If you live in South Africa, you are likely well-versed in the experience that is the car-guard. You see the car guard, they see you, you whip to your car speedily and wonder which kind of experience you’ll have this time. Sometimes you try to give him (or her) whatever you have and feel guilty because it never feels like enough. Other times, you hope they don’t see you because you have nothing to offer. Sometimes you get an angry car guard, sometimes you get one who offers you the biggest smile in gratitude for a few coins. Whatever the situation, we often forget the car-guards long after we drive away from our destination, seeing the mirage of their essence off through our rearview mirror.
Many South Africans are quick to judge the humble car-guard. Not every experience is pleasant, but that’s not on car-guards, that’s on people. Just like a book with a misleading cover, people have layers of tales to tell despite the luminous attire they might be wearing (as is often the case with our local guards of the whip.)
The story of Patrice Niyonteze, as recorded by Good Things Guy, is one such tale of going beneath the surface and might make you think twice the next time you’re prejudiced against a car guard.
Initially a Rwandan refugee, Patrice Niyonteze’s life dream was not to become a car guard in South Africa. It was a means to an end and an inspirational end at that.
In his home country, he was a Human Resources manager and school teacher. In 1990 he studied agronomy at a Rwandan university. Then the civil war happened, and he took on the position of a primary school teacher. Two years later became a Human Resources manager. He worked his way to lab manager until the early 2000s when upon deciding to further his studies and create a better life for himself, Patrice came to South Africa.
After living in the City of Gold for a bit, he was foretold that the Mother City could be a better prospect. He enrolled at MANCOSA, where he would complete his MBA.
Upon enrollment, he worked as a car guard to pay his way.
Of the struggles of his position, Patrice notes, that it was difficult for him to introduce himself to his fellow students. However, he also expresses that:
“There is a dignity in labor, and before long, I had many friends.”
Other struggles included affording textbooks, but his colleagues helped him via their electronic books and paying for extra lessons.
On his position as a car guard, Patrice confers that it can be “demoralizing.”
“One moment you can be elated when a motorist gives you R20. The next moment you can be frustrated when you are given just 20cents whilst expecting more, judging by the expensive car.”
On the treatment of this position, he expresses that:
“Some motorists treat car guards terribly, thinking they will spend the money they are given on alcohol and drugs. However, I persevered in my humble job as I needed to complete my studies.”
He’s virtually graduated with his MBA now, and will be an essential force in our country’s working domain once provided the opportunity he sorely needs. As many graduates know, finishing the course is one prospect, obtaining employment is another.
Perhaps after knowing stories such as Patrice’s, we might reconsider how we perceive those in humble positions, which should in turn tweak how we treat others. After all, the next car-guard you see might just be your next co-worker or boss.
Picture: Instagram/ posted by @bongzulu