You’ll find them standing at the entrance of a bank, shopping mall, school, office or even a home. I’m talking about the security guard. The one recruited by that private Security Company to keep wrong elements away from your premises – at a fee.
A noble and critical profession, if you ask me. With pay that ranges between Shs100,000 and…well, maybe Shs300,000. And yet my encounter with several of them has made me ask questions and wonder at so many things. Let’s look at three case studies;-
He is smartly dressed, baton in hand and standing at the entrance of a bank. He is pacing up and down, his eyes on activities around his work area. Then a commuter taxi pulls over. He frowns. ‘No parking,’ he says, with a voice deep and intimidating. The conductor winks at him, but he charges at the taxi, holds the door and half- screams ‘go, go go’. Passengers alight; a few others squeeze themselves in. Conductor smiles at him, and squeezes a coin in his hand. The taxi takes off, leaving the guard closing his hand on the coin, feeling its body –is it Shs200, Shs500? That cycle continues for the better part of the day, and the signpost reading ‘Parking reserved for bank only’ sits there, waiting to be pushed aside to make way for ‘special parking’.
Guard number two is on night duty. It’s 9pm and his workplace – a wine shop, is closed. He is seated at the entrance; his head bent backwards, mouth half-open. The grip on his gun loosens as sleep weighs him down. He has cardboards nearby, so he shifts from chair to floor and so does his gun. And as the night grows old, the sleep gets deep and whatever happens to the shop or his gun, will be none of his business.
Guard number three is done with work and he is walking back home. His face is clothed with what is very close to hunger and tiredness, while a shadow of brokenness seems to follow him closely. He sees a maize vendor, stops by and pushes hand in the left pocket – nothing. He tries the second one – coins jingle. ‘How much…that one?’ he asks. It’s Shs500. He has Shs400. The bargaining starts and he finally gets the edible. As the walk home continues, his jaw moves up and down in excitement, and so does the dust from the ground to his tattered boots.
That is a sketch of our typical security guard –the one who has that make-up of hunger plastered on his face, the one whose uniform and boots appear worn-out, and the one who looks for every opportunity to ask for a coin as he scans your handbag.
So what happens when a thug finds that sleeping guard at the wine shop? What happens if a criminal squeezes bundles of notes and not just coins in the hands of that guard guarding the bank? What about the lady guard who looks at you and says ‘pass’, without checking your handbag as you enter the office? Reflecting on this lot of people is a heavy duty.
But one thing is clear; a deliberate and sober cleaning up is needed on the recruitment, remuneration and regulation of security guards.