By LUCAS NOWICKI
Patricia Mtuse has been a car guard for nearly 25 years and currently works outside Checkers in Makhanda.
Mtuse is one of about 50 car guards across the town who are part of the Abakhuseli Skills for Life project, which was officially launched in Makhanda earlier this year. The project trains and assists car guards.
Abakhuseli, which means ‘The Protectors’, started in response to the hard lockdown in March 2020, which prevented car guards like Mtuse from working.
“I liked being a car guard because it provided for me directly,” said Mtuse. She supports her son, who is currently in grade 2 at Fikizolo Primary in Makhanda. She works six days a week, from 7.30 am to 5 pm and earns an average of R700 weekly.
Mtuse said that Abukhuseli has also “helped people understand us [car-guards]”. She said their uniforms and name tags have helped build residents’ trust.
The Makhanda Circle of Unity — a civil society coalition that led the local response to Covid — started giving food parcels to about 120 car guards during the lockdown.
“We thought the car guards would struggle because their only [means]of living is to be here on the streets,” said Likhaya Msutwana, Managing Director of Abukhhuseli, who also works as a caretaker for the local municipality.
In November 2020, Msutwana, and two other facilitators, Dinah Eppel and Lilly Quin, decided they wanted to do more. They found that car guards in the town support between three to eight dependents. “We wanted to empower them, give them life skills and all sorts of things to empower them to focus more on themselves,” said Msutwana.
This article was first published by GroundUp.org.za