'Prayer keeps me going' – cash-in-transit guard

It's a dangerous job with a minimum pay, but a prayer each morning is what some cash-in-transit security officers say keeps them going.

A security officer, who asked to remain anonymous, told News24 on Thursday that he feared for his life following the increase in heists.

"I feel a bit safer wearing my bulletproof vest, and I observe the robbers at all times [sic]. The first thing I do in the morning is pray. That keeps me going."

The guard works in the position of third man for one of the country's cash delivery security companies.

Author of the book Heist, Anneliese Burgess, said the third man is brought in from the guarding division.

"They are people who are very well trained, and they have additional accreditation to carry firearms. The third man [is] the additional layer of security when a cash cannister is taken from the vehicle to the retail or ATM, or wherever it needs to be taken to," Burgess explained.

Read: 'It's lucrative, it's easy and it's low risk' - Anneliese Burgess on the surge in cash-in-transit heists

They are often armed with a LMR 5 rifle and a radio.

"The guns are old and are sometimes not properly working," the guard said.

He said his biggest fear was the unknown or being blindsided by former employees.

"I don't trust anyone anymore, because some of the guys sometimes are connected with the robbers. These robbers don't tell us when they are coming. Any day can be my last one."

Some of the guards take home a meagre R7 500.

Burgess said security officers work under extremely dangerous circumstances and stress.


'I have to cover my back all the time'

When asked why guards risk their lives for a minimum salary, Burgess said: "South Africa is a place where there aren't a lot of jobs, and people take the jobs they can do."

"I am sure many of these people would prefer to do something else, something that is safer. I also think that there is a big brotherhood amongst the security officers and a great sense of pride to be in uniform and do this job."

Another security officer, who also didn't want to be named and who has been working for a cash-in-transit company for the past two years, said "we always have to watch our back now".

"There is a sense of pride within us, but now my life is horrible. I have to cover my back all the time."

According to the South African Banking Risk Information Centre (Sabric), there have been 159 heists reported since the beginning of the year.

Gauteng is the highest with 61 heists, followed by Mpumalanga and the Eastern Cape, both sitting on 21.

The Northern Cape is the lowest, with only one heist reported.

On Wednesday afternoon, Police Minister Bheki Cele said 13 suspects connected to recent heists had been arrested within a 24-hour period.

WATCH: SA's cash-in-transit heist epidemic explained

'Criminals have declared the war'

Seven suspects were arrested on Tuesday evening after a G4S cash-in-transit van - travelling along the R71 between Letsitele and Tarentaal outside Tzaneen, in Limpopo - was attacked by at least 10 men.

Cele said a further six suspects, who were involved in another heist in Witbank on Monday, had been arrested.

Read more: CIT heist criminals 'must get ready to fight the war', says Cele after 13 arrested in last 24 hours

He also announced that the police had arrested the number two in the hierarchy of the top 20 cash-in-transit heist kingpins.

"Criminals have declared the war, so they must get ready to fight the war. All of the units are out of the barracks, all of the units are on the streets, we will be responding much quicker, and responding much more decisively," Cele said.

The Motor Transport Workers' Union (MTWU) applauded the police for their quick response.

"We are happy to see that the police are active. At least now we are seeing things are happening. The police are now waking up from hibernation," spokesperson Hlasinyane Motaung said.

Motaung said the union had called on security companies to intensify training and for issues around firearms licences to be resolved.  

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