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THE Muizenberg community have rallied behind a “trusted” informal car guard who they say is being victimised with fines from the metro police for accepting money from motorists.
Charles Mbalanda was recently fined by metro police after they saw a motorist pay him R20 for looking after his car and possessions.
Mbalanda has been working at the parking lot in front of Gary’s Surf School in Muizenberg for six years and is trusted not only to watch people’s cars while they surf or swim but he has also held on to their car keys and other belongings.
Mbalanda was fined R200 by metro police for accepting money from a motorist and a further R500 after arguing about the fine.
“I have been working here for six years with no problems, I don’t steal. They saw someone give me money and I asked why I’m being fined because I am not robbing anyone or doing anything wrong,” Mbalanda said.
Muizenberg residents are up in arms that Mbalanda is being given fines, saying he adds security to the area.
Mayco member for safety and security JP Smith said that while the city did not have a formal process for car guards to operate legally they took action in terms of the National Road Act when there were complaints about car guards.
Muizenberg resident, Tony Rozemeyer said: “I have supported Charles for a long time. I don’t understand how him watching our cars and being paid for it is an offence. This man is highly trusted, he could’ve driven off with my car long ago and he never asked for a cent. Everyone just trusts him and supports him.
“We understand metro police have to enforce the law but he is not soliciting money in any way so it’s not an offence the way he (Mbalanda) is doing it. If anything, if Charlie is not here then all kinds of guys and even kids pitch up to solicit money from people for watching their cars,” Rozemeyer said.
Residents have started a petition which has around 300 signatures in support of Mbalanda and condemning the metro police’s actions and saying he was being discriminated against.
Gary Kleynhans, owner of Gary’s Surf School, said: “Charlie’s been here for a long time, people trust him. Before he came there were some radical car guards here, all kinds of things were happening and guys even got into fights over R2. Weekends when other car guards are here, metro police have no problem so it’s clear he’s being victimised.”
Smith said law enforcement officers often turned a blind eye to informal car guards as they have become generally accepted in South African cities as people who are not formally employed seeking income.
“However, when there are complaints from the public who feel threatened or who have been harassed, law enforcement staff must intervene and deal with the situation accordingly,” Smith said.
He said in this instance, the area has had disturbances and riotous behaviour by informal car guards.
“If the actions of the car guards do not generate complaints and the people in the area think they are adding value, the city is not trying to impose a prohibition that would be largely unworkable and would prevent people from trying to earn some form of income in the context of serious unemployment all around us.
“The problem is with the conduct of certain ‘informal car guards’ who threaten, intimidate or even damage cars when they don’t get their way or are not ‘paid’,” Smith said.