On a hot day in Umtata in December 1982, a young man stood with his belongings next to a big truck. He was nervous. Gcinisiko Mthini was going to eGoli for the first time.
He was going to earn some money. He needed the money for something special. He needed money to pay lobola for the woman he loves. Her name is Nozipho.
As he got onto the bus, Gcinisiko thought how lucky he was. Not many people in the Transkei get jobs. But he now had a job with a company called Springbok Patrols a security company in Johannesburg. This company hires nightwatchmen to other companies.
And so Gcinisiko was going to work as a nightwatchmen in eGoli. He was going to a lonely job. He was going to work when others sleep. He was going to join the other workers of the night.
Just over two years later, Gcinisiko stood in the Learn and Teach office. His clothes were worn out and he needed a new pair of shoes. He had no money in his pocket and he was hungry.
He said he was living in a hostel on the West Rand. He did not have a permit to stay there. When the police are around, Gcinisiko leaves the hostel in a hurry. And then he lives in the bush near the hostel.
Gcinisiko’s first trip to Johannesburg did not turn out so good. It was bad news right from the start.
EATING FROM THE DUSTBIN The trip in the truck from Umtata was not very comfortable, he will tell you. It was crowded and some of the men had to stand all the way. But Gcinisiko looked at the brighter side. The owner of the company said he would pay R300 a month. He would be married in no time.
Gcinisiko arrived at the company on a Friday. On the same day, a woman who works in the office at the company took his passport. Gcinisiko has not seen his passport since.
He started to work on the Saturday. They gave him a uniform and a stick or a “donkie peel”, as he calls it. And so Gcinisiko worked the long nights away. But when the end of the month came, there were problems. He was never paid the money that he was promised.
For example, he worked for three days in December 1982 and he was paid R50. He worked for the whole of the next January and he was paid R 120. In February, he worked for one week and was paid R20.
When Gcinisiko got the job in Umtata, the company promised him a full time job. But the company often did not give him any work. Sometimes he worked for a few weeks in one month. Other times he worked for a few days. And sometimes he did not work at all. The company only used him when they needed him.
When the company did not give him work, they did not pay him. He was a “spare”. But Gcinisiko could not leave the job. He did not have enough money to go home. And he didn’t even have his passport.
Gcinisiko often went to ask the woman in the office for his passport. He never went inside the office workers are not allowed inside. He went to the office and asked for his passport through the window. But the woman always said she could not find it.
Because Gcinisiko had no passport, he could not go very far from the company. He only went for short walks. There was nothing he could do.
Gcinisiko suffered a lot. But he suffered most when he was a “spare” in winter. At those times, Gcinisiko had to sleep in the back of the company trucks because he had no money to stay in the hostel. The trucks were dirty with dog shit.
And because Gcinisiko had no money, he went hungry. Sometimes he was so hungry that he ate from the dustbin. That’s how hungry he was.
A SLAP IN THE FACE
Gcinisiko was fired on a Wednesday in January this year. He was guarding a company that makes hats and gloves. One of the company drivers came to check upon him – and went back and told the boss that he was sleeping on the job. Gcinisiko says this was not true. He says he was not sleeping.
When Gcinisiko went back to the yard at the company, the boss’ son took off Gcinisiko’s cap and took away his “donkie peel”. He then told Gcinisiko to “f*** off.”
Gcinisiko walked away slowly. The son then ran up to him and slapped his face. Gcinisiko fell down onto the ground. He then got up and ran away. The boss’ son chased him with the “donkie peel” in his hand. He did not catch him.
Gcinisiko went back to the company at the end of the month to fetch his pay. The boss’ wife gave him an envelope. Inside the envelope was four rand. When Gcinisiko asked why he was paid so little, the boss’ son told him to get out. He threatened to let the dog loose on him.
Gcinisiko went back to the company in the middle of February to ask for his passport. He went to the office at 12 o’clock in the morning. He went at this time because he thought that the boss and his family would not be there. They are usually not there at this time.
The woman was alone in the office. Once again he asked her for his passport. Then suddenly, before Gcinisiko knew what was happening, he was slapped across the face. He was slapped by the same son of the owner.
Gcinisiko started to run away. Then the son ordered a dog called Rex to catch him. Rex caught Gcinisiko and bit his hand. Gcinisiko then managed to run away. He has not been back to the company since.
And so now Gcinisiko has no money and no passport. The company did not even give him a blue card when they fired him. Gcinisiko must now wait for a lawyer to try to get his passport and his wages from the company.
Gcinisiko is also worried about his loved one, Nozipho. All her friends are getting married and she may think that Gcinisiko is wasting her time. But how wrong she will be. All he wants is to be with her.
JUDGE FOR YOURSELF
Gcinisiko is not the only worker with a story about Springbok Patrols. Many workers from the company have gone to different organisations for help. They go to the Black Sash. Or they go to the Industrial Aid Society, the Johannesburg Advice Office or the Legal Resources Centre. All these places know of Springbok Patrols.
The Bartmann family, the owners of Springbok Patrols, are famous for their love of rugby. Three of the Bartmann brothers played rugby for Transvaal last season. But when it comes to their workers, the family do not play fair.
Springbok Patrols is not the only company that does not play fair. There are other security companies that treat their workers in the same way.
Learn and Teach is not the first organisation to tell the story about nightwatchmen. Other people have told the same story.
For example, in 1977 the Rand Daily Mail printed a big story about the suffering of nightwatchmen. In 1980, the Industrial Aid Society wrote to the Department of Manpower telling them about the terrible treatment of nightwatchmen. And in the same year, the Legal Resources Centre wrote to the Department of Manpower telling them how a company called Elliot Security Services treated their workers.
But nothing has changed. Nightwatchmen still suffer like they did before. We now feel that enough is enough. We have decided to print some other examples of what has happened at Springbok Patrols. This will give you an idea what happens in the security business. We want you to judge for yourself.
THE COMPLAINTS OF OTHER WORKERS
1. Six other workers came into Learn and Teach with Gcinisiko Mthini. They too were dressed in old clothes and they too had no money to buy food. Most of them were also living in ·a hostel without a permit – and in the bush when the police were around. Their stories were nearly all the same.
They told us how they were not paid the money they were promised. They all spoke about assaults and how they were fired without getting the money they thought the company owed them. None of the workers got their blue cards when they were fired from the company.
Their names are: Mongezi Bhulu, Quantilosi Maseti, Matata Dikopu, Paulus Zamekile Stuurman, Sindisiwe Lucas Mazinyo, Siphiwe Vincent Hlatshwayo.
2. In the Rand Daily Mail newspaper on January 16th this year, there was a story about another eight workers from Springbok Patrols. These workers went to the Black Sash for help. These workers had no money and they were carrying old pieces of bread. The bread had green mould all over it. They got the bread to eat at Springbok Patrols the day before. These workers said that:
They did not get the wage of R250 that they were promised. They only got a few rands now and then.
They did not live in a hostel as promised. They lived in a garage.
They got old, mouldy bread for food.
(Mr Bartmann told the newspaper that he paid the workers off because they wanted to go home. He said they slept in a hostel in Alexandra township. They did not get paid for the month because they only worked for a few shifts. He said the workers were fed “wholesome hot meals” before and after each shift. Or they got whole-some dried food supplies”.)
3. In a story in City Press on the 14th August 1983, there was a story about a worker by the name of Mabuti Gxagxa. He worked for Springbok Patrols. The story started: “A security guard fled in terror from his boss’ office after he was beaten up and attacked by the firm’s guard dogs. Mabuti Gxagxa ended up in hospital after his escape from the firm. He was battered and bruised and still trying to work out what he did wrong”
4. Robert Ngomezulu was a driver for Springbok Patrols for two months in 1981. He left because the company made him work seven days a week and because he did not get the wages they promised him. He saw other workers getting assaulted. He saw many workers complaining about their wages. “At Springbok Patrols, the dogs are treated better than the workers,” says Mr Ngomezulu.
5. Mr Ntuthuzelo Somazo got a job with Springbok Patrols in Butterworth in December 1982. He worked at the company until the 7th January 1983. Mr Somoza says: “There is a form book where you must sign with your fingerprint before you get paid. On the form is written the promised amount of R210. When my turn came I was given four rand. I was told to leave my print but I refused ….. ”
6. Learn and Teach knows of six other workers who all tell much of the same story. Some of these workers signed affidavits that were sent to the Department of Manpower as far back as 1980.
7. Last year Springbok Patrols was charged in the Roodepoort Magistrates Court. They were charged for not showing their wage book to inspectors from the Department of Manpower. They were also charged for not paying some of it’s workers properly. Learn and Teach could not find out what happened in this case.
WHAT THE BLACK SASH SAY ABOUT SPRINGBOK PATROLS
“Over the years, the Black Sash has often seen workers who have complained about the company, Springbok Patrols. These workers have said that they were assaulted and starved at the company. Other workers said they did not have any place to sleep. The workers all tell a story of exploitation and broken promises.
We have not been able to prove everything the workers have said. But we have sometimes helped workers get some of their money from the company.
“We get the same complaints about other security companies. It is high time the security business put their house in order.”
WHAT SPRINGBOK PATROLS SAY
Learn and Teach spoke to Mr Mick Bartmann, the owner of Springbok Patrols. We told him about the complaints workers have with his company. Mr Bartmann asked us for the workers’ names.
He then said he could not say anything unless he had the workers’ identity numbers or job numbers because he has between 500 and 700 workers. Mr Bartmann said that if we print the story, we will “face the consequences”. He said that he will sue us and report us to the Press Union. And that is not all. He also said he will tell the security police about us.