SOS Rhino Specials
Rhino Species
Rhino FAQ

Other News ::

Current Rhino News
Archived News
Press Releases

SOS Rhino : In the News : Archived News : October 2001 : City's Insecure Guards

City's Insecure Guards

The Monitor
October 22, 2001

Kizito is a very ordinary, agreeable, middle-aged man: tough but polite. Stern-looking but quickly returns a smile; and yes, volunteers a handshake. And yet something about him appears not very right.

Seated on a traditional stool with his black, single-shot rifle standing between his feet, the brown man always appears subtly sad and lost in thoughts, even as he passively rolls his eyes from passer-by to bystander.

"Get me a job!" he once said, looking straight in my eyes, and looking very sad, "any job, even if it is a cleaner's job!" The writer was struck by the level of despair; so struck he didn't believe. How could an armed man guarding a multi-million commercial establishment wish he were a cleaner in another company?

"You see I work here but I am just passing time," he said quietly. "How can you pay some one Shs 30,000? Some one who works from morning to evening! You imagine that!"

Kizito is a guard with one the mushrooming private security companies in Kampala. Although the supermarket he guards pays 250,000 per month for his services, he is entitled to only 20% thereof. And does he get the 50,000? Is it paid promptly?

"Please help the guards and worn their bosses to change the system otherwise it is too late!" wrote Okello (name altered), a workmate of Kizito's. Okello says that the guards are often given only a portion of the already miserable monthly salary and more often the second installment is never paid.

"Not paying in time and paying little money has caused guards to steal on locations or to work without interest," Okello wrote on a small piece of paper. He said he had been dying to speak to a journalist but didn't know how to do it safely.

Complainants are warned and could end up jobless! Then there is "Private payment" where those who plead carefully are paid their installments with strict instructions not to tell anyone about their luck.

And these are the men and women armed with "World War II" weapons and risking their lives to guard firms and homes that part with huge sums of money.

On August 11, 2001, Joseph Tsetse of Rhino Guards was shot dead by 999 patrol police at Bassajjabalaba's stores on 7th Street, along with five armed thugs. He was adjudged to have colluded with the thugs.

Shortly after, Ndyamutunga Levi of Falcon guards was shot through the head while guarding a BAT delivery van in Simbwa Zone, Ndeeba. The thugs got away with a huge amount of money. Cases of guards being killed in the course of duty are depressingly rife especially in Kampala, the financial heart of Uganda.

And for all these risks, many guards are paid so little and so late while their bosses sit in air-conditioned offices and demand "the cheque today or else you have no guard tonight."

"I have heard of those companies - bicupuli companies - which pay their guards Shs 20,000 or 30,000 a month," admits Mohammed Allibhai, chairman of the 15 - member Uganda Private Security Association (UPSA), "but since they are not members of UPSA, there is nothing we can do about them.

Richard Nabudere is the Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) in charge of private security organisations. He says Police, too, has its hands tied when it comes to the issue of wages and welfare of the guards in the field. "We can only advise the security companies to pay at least a wage that covers the basic requirements of life but we can't enforce it."

Nabudere says that the level of unemployment in the country is so high that people are willing to work even for peanuts. Fortunately however some progressive companies are quickly realising that underpaid and poorly treated guards can be a great liabilities to their companies.

"We are now using the level of staff involvement in crime as one of the indicators of the state of affairs in a each security company," he said.

According to Nabudere there are 70 private security companies in Uganda. Fifteen of these have come together to form UPSA with objectives of providing security through co-operation and setting a standard code of conduct for both guards and their companies.

The welfare of guards is taken very seriously by all UPSA members, all of which must allow their members to unionise so that through their unions guards can bargain for better working conditions.

Member companies must also obey all the labour laws of the country, including granting their workers one pay day off per week. Guards here also earn between Shs 75,000 and 150,000 per month and this is paid on dates known to all workers.

UPSA chairman Mohammed Allibhai: "Security is a very sensitive service and Uganda is one of very few countries where private guards carry arms. So all of us realised the need for a common human resource policy."

The association also hopes to be able to deal with the police and lobby government with a collective, strong voice that can't be ignored. As it is today, security companies are operating under difficult conditions.

"Our guards are often exposed," said Baggy Eria, Operations Officer at Rhino Guard based at Kabalagala, "Police has suggested we give them simple, single shot riffles whereas thugs these days use very sophisticated automatic weapons." This concern was also shared by Mohammed Allibhai who said the guards use "World War I" weapons compared to the AK 47s and SMGs of the robbers.

"What the security companies are requesting is for the police to allow the response teams on patrol vehicles to carry at least one automatic weapon." Said the plump Allibhai, his hands folded across his chest as if in prayer.

Another problem facing the security companies are the persistent cases of their guards conniving with thugs to rob the very clients they are supposed to protect.

As both Okello and ACP Nabudere have pointed out, poor Woking conditions are partly to blame for this.

But the recruitment mechanism may also need to be re-examined; Rhino Guards for instance mainly recruits former soldiers and policemen and while these may have an advantage in that they do not need a lot of training, their discipline may often be suspect.

This again the case for a national Identity Card system so that wanted criminals from one security company do not join another under different identities.

"How do I know when I am recruiting that Okello is not Opio?" mused Mohammed Allibhai, also MD of Tight Security Ltd, attracting a nod from his general manager, Nimet "who also happens to be Mrs Allibhai."

ACP Nabudere told The Monitor, October 5, that his office is in the process of setting standards along which to streamline the private security industry: "We want to standardise training levels; we want to standardise equipment and management systems and we want to standardise operational procedures."

On the issue of weapons, the Assistant Commissioner of Police ruled out giving automatic weapons to private guards, saying this would make them even more vulnerable.

Instead, he said, companies should invest in alternatives to fire arms such as surveillance systems and modern communication technologies.

Richard Nabudere: " The success of these security companies depends on their individual guards. They should set up fair management systems that are not arbitrary and do not oppress the guards."

Richard Nabudere: " The success of these security companies depends on their individual guards. They should set up fair management systems that are not arbitrary and do not oppress the guards."

by Richard M. Kavuma

Copyright The Monitor. Distributed by All Africa Global Media




Privacy Policy