Daily News: Ensnared in poverty trap


Ensnared in poverty trap

Sandile* works as a security guard in Durban. In a hand-written submission to the Daily News, he discusses what his job entails and why there is a need for the mobilisation of the poor.

November 03, 2010 Edition 1

Maybe it is good to remind the people that where there is capitalism, the capitalists exploit the workers more than anything you can think of.

These days with unemployment being so high, the people are queuing up to be exploited. But we must remember that this is not a natural system. There is no reason why each and every person cannot have their dignity.

I have been working as a security guard for many years now. I used to think the security industry was such a good industry because the guards were always smiling. Later I noticed that somebody told them to be always smiling.

There is a real need for the government to do something about the security industry. One of our leaders said that the government is supposed to sort out the problems facing the security guards.

The government should make sure that the industry is regulated and that the regulation is in the interests of the workers.

Of course whenever regulation of an industry is proposed, all the petty capitalists and the venture capitalists complain because they are afraid to lose money, and so in the end no one decides to support the government. This is how the system works.

The people elect a government and instead of obeying the people, the government listens to the capitalists. This is why in many countries the people are organising themselves to be able to put more pressure on the government and the capitalists.

It is bad to be a security guard. We are working with a very low remuneration. Nightshift and dayshift, we are always here waiting for somebody and we don’t even know when he is coming or what kind of a gun he is going to come with.

We are poor people and most of us risk our lives every day to guard the property and lives of rich people.

At most of the places where we work there is no shelter (guard house). Where I’m writing this article now, I’m sitting in the sun. It’s okay, but when it’s windy and raining I sit in the same place.

When I get sick they don’t contribute even one cent. I’m the one responsible. In some sites there is even an Occurrence Book and when you read what is in that book it looks like somebody can come and kill you and no one will know anything about you.

Even if we are asking our ministers to intervene, they say we must go back to school. But is working as a security guard supposed to be a kind of punishment for a lack of education or is it supposed to be a job? Anyway, who said that all the security guards are not educated?

Who said that those of us that couldn’t finish school or who couldn’t study after school are responsible for that?

There is such a thing in this country as a history of oppression that made some people to be very poor. Abahlali baseMjondolo (the shackdwellers’ movement) has always taught that the rich and the poor were made as they are by the very same system.

Sometimes if you are complaining about something you hear those who are always repressing the guards saying: “It’s not me who said you must not go to school.”


One thing I think of a lot is that we must talk about life and about education because a human being is not a human being because of education. Educated or not, a human being is always a human being.

When we are told to vote for these same people, they don’t ask for our level of education before we cast our votes. On election day we suddenly all count the same. The next day it is back to normal and we, as the poor, we count for nothing.

If you don’t have political connections then you need education to get a good job. If we need education to be able to do good work, then why is there not free education for everyone? Why does the government not invest in the people?

Imagine how many people could have learnt a trade or a skill for the cost of one football stadium. I am failing to understand why, if education is so important, people are left uneducated.

The only way for us to make some reforms in the companies is by building the strength of the unions. But even the good unions are part of the system.

The unions really need to change. The unions must make sure that the people who are supposed to deal with the people’s problems must be those who are willing to help the people.

They must be the slaves of the people and revolutionaries, real revolutionaries, not those who just talk revolution on TV.

They must be somebody who takes the people’s feelings as theirs. Most of the unions are so terrible. I don’t want to say a lot, but only they become fat cats by taking our monies from our accounts for nothing.

Unions have become a kind of business. They have become a joint venture with the bosses and not a tool in the hands of the workers.

We are being fired for nothing if we try to stand up for our rights, but most unions are not doing their job. Some unions get just as scared as the bosses if they see that the workers are trying to organise themselves on the site.

Sometimes you notice that it seems as if you joined a union only to make it easy for the company to get rid of you.

It is much bad when the people get fired at the direction of the union and later the company noticed that it was a mistake to fire you and ask you to come back.

To all the guards, let us be united and form a working body for the security guards by the security guards.

This body can be organised, but not professionalised, on each site. There we can discuss all the problems that are facing us and that discussion will start from us and the decision that we take there will be by us and for us.

From that body we can take our problems to the unions and from the union to the CCMA. But that working body will be there all the time. We will not hand our problems over to the unions. We will organise outside of the unions to control the unions from the ground.

Corrupt union leaders will be no more and all the workers will be respected by our employers and the clients.

Sandile lives in the Cato Crest shack settlement. *His name has been changed to protect his identity.