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Congolese Car Guards (NR)

Nikki Rixon/Twenty Ten

Associated feature: Kalk Bay Car guards (Audio feature)

Location: Cape Town, South Africa

Emerging from a restaurant at the end of a long evening, visitors to Kalk Bay can rest assured that their cars have been in safe hands. This is thanks to men like Gerade and Alex Mbomba Ikanga who work as car guards in the Kalk Bay harbour car park.

The majority of the car guards in this area are Congolese immigrants. Considering that the Democratic Republic of the Congo is a country rife with civil unrest and violence, and that its citizens are currently among the poorest in the world, it is no wonder that many Congolese move to more stable countries to improve their situation.

For those who have ended up in this seaside town, their ambition and hard work has paid off.
The car guarding industry evolved in South Africa out of the plight of the unemployed, coupled with the increasing levels of crime, particularly motor theft. The industry provided a means for those who were not able to secure employment formally, as is the case for many foreigners, to generate an income. This way they are not a burden on the state, and they are afforded dignity and can support themselves in difficult circumstances. Car guards are ubiquitous in South Africa, recognizable by their brightly coloured vests. They survive on tips offered by motorists for having their parked cars looked after.

The Congolese car guards in Kalk Bay have taken this concept to a new level. Not only do they offer the car guarding service, they also offer valet parking – something hitherto unheard of in Cape Town. Many of the guards have been in the industry for years, and have steadily built up a solid reputation among the local business community.
Their continued commitment to their job, coupled with their friendly, light-hearted demeanours, has earned them the trust of the locals.

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