South Africans direct a large amount of ire toward car guards, often seeing them as a nuisance and nothing more than glorified beggars. Although individual drivers may choose not to pay them, these drivers still benefit from car guards as their presence can act as a deterrent to thieves. Car guarding is considered to be a more effective theft preventative measure than patrol cars and closed-circuit television monitoring.
Car guards are included in the 2.4 million people active in the informal economy (excluding the agricultural sector). In 2009, the Basic Conditions of Employment Act was amended to include car guards under the Sectoral Determination for Private Security. This means car guards are placed in the category “employees not elsewhere specified” with the minimum wage in Pretoria and Johannesburg set at R2 519 per month. A 2015 survey of 144 car guards in Pretoria by UP’s Department of Social Work and Criminology found this minimum wage to be reflective of what car guards earn monthly. Of the participants, 37% earned between R51 and R100 a day, and 34% earned between R101 and R150 a day. However, this income is often greatly reduced by “bay fees”, a daily cost paid to agencies or shopping mall managers which ranges from R20 to R50 a day. Car guards are often required to hire their own equipment from agencies for an additional R10 to R30 a day.
The general car guard demographic consists of black or coloured men between the ages of 20 and 40. This coincides with the largest proportion of unemployed people in South Africa. Furthermore, it was found in the 2014 study that South African car guards generally have not completed secondary level education, while foreign car guards have often completed tertiary level education in the form of a degree or diploma. Despite the adverse and unappealing conditions, 94% of car guards in the study felt that they make a meaningful contribution to society.
Car guarding has developed as a response to car theft, but also acts as a solution to uplift those in poverty due to unemployment. The area around UP serves as a place of work for many car guards as thousands of students travel to its campuses every day. Many students find their presence annoying and an unnecessary daily expense. Most students do not pay them every time.
Michael Nel, a second-year BSc Zoology student, says he only pays the car guards if they actually assist in looking for parking and reversing and are close by when he returns. Third-year LLB student Roxanne Dickson said, “I generally do everything I can to avoid parking where those car guards would be, like paying for parking at engineering or coming a couple of hours early so that I can park in the secured student parking, because I’ve had so many bad experiences with them.” She says that she has experienced a lot of harrasment from car guards, and says, “At this point, if I’m going to pay for parking every day, I’d rather do it at the engineering building, because I know my car will be safe and I won’t be harassed.”
Other students view the car guards more favourably. “Since I drive to campus every day, you get to know the car guards, and I have a friendship with the one guard where if he sees my car he will recognise it and help me with parking. Also, he will wash my car and just allow me to pay him later on. Also, what I have seen specifically, people have left him their keys so that he can clean on the inside and also if they can’t find parking they would leave their car keys with him and he will put your car in neutral and push the car into a parking space for you,” said Andrew Wheeler, a second-year Bcom Investment Management student.
Perdeby also spoke to some of the car guards around the Hatfield campus. Jacob, who has been a car guard outside the university since 2000, said that although students don’t give him money every time, they don’t give him any problems either. Another car guard, Jack, who has been along Prospect Road for seven years, says his income fluctuates depending on whether or not students pay him and how much he is given. He says often they give him R2 to R5 every time but occasionally drivers will give him larger sums of R20 to R50 if he takes special care of their cars. He takes home R45 to R60 a day on average. Jack also told Perdeby that he is looking for other employment and has been arrested for
Photo: Ciske van den Heever