There has been a massive growth in the nightclub, tavern and shebeen industry in and around densely populated areas. This phenomenon is closely associated with alcohol consumption and has resulted in a high demand for security measures to protect patrons and the physical assets of these enterprises.
Most patrons engage in heavy drinking in nightclubs and alcohol is one of the primary reasons for the high rate of violence in South Africa.
It was against this background that I conducted a study that explored the nature of the relationship between bouncers and patrons in nightclubs. The study involved undertaking semi-structured interviews with 10 bouncers; and focus groups with 20 undergraduate students who have attended any one of the five nightclubs being studied.
Private security officers are notorious for their violent and aggressive behaviour. In instances where patrons misbehave and act aggressively towards bouncers or towards one another, bouncers as professional private security personnel are obligated by law to act appropriately.
For example, section 8 of the Private Security Industry Regulation Act No. 56 of 2001 (PSIRA) stipulates that professional private security personnel “shall respond in a manner that does not threaten or harm the public”; however, it is also obligatory that they use only “minimal, necessary and reasonable force in the discharging of their duties”.
This study found that the nature of the relationship between patrons and bouncers varied and that the participants’ perspectives of bouncers varied between males and females.
Clearly, the manner in which bouncers interact with patrons depends on the gender of the patron, and the relationship between bouncers and female patrons is less violent and more protective than the relationship that bouncers have with male patrons.
It was not surprising that this study confirmed that the nature of the relationship between bouncers and patrons in nightclubs is characterised by violence and aggression. However, the findings suggest that blame for this trend is double edged as both patrons and bouncers impact the negative relationship that exists between them.
Nightclubs’ managers should limit the number of drinks that are sold to patrons, particularly those who show signs of intoxication, to prevent inappropriate behaviour.
In addition, to maintain a more positive, less violent and less aggressive relationship between bouncers and patrons, nightclubs should make sure that they employ competent, well-trained bouncers who are in possession of a PSIRA qualification.
PSIRA emphasises that any person who renders a private security service must be registered with PSIRA to qualify as a private security officer. PSIRA provides each registered officer with a PSIRA card that contains a registration number.
This implies that private security personnel must produce a PSIRA card when they are on duty, which legitimises their right to render a private security service. In order to register and obtain a PSIRA card, a person must have received appropriate training which is a key issue in the industry.
In light of the above legal provisions, it was disconcerting to find that the bouncers who participated in this study had neither undergone appropriate training nor had they obtained a PSIRA card. It was also established that the bouncers were not employed by registered private security companies, which means that nightclub owners and managers employed privately recruited and ostensibly untrained bouncers to protect their properties.
It was glaringly obvious that physical stature, fitness and masculinity were the primary criteria for employment.
PSIRA is mandated to strictly monitor the legitimacy of the proceedings that private security nightclubs adopt in appointing bouncers to work at nightclubs. The security industry, with particular reference to bouncers, is a profession that should employ appropriately trained and qualified staff as provided by section 10 of the PSIRA Act.
A bouncer who fails to produce a PSIRA card when on duty should be withdrawn from performing any security duties for the company in question.
PSIRA should be efficient in launching a campaign to identify and deal with unregistered bouncers working in nightclubs and to expose private security companies that hire and deploy unqualified security personnel.