Wednesday 14 April 2021
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‘We are exploited and underpaid’

Despite the important roles they play, the plight of security guards is hardly ever addressed.
Although labour laws offer social protection for all workers, life for security guards employed by security firms is a mockery of not just the spirit but enumerated by the very provisions of the law. It is estimated that most of the private security personnel are exposed to the worst working conditions.
Their jobs become extra streneous in winter because when the sun sets and everyone rushes to turn on the heaters and go under warm blankets, for guards in the security sector, it is just the other way around.
And since winter brings additional challenges for security staff, without the necessary support from their employers their duties can be difficult to carry out.
Come rain or sunshine, they guard assets belonging to many who are asleep. But since it is a job someone has to do it.
At most, many people give them a passing nod or a quick hello because, after all, they are just there to guard the building and allow people entrance and direct them to where they want to go.
A quick scenario would be: you are posted to guard a supermarket, clothing store, or bank. Or perhaps you were assigned to guard a private home under the unrelenting summer sun or during the chilly nights of the Windhoek’s winter.
After working 12 hours through the cold and not-so-safe nights, you are given a shoestring salary of N$2 700, this is if you work for one of the “high” paying security companies.
This is the life of Amon Muteka [not his real name].These men and some women remain the eyes and ears of everything at the B1 City Mall at night. Muteka, a father and breadwinner of three with an unemployed wife starts his shift at 19h00 to endure the colds of Windhoek in order to feed his family.
The Patriot caught up with the security guard who was seated on the pavements in the parking area of the mall, just 30 minutes after he has started his shift. He insists we sit with him on the pavements if we really want to have a glimpse of his work.
“I hope you came with warm clothes because it gets very cold here. There is no guard room around here so we will have our interview just here.
Should you feel it is too cold, you are welcome to leave just like many of you are already home because it is cold outside,” he said.
The team insists to stay on and gets into the 46-year olds guarding life after sunset.
Muteka has made jumps between three security companies during his 10 years in the industry.
All moves were necessitated by the need for a better salary. But before we spoke about the salary, Muteka wanted to share about working at night in the winters, an experience many have no glimpse of, especially outside.
“Night shift is a problem my friend. It is cold, sometimes windy and then there is rain.
In this cold, it rained a few weeks back and we are all just outside because there are no guard rooms here.
The clothes you see me wearing are all the company provides and you cannot be caught wearing something on top of the uniform,” he explained.
Just a few months ago, there was a break in behind the mall at night; none of the security guards spotted a thing. Those who were on duty for the night were called in for questioning but fortunately they were not found to be at fault. Consequently, the company placed clocking machines around the building.
This now means, all guards on duty, have to clock in after every hour at all clocking points placed around the building.
“You are basically on your feet all night long. Now think about walking around the building with no warm clothes. You cannot sleep on duty.
If they found you sleeping, that entire shift will not be paid.
As if this is not enough, we also do not have guns to protect ourselves here.
So you are guarding a building expected to protected property when you cannot even defend yourself,” said Muteka.
“If someone comes, you can only scream and hope they go but if not, you are in for the worse. If you take the radio to call the supervisor, that thing is loud and the thieves will know what you are doing. When they hear that radio, they might end up coming for you because you are reporting them and they know you have no gun,” he added.
By this time, a cold windy breeze starts making it even chillier and he suggests that we could go if it was not too cold for us already. Looking around, the only movement in the area occurs at the service station with reduced vehicle movement on Independence Avenue on the other side.
For years now calls for N$10 per hour has not been adopted by many companies. Early this year, The Trade Union Congress Namibia (TUNCA) secretary general Mahoronga Kavihuha described the long working hours that security guards are expected to work as ‘legalized slavery.’
The trade union has amplified calls for regulators to compel security firms to adhere to all labour laws, including working hours and decent monthly salaries.
“Some companies pay N$10 per hour but other companies still pay around N$7 per hour. Now you work for 6 days a week and sometimes you have two days off. If you do the maths, you will end up with close to N3000. Out of that, you are deducted N$280 for transport.
And then they still deduct Social Security. The clothes they give you, they also deduct from your salary. Please explain how we will survive.”
“You cannot do much with that salary. You want to send something home but you cannot.
If you buy food and soap, then you have nothing. And you still have to send the children to school.”
Two of Muteka’s boys are school-going and he says it is often very difficult making sure there is food in their lunch packs and something at home.
Had it not been for the deduction on the slim salary, Meteka says it would have better.
Having being in the industry for some time now, Muteka says there is no better company. Once would be convinced that other companies probably pay better but it is just the uniform. Here, we are suffering.”
“This job is just a job to survive and see the next day. You cannot buy yourself anything and forget about saving.
You cannot complain because they tell you straight to your face that if you think they are bad, you can go home. I do not want to go and steal because you will be shot dead.”
About nine months ago, a video made rounds on social media of a manager who splashed cold water on guard who was sun-bathing after a long night cold shift and unfortunately caught napping.
“This is our life.
While all of you go to bed, some of us have to work to also feed our families – but it is cold out here.”

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