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Broken promises

“Start a new way of life. Earn well and improve your lifestyle… We help our students find jobs,” says the advert in the newspaper.

The company behind this advert is called Conway Security. This company, which has offices in Pretoria and Johannesburg, trains people to become security officers. It is owned by a Captain R.E. Bestel – who, everytime he signs his name, likes to remind people that he is a retired captain from the South African Navy.

The training course, which costs R60, lasts for only one day. People can also do the course through correspondence – you send R60 and they send you lecture notes and the diploma.

Learn and Teach sent ‘Speedfire’ our ace reporter, to do the course at Conway Security. He came back a few hours later, with his diploma, and wrote this story:

” I went to Conway Security’s Johannesburg office in a building called Osler Chambers in Jeppe Street. I was welcomed by a woman and told to sit down.

A middle aged white man came into the office. The woman rushed to him and they talked softly in the doorway. We later learned from the woman that he was Captain Bestel. We did not see him again.

The woman told me how I could earn a lot of money as a security officer. She gave me 19 pages of ‘lecture’ notes and told me to read them. The notes were called: Training Manual for the Diploma in the Basic Principles of Security.”

There were six other people sitting with me and reading the notes. They all looked sad and worried. I sat down and started talking to the man next to me. The man told me that his name was Joe Dlamini.

“I have been looking for a job for the past three years,” said Joe. ”I am a family man with two kids and I need a job.”

“Do not worry, the beautiful diploma that you are going to get will get you a job anywhere,” said the woman who was sitting at the table.

“Do not worry, the beautiful diploma that you are going to get will get you a job anywhere,” said the woman who was sitting at the table. The man’s sad face turned into a big smile. He thought that all his problems were over.

The woman stood up and collected R60 from all of us. She told us they have found jobs for everyone who came to them. “We are the best there is and no one fails our course,” she said.

It was time for her to start teaching us about the work of a security officer. She told us to open the first page of the notes and began to read from them. The people at the course found it hard to understand. The notes are in difficult English and most of them had very little education. The woman tried to explain to them and finished after an hour.

Now it was time for us to ask questions. Nontobeko, who was the only woman doing the course with us, raised her hand. “How long will it take you to find us jobs if we pass?” she asked.

“Don’t worry about that,” answered our teacher. “We will find a job for you in a week or two.”

Just then a young man walked into the office. He looked angry and waved what looked like a diploma in his hand. He did not greet anyone. He asked why he did not have a job yet.

“Look, three months have already passed and I have not found work with this foolish paper you call a diploma,” said the man in a loud voice.

The teacher talked to him softly. Then she went outside with him and came back after a few minutes. I thought I was the only one who saw what happened until I heard the voice of bra Joe next to me. “Sisi, are you sure that your boss will find work for us,” he asked.

The teacher sat down and told Joe not to worry. “Captain Bestel is a big man who is respected by everyone. Do not worry about this guy who came here. We found a job for him but he drank too much and got fired,” she said, with a smile on her face.

No one smiled back. I could see that everyone did not believe what she said. Nontobeko asked how much she will earn after she passed the course. The teacher said that she could get as much as R550 or more if she works as an undercover agent. ”What is an undercover agent?” I asked.

“An undercover agent’s job is like that of a police informer,” said our teacher. “If you are an undercover agent you work together with other workers in a factory – but you report all those who steal, sleep or cause trouble like the union people.”

It was now midday and the woman went down to the shops to buy us our “free lunch”. She came back with toasted cheese sandwiches, a few packets of chips and a one litre bottle of Coca Cola.

After lunch she asked us questions about the work of a security officer. She was very fast and you could see that she wanted to finish and let us go. She suddenly stopped and told us that the course was over. ‘You have all passed. You are now all security officers,” she said.

“Is that all? Are you not going to tell us more or train us to fight thieves?” I asked.

“That’s all,” she said. “The work of a security officer is simple. Now you will get your beautiful diploma. Give me your addresses and telephone numbers and I will send you telegrams or phone to tell you about your new jobs”.

She gave us blue diplomas with our names printed in gold letters. The new security officers carefully rolled up their diplomas. They felt proud and believed that the diplomas were very important.

Three weeks later, I was still waiting for the job I was promised. I had heard nothing from Conway Security.

I phoned Mr Bestel at his Pretoria office. He called a woman who spoke to me in Sotho. I asked her if they have found me a job yet. She told me to phone back the following week. When I asked her if I will really get work as promised, she just dropped the phone.

I have a feeling that I will never hear from this company again. My heart is heavy for Bra Joe, Nontobeko and the others. They have nothing – and now they have even less. Thanks to Captain Bestel!


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