Monday, April 05, 2010

Guarding, Botswana style

I suspect that the guarding industry in Botswana is one of the industries with the highest number of employees. Guards are everywhere - many houses have guards, there are guards outside our office, in shopping centres, some town centre supermarkets (Spar) have guards who prevent me from taking my backpack in (not sure if I have seen any at the larger Spar in Riverwalk), and stamp each receipt, checking your purchases when you leave the shop - that's apart from those loitering in the aisles....It must make people feel really trusted. Given that the central Gaborone Spar is rather a grotty place with vegetables you really would not want to take home (who wants to buy mouldy courgettes?), floors who do not seem to see a cleaner from one day to the next, and often overcrowded, I am not sure what they expect people to steal. The doctor's surgery, used by many expatriates and I am sure quite a good earner, opposite my bedroom, is guarded during the day, all day - the guard sits under a tree underneath my window, from about 6 am till when? I don't know. No shelter, if the surgery is closed no toilet.... how do they treat these humans? I don't know if the guard sits there all night as well - that would seem to be a more logical time to guard the place, given the quietness of the street, with more opportunities to steal. The place in which I live is always guarded, with a second guard with a big fierce dog joining him at night. Luckily the guards don't seem to be armed most of the time, unlike in the Kenya shopping centre where I spotted four guys in fatigues, each sporting a machine gun.

Yesterday I was part of the team setting the route for the hash - leaving home at 7.15 am. We tootled round, past some ponds, and round and through some derelict greenhouses and wended our way back to the meeting point. At 10 am the hash, in full battle cry, set off. We reached the ponds - only to be almost barred by four female guards who were most sniffy about us passing. Luckily a hasher speaks Setswana and we got through. Around the derelict greenhouses another team of guards had turned up, who were ready to call the police - I mean, what's possible to steal there (though I had clocked some nice plant trays and toyed with the idea to rescue some of them for my balcony).

Finally when we got back to our meeting place, the police did turn up. Only to tell us that there were many thieves about and that we should be careful. We told them that a hasher had remained behind to watch the cars. (The chap in question has a gammy leg and walks with a crutch....).

So if you want to steal anything in Botswana, just pick a time when the guards are sleeping - there is much of that time....