Pietermaritzburg—my experience in my city
Parking your car in some parts of Pietermaritzburg is becoming a task for the brave-hearted as motorists have to negotiate a new trend amongst some car guards who intimidate and threaten motorists who don’t have a rand to spare.
Last Friday night, I had just parked outside Scottsville Mall along Alan Paton Avenue when a relatively young car guard knocked on my window and instructed me to roll my window down.
He asked that I pay him his tip for watching my car upfront, before I even go into the mall because “most motorists have a tendency of sneaking off without paying”.
“I also don’t want anything less than R2,” he said.
I didn’t know what to say. He wasn’t rude or aggressive. I told him I did not have any cash on me and said I would see him when I return.
His response: “Okay, but just know you’re going into the mall at your own risk. You might come back and find your tyres slashed.” I drove off.
Another local resident, Noluthando Mbata, said she has been sworn at on numerous occasions.
“They help you to park even if you don’t need any assistance and when you drive off without paying they become aggressive and start swearing.
“This has happened to me on many occasions and it’s not just the guys in the city centre, even the decent looking car guards at Hayfields,” said Mbata.
A Chase Valley woman, who asked not to be named, said two weeks ago she was parked outside St Anne’s Hospital and gave the car guard R1 as that was the only money she had on her at that moment.
“He asked me what he was supposed to do with R1.”
She said on a previous occasion she felt guilty about not tipping the car guard and decided to give him the only 50c coin she had.
“He threw it back in my face,” she said.
The women said car guards were slowly becoming “entitled” and seemed to have forgotten that some people rarely carry cash.
A car guard says
Wiseman Msane, a car guard stationed along Alan Paton Avenue, said it is very unfortunate that they are being painted with one brush because of the attitudes of some of his colleagues.
Msane said he has also endured many insults from motorists.
“Some motorists are racist and are inconsiderate. I don’t mind being tipped anything from R1 upwards, but some motorists give us as little as 20c. What can you do with 20c?” he asked.
Msane said he believes that the job he does is important and very necessary. “Whenever a person parks their car here I have to monitor which shop they go into in case something happens to their car. If someone else smashes into their car or scratches it I have to run and get the owner quickly and people still don’t appreciate our presence.
“The rude people are those who just get into their cars and drive off. I really do appreciate it when someone tells me that they have no cash on them and thank me for watching over their car instead of just driving off — that’s just rude,” he said.
Msane admitted that some of his colleagues are aggressive and feel entitled as they are desperate to feed their drug addiction.
“I guess every job comes with its ups and downs. Sometimes I don’t get anything and sometimes people tip me with R30, not everyone is the same,” he said.
The City Says
Msunduzi Municipality spokesperson Thobeka Mafumbatha said that car guards working without a Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority (Prisa) qualification are breaking the law according to the Prisa Act.
“A distinction is generally made between formal and informal car guards. Formal car guards are co-ordinated by agencies working on behalf of shopping centres, and provide their services at shopping centre parking lots. Informal car guards operate mainly in the city centre, where they guard cars parked on the streets. It should be noted that in terms of the National Road Traffic Act 2000 and the Business Act 1991 (Act 71 of 1991), informal car guarding is an illegal but tolerated activity, provided it complies with the Prisa Act,” she said.
Mafumbatha said that at the moment the municipality did not have any designated person tasked with dealing with the registration and monitoring of car guards. However, the Msunduzi Public Safety (Traffic and Security) division, with its limited legal force, manages the car guards by enforcing the municipality’s Public Open Space Nuisance By-Laws.
She added that Msunduzi’s officers deal with complaints and reports pertaining to illegal car guards and encouraged the public to report such matters to this number: 0800 033 911.
Our readers say
Commenting on The Witness Facebook page, Denesh Govender said car guards were “usually always grateful”.
“Maybe its because we always treat them with respect and give them a proper tip. These people stand and guard your car in blazing heat, pouring rain and freezing cold temperatures. The least one can do is give them a respectable tip, I would never dare give a person rendering a service anything less than R8, the price of a loaf of bread. It is an insult,” said Govender.
Aleck de Beer said car guards were hard working individuals come rain or shine and they have become a necessity.