'Without PSL matches I don’t have a life': Coronavirus cripples livelihoods of security personnel

26 March 2020 - 07:44
By Marc Strydom
Premier Soccer League (PSL) security personnel have been left without an income.
Image: Steve Haag/Gallo Images Premier Soccer League (PSL) security personnel have been left without an income.

About 2,000 security personnel who work at Premier Soccer League (PSL) matches at weekends have been left without an income by the football shutdown.

Security guards Thabisa Nkwazi and Mathews Sithole said they fear eviction as their landlords have not shown an understanding of their situations.

Football in the PSL’s Absa Premiership and GladAfrica Championship first- and second-tier leagues was suspended on March 16 due to the coronavirus outbreak. With President Cyril Ramaphosa’s 21-day national lockdown coming into effect at midnight on Thursday, and numbers of confirmed cases climbing rapidly (709 on Wednesday), there are realistic fears the 2019-20 season will not be completed.

This would mean no PSL football until the new season in August.

With many security companies who service the PSL specialising in events, event specific-trained guards, who earn R250 to R700 a game, have been without an income for weeks.

Nkwazi, 39, an employee of Sakhizwe Pro Security who lives in Orlando, said: “I have no other job. Without PSL matches I don’t have a life. On a weekend, if I can work a match on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday, it’s R500 a shift — that’s R1,500.

“I rent in Soweto for R1,200 a month. I’m a single mother with two children and there is no food on the table.

“I also support my brother, who is unemployed in the Eastern Cape.”

Sithole, 32, who also works for Sakhizwe, said he supports his mother in KwaZulu-Natal and has not been able to send her money this month.

“It’s really affecting us, because that’s the money we live with,” Sithole, from Jabulani in Soweto, said.

“Now there’s no way you can pay your rent or buy food. I have a wife, who does not work, and three children.

“My landlord has not showing understanding. I am worried we will be evicted. I don’t have other plans because working at PSL games is how I live.”

The PSL’s head of security, Jacques Grobbelaar, said there are a “massive amount of security companies in SA” and as a result many specialise in aspects such as home security, cash-in-transit and event security. He said event-specific companies have no work.

Sipho Sidambe, CEO of Johannesburg-based Sakhile Ezweni Security, said he does not see the firm surviving if events are shut down until July or August.

“We are feeling the effect of coronavirus as a company that relies not just on the PSL, but on other events too. We are shut down and not getting any income,” Sidambe said.

Grobelaar said the Sasrea Act (Safety at Sports and Recreational Events Act of 2010) requires a minimum level of training for stadium security personnel.

He estimated match security personnel with higher levels of training can earn R7,000 to R9,000 a month, or lower levels about R5,000 to R6,000.

Grobbelaar said there can be 2,000 security personnel or more employed at PSL matches, depending on how many category A and B matches take place.

The regulation is one guard to 80 spectators. There are additional personnel for media areas, VIP areas and so on.

Smaller PSL games (crowds of about 5,000) have about 150 guards, Mbombela Stadium full (about 40,000 attendance) 300, Durban's Moses Mabhida or Pretoria's Loftus full (about 50,000) 800 and a Soweto derby (90,000) has about 1,500 guards. GladAfrica (First Division) games have about 80 guards.

Guard Sithole said if the PSL or its clubs came up with a bailout plan to pay inactive guards something and hat a benefit match later to recoup their costs, that “can help us live”.