Help formalise car guards in Woodstock

The Old Biscuit Mill has become a firm favourite, with hundreds of visitors on the weekend.

With growing concerns about car guards operating in some of Woodstock’s busiest pockets, one resident and entrepreneur has decided to address the matter before things turn ugly.

Woodstock’s Eddie Thompson has called on residents to support an idea to formalise the car guards.

“Witnessing the daily issues, the unemployed and homeless face in this community brought me to want to do something about it. In most cases it is more retaliation from car guards that causes a misunderstanding. The process would surely benefit both the community, visitors and officials alike,” Mr Thompson said.

Car guards harassing people, becoming rude when not offered any money, tops the list of concerns, but instead of just chasing them away, Mr Thompson turned to social media to generate views on the way forward.

“I need more volunteers to partner with me in this effort as it would prove to be too much for one person. The post gathered positive and negative responses which motivated me to do something about this grave situation of who’s right and who’s wrong”

Mr Thompson said the idea was still very much its “infancy” stage, but could pick up momentum with the help of other residents.

Woodstock’s Craig Adams supported the idea. He said the car guards could be profiled and tracked if anything went wrong.

Mr Adams said while there were car guards trying to make a living to survive, there were those trying to feed their drug habits.

“(Those) are usually the ones taking the most offence when you do not offer them money. They even become upset when they feel what you have offered is not enough,” Mr Adams said.

“This is a fantastic idea and it could change some lives, but people must get behind the idea and support it.”

Shirley Jones from Rondebosch is a regular visitor to the Old Biscuit Mill in Albert Road, where there are numerous car guards throughout the week.

Ms Jones said in one incident, she had offered a car guard R5 for assisting her, but was left stunned by the guard’s response.

“Driving a kwaai car, but very cheap I see”, were the words from a woman wearing a dirty old bib and claiming to park cars for a living.

“I did not have to give her anything, but at least made the effort. Whether it was R1, R2 or even 50c, she should have shown more appreciation that somebody had offered something. If she could openly say that to me, what is she saying about the people not offering her anything,” Ms Jones said.

She had spotted Mr Thompson’s post and was relieved to see somebody making an effort to address the issue.

“I am so happy to read about people taking a stand and not sitting around waiting for things to happen from the City of Cape Town.”

Mr Thompson has now set his sights on raising awareness about the deteriorating relationship between the car guards, community and visitors.

He wants to gather the car guards at the Woodstock Town Hall to inform them of his idea to legitimatise the operation.

“In this instance, should action be taken, the only ones to lose are already disadvantaged street parkers. So I urge the community to allow the car guards to meet in the Town Hall to bring to bed the situation of dissatisfaction in this regard,” Mr Thompson said.

Further down the line, he would like to photograph all car guards and get them uniforms and tags.

He also wants to meet with businesses, law enforcement and SAPS and eventually work out a reasonable parking rate and penalties for misconduct.

He said a community based organisation (CBO) could be formed in the interim to negotiate on behalf of parking guards.

The City’s mayoral committee member for transport and urban development, Brett Herron, said they had not received a formal request from the community from Salt River and Woodstock for assistance or guidance to formalise the informal car guards in the area.

However, he said, the City was working on its own parking management plan.

“We are planning to revise our approach to parking management and our parking experts are finalising a report that will be presented to council on the City’s new parking management business plan. The awarding of a new tender for the management of on-street parking is also expected to be made in the latter part of this year. The new tender, if approved, will see the management of on-street parking gradually rolled-out from the CBD to other key areas across Cape Town, and could see Woodstock and Salt River included within the next two years or so,” Mr Herron said.

He said the City also intended to initiate a process to amend parts of the existing Parking Policy.

“Any decision to manage parking should be made to promote good on-street parking practices that support businesses in areas where parking is in high demand.

“Residents and businesses can work through their local councillors and use this opportunity to make proposals and recommendations regarding managing on-street parking, and how informal car guards could form part of such initiatives,” Mr Herron said.