Sa Private Security Industry
Regarded as the largest 100% South African, majority black-owned
private security and risk management solutions business, Thorburn
Group’s DNA enhances people’s quality of life and contributes
towards the development of sustainable society. Since inception
in 2002 it places a high premium on its people through incentives
geared towards quality human experiences.
Writer: Musa Ndlangamandla
“In our company, our people come first and are the heart of our business. Our perks are beyond
industry norms. Without satisfied and engaged employees there are no customers. This drives
growth, profitability through enhanced loyalty and productivity,” says the executive director Thabang
Moropa. Consequently, some customers have stayed for over a decade. The company partners
with customers, becoming an extension of their business support services whilst safeguarding
their sustainability – day and night. “By designing, implementing and executing our customers’day
to-day and project based risk management operations, we create safer environments for them
to focus on their core business. We build a fort of security, health and safety around all our customers’
assets,” says Moropa.
At 33, Thabang presides over a company that is a premium national security services provider
employing 5000 people, with a R500 million turnover – a far cry from when they started with
only a handful of security guards. His business partners are Leba Mashao (chairman) and F.C. Smit
(CEO). Through their Tshireletso Trust, Thabang and his partner Mapuleng (non-executive director)
secured 51% ownership from Smit. Thabang is fully involved in managing and directing the business.
Since then, the organisation has diversified into a number of fields including mining, construction,
retail, industrial, automotive, renewable energy, hospitality and leisure, real estate, events,
healthcare, warehousing and corporate services. “Thorburn has several subsidiaries. The managing
directors who run these subsidiaries have 5% ownership stake in them. This promotes
accountability and a sense of ownership. Our growth has been organic throughout without
acquisition of existing companies,” Moropa says.
Thorburn embraces transformation and black empowerment. “Our industry was predominantly
white former police and army officers. By applying B-BBEE codes throughout our endeavours, we have
seen what the value of our contributions can do for our customers, employees, stakeholders and the
communities. We are Level 1 BEE and the lowest score for our subsidiaries is Level 2. We try to exceed
the industry targets. We have a strict procurement policy – we purchase goods and services from
black owned SMMEs,” Moropa declared.
Dolf Scheepers, MD of Thorburn Northern Region says: “Transformation is a key principle
in our business model – transforming services levels, transforming our staff and transforming
communities in which we operate. This philosophy resulted in us being recognised as a market leader
in the industry in terms of unmatched service levels, constantly subject to fresh approaches.
The development of our staff is a high priority and exceeding our employment equity targets
is a focus area. Today we are blessed with many security officers who developed in the company to
more senior managerial levels. We also have female security managers who rose from within the ranks. “
Mpho Moremi, Thorburn’s national key account manager for McDonalds says: “Thorburn presented
me with a lifetime opportunity for professional and personal development, growth and general
support. I wouldn’t trade the camaraderie within the company for anything.”
The industry generates R50-billion a year and creates jobs for 455,000 registered South African
security officers. It is one of the biggest in the world, and ifsecglobal.com estimates that there
are 1.7 million registered security guards in the country. On the thorny issue of the Private Security Industry
Regulation Amendment Bill which proposes majority ownership for citizens, Moropa minced no
words. “The claims by those opposed to the move are baseless. This is a matter of national security.
Our industry is the biggest employer of entry level workers and our people are almost always
the first point of contact for South Africa with the rest of the world. Not only do they handle sensitive
information about all aspects of the country, but they are almost always our last line of defence. So
national security wise it makes perfect sense that the majority of the private security apparatus is
in the hands of citizens whose patriotism and life attachment to the country cannot be questioned.”
Regarding fears of job losses and disinvestments, Moropa shares the sentiments of former Police
Minister Nathi Mthethwa who observed that like any commodity in the market place, the provision
of security services depends on supply and demand – change of ownership will not change
demand. “Indeed, there is no evidence that people will simply take money out of the country,” Moropa said.
He added that the affected companies will more than likely sell the relevant shares to comply with
the law and not close down. “Remember, when the foreign owned companies bought a number
of South African companies no jobs were lost.” He added, “In fact many more job opportunities were
created by the industry. It’s all about profit and a viable business model.” Moropa believes such
a move is not unique to South Africa as other countries in the region and elsewhere had either
outlawed foreign ownership or were in the process of curbing it.
Moropa said concerns about the level of crime in South Africa were justified. But he quickly added
that things were not as dismal as they are portrayed to be in some quarters. He strongly believes that
government and the various state institutions had mechanisms in place to bring the situation under
control. “Thorburn always strives to be ahead of the criminal elements through the use of technology
and effective methods. But we should all know that crime remains everyone’s responsibility.”