postings, and such instructions, whether written or oral, would necessarily have to be clear, understandable and accessible;
  • clear lines of communication are required between security personnel and the security companies, especially in cases of emergency, and security companies must provide the means to enable such communication; and
  • security personnel (and Grade D security officers in particular) are expected to have been trained in the nature of the criminal trends in the areas where they have been posted as well as the appropriate security responses thereto.

More specifically, it was held that security guards must, at a minimum, have the following attributes and competencies:

  • honesty, integrity and loyalty to both their employers and the persons and property being guarded by them;
  • ability to receive instruction and act in accordance therewith;
  • wakefulness and alertness during the hours of a shift;
  • mindfulness of the responsibilities of guarding the post which entails watchfulness, wariness and lack of gullibility; and
  • visibility, physical mobility and the ability to respond appropriately.

Finally, security companies are required to take all reasonable steps to ensure security personnel receive the appropriate recruitment and training and that they operate in an enabling working environment.

In applying these legal principles to the facts, the court found that the security company in this case was in breach of the agreement with the plaintiffs in a number of respects, including the following:

  • the security guard on duty was unarmed and was not a Grade D security guard; and
  • the security company had not provided the security guard with clear and comprehensive instructions to enable him to comply with the terms of the agreement.

The court held that the security company failed to take reasonably appropriate steps and had been negligent. It had not met the standards required of a security company and the duty of care which it had assumed. This conclusion was based on the court's view that a reasonable security company would reasonably have foreseen the following possibilities:

  • that unlawful intruders might attempt to gain access to the premises and that such intruders might use disguise and guile to facilitate such unlawful access (especially given the media publicity around the "Blue Light" gang which posed as the South African Police Services);
  • that clear, understandable or accessible instructions had to be given and remain available from the security company to the employee; and
  • that security guards require means to contact a supervisor for guidance or backup.

The court also held that the security guard on duty had failed to act reasonably in the circumstances. He had, amongst other things, not asked for identification to verify that they were indeed police officers and he had not attempted to contact the main house to authorise their entry.

Ultimately, the security company was found liable for both contractual and delictual damages suffered by the plaintiffs as a result of the incident, as well as legal costs.

This judgment by Satchwell J underlines the tendency of the courts to take into account the socio-economic environment as well as the interests and convictions of the broader South African community when deciding whether certain conduct attracts delictual liability.

South Africa is a country which is burdened with high incidences of crime. One may argue that society, to some extent at least, has lost faith in the ability of the police to protect them effectively and that the private security industry is being asked to fill this gap. It is therefore unsurprising that closer scrutiny has been placed on the private security industry and the conduct of its members.

Matters are further compounded by the reality that private security personnel carry an air of authority vis-ŕ-vis the public and this means that society at large is vulnerable to abuse by them. Accordingly, security companies bear an even greater responsibility to train, instruct, control and discipline their employees appropriately.

It is of utmost importance that security companies remain abreast of criminal trends and other social developments in their areas of operation, as this will ultimately have an impact on their legal obligations to clients and the "reasonableness" of their actions in providing security services.


1. Union of Refugee & Others v Director: Private Industry Regulatory Authority and Others 2007 (4) SA 395 (CC) and Probe Security CC v The Security Officers Board (case 98/13942, 17 August 1998 (unreported))

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:
  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.
  • Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.
    If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here
    If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here

    Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

    Use of

    You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


    Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

    The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


    Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

    • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
    • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
    • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

    Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

    Information Collection and Use

    We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

    We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

    Mondaq News Alerts

    In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


    A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

    Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

    Log Files

    We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


    This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

    Surveys & Contests

    From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


    If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


    From time to time Mondaq may send you emails promoting Mondaq services including new services. You may opt out of receiving such emails by clicking below.

    *** If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here .


    This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

    Correcting/Updating Personal Information

    If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

    Notification of Changes

    If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

    How to contact Mondaq

    You can contact us with comments or queries at

    If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.

    By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions