Daily Maverick

‘We are being sent to our deaths’: cash-in-transit guards

A protest was held on Tuesday 12 March, 2018, against attacks on cash-van heists in Johannesburg. Photo: Nkateko Mbasa

'Thousands of guards in the cash-in-transit (CIT) sector embarked on marches in various cities across the country on Tuesday, calling for an end to the killings of guards and for safe working conditions.

Spearheaded by Fedusa (the Federation of Unions of South Africa) and affiliate union the Motor Transport Workers Union MTWU, security guards in the cash-in-transit sector embarked on marches across the country. The day of protest follows a spate of cash-in-transit vehicle attacks in the first half of the year.

Speaking just before handing over a memorandum of their grievances at the Johannesburg protest, MTWU General Secretary Mdumiseni Mabaso said 159 robberies had occurred within the first six months.

“We can’t let our country be run by thugs so we are asking for co-operation with the police. You have seen how important the CIT sector is. Money is important,” he said.

“There are far too many orphans as a result of the scourge of cash-in-transit guards’ killings.”

Unions made a number of demands which they said they believe can help to drastically decrease attacks on their members.

Unions called on the Department of Justice to deal harshly with criminals and to secure convictions for recent heists.

The unions called on the Department of Transport to regulate the form of transport used in cash transportation and ensure that CIT vehicles are properly armour-plated to protect employees in transit against bombings and high calibre firepower.

This comes after a number of guards voiced concerns around armoury and their safety. Other guards said they have inadequate protection against an army of skilled men with high calibre firearms and explosives.

“You are given a Norinco with three bullets and expected to defend yourself and millions (of rand) against an army of men wielding AK 47’s and explosives. That cannot be logical. Once the three bullets run out you are left defenceless. The CIT companies should put equal emphasis on our safety as they do with profits. They are greedily exposing us because they want to maximise their profits. We are literally being sent to our deaths.” CIT guard Richard Sambo said.

Unions demanded that CIT companies be pro-active in the protection of employees without having to wait for legislation to force safety and security measures.

They also want employers to appreciate the dangerous work and to reward them accordingly.

They also warned employers against employing unskilled cheap labour.

Employers were also called upon to ensure there is safety equipment and that training is of a high quality and standard. They want an increase in manpower and firepower in each CIT vehicle, and the provision of escort back-up vehicles. Employers were also called upon to ensure that their client premises create a safe environment for CIT transactions to take place away from the public.

Employers were also called upon to stop the large number of dismissals for minor offences. Guards told Daily Maverick they are often the prime suspects after after robbery or attack, and subjected to polygraph tests even ahead of counselling.

Unions agreed that sometimes it is the very employees dismissed from work for minor offences who in their disgruntlement collude with robbers because they have a better understanding of the workings of the industry. Unions demanded that guards should be provided with trauma counselling after heists and attacks.

Unions also want enactment by the Department of Transport of legislation that will ensure that vehicles have functioning air conditioning, and if the vehicle does not have it, for it to be declared unroadworthy.

They said CIT vehicle drivers are locked in vehicles in extreme heat resulting in severe heat exhaustion. Unions also demanded that the Department of Transport legislate that CIT vehicles be permitted to drive in the emergency lane in the event that they feel threatened.

Unions are also calling for the Department of Justice to legislate that CIT vehicles be fitted with sirens and emergency lights.

Unions want the Governor of the Reserve Bank to ensure limits on the amounts of cash transported in a vehicle at one time. Unions also believe the Governor of the Reserve Bank has the power to pull the plug on fly-by-night companies transporting cash.

They also want the Reserve Bank’s assurance that a representative would engage with police forums and update them about issues affecting the transportation of cash.

Unions want the Metro Police to ensure that there is proper parking facilities for CIT vehicles to prevent long-distance cross-pavement transactions. They also want the Metro Police to ensure there are more road blocks and random searches of suspicious vehicles, especially in the vicinity where cash transactions take place.

Protesters gave the office of Gauteng Community Safety “a few months” to respond.

Unions warned that if their demands and grievances were not met they had the power to bring the country to a standstill.

According to the unions, there were 180 CIT incidents in 2014, increasing by 105% to 370 in 2017.

Unions attributed the increase to the fact that cash-in-transit vehicles are seen as “soft and easy targets” due to under-investment in strong security measures and security companies focusing on maximizing profits.

We are asking for intervention from Ramaphosa’s government as the head of all security. We don’t know who is next that’s is why we are standing up for ourselves,” MTWU president Macaleni Mthembu said.

We are sent to die because nobody really cares for our safety,” added CIT security guard Bongani Hlophe.

Unions also demanded a basic salary of R20,000 from a current minimum is R11,000 for all CIT employees.

Sonnyboy Matle, from the office of Community Safety MEC Sizakele Nkosi-Malobane, received the memorandum and undertook to bring it to the attention of the MEC, and also Gauteng’s premier and commissioner of police. “I commit that within a period of 14 days there will be a meeting with all the stakeholders so that the day your leadership comes back to you, they come back with a concrete response,” Matle said. DM

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