Through the Eyes of a Car Guard
Grahamstown’s unemployment rate has led many people to the streets in search of survival money. There are many thieves, beggars, and car guards trying to make a living. With over 400 car guards patrolling the roads, competition is high. Xolisa Wewb is one of these car guards.
Wewb started car guarding seven years ago. After matriculating in 2004, it was hard for him to find a job. When Wewb’s parents passed away, he desperately needed money to support himself and his family. Wewb’s current family includes his one son and his son’s mother, who both require financial support for food, schooling, and a homestead. Wewb wanted to “put bread on the table without being arrested”, which lead him to become a car guard.
Wewb lives with his friend in a government house in the township of Joza. Despite the frequent lack of water and electricity, he is grateful to have a roof over his head and a place of cover to keep warm when the weather turns cold. Wewb has a small garden, a shelf of books, and a dog to look after and keep him busy when he is not working on the streets. He believes he is “not living how God intended”, but is constantly trying his best to create a better life for himself and his family with what he has.
Wewb guards and washes the cars on Grahamstown’s Somerset Street, outside and opposite the Rhode University Language Department. He has to walk to and from his home in Joza to his workplace every day, which takes up to an hour of traveling time. Wewb usually works from seven in the morning to one in the afternoon. He works between these time periods as he does not want to be associated with the criminals and drug abusers found on the street in the later hours of the day.
Unfortunately, Wewb is still treated under the stereotype of being a criminal by many car owners. Wewb says that some people are not friendly to him, but instead treat him with such disrespect that objectifies his existence. To them, he is not a person, but an annoyance. However, this inhumane way of thinking is far from the truth. Xolisa Wewb is a gentle, kind, and understanding human being who likes to use his work profits to keep clean and buy smart clothes for himself. He has never left Grahamstown, but wishes to do so once he has found a more permanent paying job in order to save money.
The tough lives of car guards are often ignored and overlooked. One cannot begin to comprehend their way of living through the glass windows of one’s car. A deeper look into the life of a car guard offers perspective and a compelling wish to help build a community that is willing to aid those in need.