Car watch: clocking informal parking attendants in Cape Town

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University of Cape Town

<p>In February 2003 the Cape Town City Council proposed a new by-law to regulate informal car parking attendants or car guards. This was a response to complaints by car drivers that they had been harassed by car guards. The bylaw proposed a mandatory registration process and sets a quota limiting 30 percent of licenses to refugees. In response, the Centre for Social Science Research conducted a survey of car drivers and car guards in two areas of central Cape Town where many complaints regarding car guards have been registered. Our findings confirm that the complaints made against car guards are just one part of the story. While we found that harassment of motorists does occur, it is at a lower level than has been suggested. The proposed legislation implies that Cape drivers are specifically dissatisfied with refugee car guards. Our data indicates the opposite: Cape Town car drivers are most satisfied with the car parking system when foreigners or refugees are guarding their cars. Restrictions on foreigners seem to reflect xenophobia, which is all too common in South Africa, not the actual experiences of car drivers. Any harassment is unacceptable, of course, but our data questions whether a complex administrative system of regulation is warranted. We also found that car guards report experiencing extortion by police and private security officers on an almost daily basis.</p>