Being a security guard is hardly a fun profession. In areas where there is relative peace and stability, security guards still worry about their safety and the danger of being arrested or sacked is high.
“Every day you go to work, you are always aware of the dangers that can befall you. If a theft is reported while you’re on duty and no culprit is apprehended, the first suspect is the security guard,” recounts Edmore Mawindo who guards a home in Highlands.
“I was born in 1994,” says Edmore, “but at age 14. I was unable to proceed to high school because my mother could not afford the fees – the equivalent of $30 per term. I was forced to the streets where I did all sorts of odd jobs to keep the home fires burning. This experience exposed me to activities that could have landed me on the wrong side of the law but luckily I managed to stay out of trouble. The few brushes I had with the police made me fall in love with law enforcement. But with my educational background weighing against me, I knew the chances would be slim to get into the police force. When I got a chance to go into security guarding, I decided to give it my best shot.”
Mawindo says he started working as a security guard in 2007. This was after a rigorous training stint of six months. He was trained in basic security duties such as patrolling, dog handling, rifle shooting and specialist tasks such as receipting and dispatching.
“Since then, I have had to adjust my life style. I work during the night and sleep during daytime. I start my working day at six o’clock in the evening after riding on a bicycle 24 kilometres daily from my home in Dzivarasekwa. I could not afford the double transport costs so I saved from my meagre salary and bought a bicycle.”
In a country with such low employment, the security guard sector employs a considerable number of people. However, the harsh working conditions, poor salaries and lack of incentives have dented the image of the profession. Security guards are poorly remunerated. According to the Zimbabwe National Security Guard Association, the lowest paid guard is earning an average of $240 per month.
Mawindo explains that his job involves standard guarding of the site, access control, which is checking who is coming in and going out, and patrolling the entire premise. He says that the house he guards has no guardroom – a standard requirement in guarding home premises. He has to improvise a make shift place where he takes rest after rounds of patrols. There are no teas, even on cold or rainy days. One uniform is enough for the year, “if you are fortunate enough to get one,” he says.
“Contrary to the notion that guards sleep while at work, it is difficult to do since most of the time your supervisor is always checking on you. On the other hand, the client is always checking on you and will alert your bosses if you are found sleeping.”
“Overall, security guarding is a risky and lonely job,” says Mawindo. “Imagine working twelve hours daily none stop. The only tools you have to fend off intruders are handcuffs and a baton stick. It is difficult to catch a heavily armed burglar in such circumstances.”
Yet, besides being scorned and looked down on, “I find my job interesting,” says Mawindo.