Joseph
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Car guard
Friday 25th November 2011, Kloof St, Cape Town.
If you've ever driven in Cape Town you'll know all about the car guards. They bounce out in front of your car in their brightly coloured vests, encouraging and enticing you into 'their' parking spaces. Then, for just a few rand, they'll make sure your car stays safe while you're away. Most of the car guards are immigrants or refugees form the Democratic Republic of Congo. some are university graduates, many are skilled tradesmen and most are friendly and efficient in providing a useful service.
Joseph is a car guard on Kloof Street, Cape Town and is the smiliest person I've ever met. His grin would light me up every time I drove past and I constantly tried to find a reason to park on his stretch of the street. I became a regular at a café close to his patch and I always looked forward to enjoying a chat with Joseph before getting stuck into a banana Smoothie.
I deliberated for almost a month over whether or not to ask Joseph to take part in Wearelucky. That might sound weird, but I was very conscious of putting people in danger or of charging someone with too much responsibility. 10,000 rand is a whole lot of money; a life changing amount for someone like Joseph. He'd left Congo for South Africa 14 years ago and although his hopes and dreams hadn't really materialised, he was surviving. He worked for at least 12 hours every day, trying to save enough to visit his family back home. But he'd never got close. He was stuck.
The more I thought about it, the more uncomfortable I became with holding so much responsibility. The money really could dictate how Joseph's life would pan out. It started to drive me crazy, but in the end I went with my gut feeling and gave Joseph 5,000 rand. I don’t know why I gave him less than I'd given others – I guess I thought it would be easier for him to cope with. It's not easy making this up as I go along.
Did Joseph's smile stretch higher and wider than usual when I handed him the money? I don't reckon that's possible, but he gave it a good go. He said he was going to get a new passport as soon as the embassy opened but I don't really know if he was planning to leave for good. The next day I parked with him one last time and he proudly pulled out his bank statement. The 5,000 rand deposit was highlighted in yellow. Joseph was smiling as usual.


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