Being a female car guard on North Beach: “It has been 19 years of work but no pay”

NOKUTHULA MNGADI, a 56-year-old from Clermont, Durban has worked as a car guard for the past 19 years at the Durban North Beach. She told The Daily Vox about her work, which often goes unappreciated.

I started working as a car guard in 1996 and a typical day in my job includes working from six to six helping motorists. There was an advert in a newspaper which was seeking for car guards to work in different areas and because I was unemployed, I took the details and contacted the person who was looking for the guards. It has been 19 years of work but no pay. As car guards, we rely on the tips given by motorists who are kind enough to appreciate us for looking after their cars and helping them with directions.

I did not choose to be a car guard but it became my only option. I could have become a domestic worker but jobs were very scarce at that time and I had to provide for my family. As car guards, we do a remarkable job but seemingly people are taking it very lightly. The most challenging part of my job is not having a fixed salary because budgeting often becomes a problem. One never knows how much they will make on a particular day and that can be very stressful as we travel from afar.

Car guarding became my only option because I did not complete high school. I left school while I was doing grade 9 because of some circumstances. Although I have never worked anywhere else before, I have a security certificate I did some years back. Having worked here for so many years, interacting with people has become easier and they can now tell when I am not myself. Doing this kind of a job is exhausting because I have to smile and be nice to people all the time, even though there are days when I have some personal problems and can’t really laugh.

My job has taught me that it is important to leave my problems back at home when going to work because I work with people on a daily basis. Although I have spent years working here as a car guard, there are still days where I wish I could just go home and never return to work. Working with male people can be very difficult and frustrating; they have a mentality that car guarding is a job for them and not for women. Sometimes they can be very rude and disrespectful but some are very kind and understanding.

Having worked in this spot for the past 19 years, safety hasn’t been one of my concerns. The place is always guarded by police so it’s not easy for people to do anything malicious that could jeopardise our safety.

My job has allowed me to provide for my children and afford to give them education but I would really love to do something different such as working for the municipality as a cleaner. Standing the whole day has become difficult as I am ageing and would love to do something that would allow me some flexibility. I work eight hours a day and six days a week. It was easier before but now with the age, my body can longer take it.