“Every time we pulled over, they would go into the garage for lunch or breakfast. They brought each of us a Chelsea bun and a Coke. For three days, that is all I ate. I haven’t eaten a Chelsea bun since,” he exclaims.
This is where the passion for critical planning and problem-solving skills developed for the man who was once a CPO. He also says that improvising is an imperative for the job in order to seem personable.
“Sometimes, the plan changes and you have to spend a little more time with the client. You need to make sure you can talk about current issues and answer questions as much as possible. It makes the client feel more secure,” he says.
Creating a rapport with the client within the duration of protection is vital as it builds trust, especially when in situations of danger. Which is why the stakes are high.
Protecting a Saudi prince, for example, is charged at R120,000 ($8,517) a day.
The amount is significantly higher than the cost of a hitman. In downtown Johannesburg, an assassin can be hired for a mere R20,000 ($1,435), Viljoen says.
The prince, who usually visits for three to 10 days, is offered the most premium protection money can buy.
His protection includes, but is not limited to, the dispersal of 12 bodyguards, and a motorcade of six cars divided into three teams.
Three CPOs keep a close watch on the client at all times while the advance teams clear the vicinity.
The evacuation team remains on standby, on the lookout for threats and tactical responses, while the back-up team keeps eyes and ears close to the ground from a distance.
All of these are considered when final expenses are being tallied.
“A close risk assessment on the client and what they require will determine the billing. If the risk is higher, the cost will increase but if it is a regular guy down the road, they will require one bodyguard at R4,500 ($319) a day,” he says.
“You can do three to four good jobs during your career, protecting one client, and earn more than enough money,” Viljoen says.
BGA, on the other hand, bills the client directly, with a fixed salary of R6,000 ($425) payable to the bodyguard.
“Our outlay is making sure that we look after our protectors and that they are remunerated correctly. In the past, there has been a lot of abuse of protectors. For example, during the 2010 World Cup, companies were selling protection services for R6,000 ($425) a day and paying protectors R1,500 ($107),” Ludwig says.
Extra needs like helicopters, cars, and accommodation are billed directly to the client.
An international client flying to South Africa for a safari that started at the Cape and went all the way up to the northern game drives in the Limpopo province, paid for all costs incurred.
“If you are billing in dollars, depending on the country and climate, the billing can range from $450 to $800 a day,” he says.
Is this price enough to take a bullet for? Ludwig unequivocally states that it’s about the principle, not the price.
“If you are in this industry, you should be prepared to stand in front of your client to take a bullet. It is all very noble but you can’t protect a client if you’re standing and actually taking the bullet. I am not literally going to take a bullet but I will stand in front of it and engage the threat. If that means taking a bullet [while under threat], then that is what it takes, but you are not a bullet-catcher,” he says.
NightGuard Security has been operational for 44 years. It is under the management of the Eblen brothers, who began their work as CPOs immediately after they completed their final matric examinations. This, at the behest of their father, who founded the business.
The brothers take pride in running towards trouble as opposed to turning away from it. Shortly after a ‘brief’ with an intermediary representing a high-profile pastor who is possibly under threat, FORBES AFRICA meets the ‘brothers in arms’, Zaine Eblen and Emile ‘Moolie’ Eblen, at their head office in a gated residential area in Fourways, an upmarket area in Johannesburg. Their brother, JP, also a part of the business, could not make the interview.
As we stand at the gate waiting to be ushered into the premises, we are met with curious looks from the protectors as they prepare to gear up to guard the rich and famous.
A hesitant CPO approaches the imposing gate at the entrance of the building, and looks around furtively before he offers assistance.
Behind him a small lobby filled with about nine men.
Their eyes are fixed on every move as we make our way to the boardroom on the second floor.
We are seated but there is nobody else in room.
In the blink of an eye, two muscular men walk into the room. Their hulking presence consumes the entire space, however, their genteel demeanour completely disarms us.
The duo feel the intricacies of their work are often trivialized.
“Everyone believes that they can do VIP protection because they have got a guy that is six feet tall. All your VIP protection has to go for proper tactical training, it doesn’t mean just because you are tall, you can be a bodyguard,” Zaine says.
“Family is a big word to us. When we say be a part of our family, we literally mean that,” Zaine says.
“We have to understand the target and his family. He has the hit and [therefore] the risk is for his whole family. So we do a check on his family. What school they attend, where they work and how big the threat is,” Emile adds.
In order to protect his life and eliminate a possible threat towards his family, the pastor is charged R10,000 ($710) a day for protection.
The pastor’s intermediaries stand on guard as they prepare to be escorted by NightGuard Security to an unknown location where the spiritual leader awaits them. FORBES AFRICA watches as a white Land Rover, with dark-tinted windows arrives and in unison, all the men get into the vehicle without uttering a single word.
A cautious Zaine reminds the driver that he should not hesitate to pull away if there are any moments of doubt on the road.
“If you feel that you are in a situation that you shouldn’t be in, instead of panicking, just move out of the situation,” he says.
“The biggest problem in the industry today is that people don’t take care of their staff,” he says as he leads us back into the office.
He emphasizes that the key to harmony in the industry is through ensuring that CPOs are as well taken care of as the clients they tend to.
“The bodyguards live in upmarket areas. We eliminate the risk by moving them to a safer estate so that they are not vulnerable to threats themselves. They have moved from areas where criminals have access to them,” Emile says.
The importance of security estates has been a particular area of interest for the protection company, and the dynamic industry is in a perpetual state of change, which means the guards are always adapting to the climate.
The days of having bodyguards live with you have gone by. The only time they come in is if there is a hit on that person’s life. We do massive housing estates with about 400 units.
“We can’t predict how situations play out. We have been in situations where people start shooting.
“There was a hit on a Serbian drug lord and we got a call for back-up. He was shot in his car parked in Bedfordview, and he drove off. He was followed to his complex and was gunned down. He had R100,000 ($7,165) next to him but they did not take any money, it was a pure drug hit,” Zaine says.
“You are basically scared for your life because you don’t know if you are coming home. My wife signs a cross on my forehead before I leave home,” Emile adds.
The scope of their work goes beyond the high secured walls of private residential estates.
In recent years, they have also dispersed VIP units into shopping malls in upmarket areas and they say this has reduced the high levels of armed robberies and hijackings in the last four years. The payment model for this service differs slightly.
“The monthly fee means that the detail has a permanent post for the month; the cost would be for two CPOs for day shift and night shift, and a tactical team member. Cost comes down to R140,000 ($9,941) a month,” he says.
There are jobs that stand out to the crew and affect the way they make future decisions. There are also instances where it becomes difficult to leave them in the past.
Zaine offers an anecdote about an incident where an individual living in one of the residential estates they were guarding was murdered and they had to follow the lead.
“We took a suspect we arrested for murder in one of the complexes. We linked him to 32 murder cases and he led us to a ‘kingpin’ in Hillbrow. We had intel that they were armed with AK47s. The whole drive you are reflecting, music doesn’t help so you are just driving there in silence,” Zaine says.
In another instance, residents felt their lives were threatened after they witnessed an attempted assassination in their complex in Johannesburg. The estate manager and NightGuard Security client (who asked to be anonymous), observed the high levels of crime in the upmarket areas he works in.
“They broke into the estate and without cutting any wires, entered the property. It was only afterwards we found out that the owner was involved in the tender business and he had a hit on his back,” he says.
They are very diligent about the security measures they have in place in residential estates. “Ninety percent of the problems come from outside, you need to make sure your cameras and devices work so you can identify threats before they approach you. The bigger the fence, the more the guys want to get in.”
“Camera analytics has made life a whole lot easier. Cameras on vehicles will allow us to see a threat before they are close enough to approach us. In this industry, you constantly have to upgrade your technology,” Zaine echoes.
So whether you are one of Africa’s richest or just love the spotlight, if you have the dollars to purchase a longer lifespan, there are people who will dodge bullets for you, and do it for a neat price.
‘Our Home Became The Film Set, Blankets Became Props, Windows Became Locations’
A poem exclusively penned and performed in lockdown in the US for the readers of FORBES AFRICA, by Rwandan artist Malaika Uwamahoro.
Malaika Uwamahoro, an artist born in Rwanda, and a Theatre Studies BA graduate from Fordham University in New York City, has performed her own poetry on stages around the world including at the United Nations headquarters in New York, and at the African Union summits in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) and Kigali (Rwanda).
In 2014, she made her Off-Broadway debut at Signature Theatre in the world premiere of Katori Hall’s Our Lady of Kibeho.
Currently resident in Portland, Maine, in the United States, she speaks to FORBES AFRICA about her life in lockdown, and about a poem she penned exclusively for the readers of the magazine: “To fight this pandemic, essential workers and medical doctors are doing their best on the frontlines to ensure everyone in need gets the necessary support and best care possible… Before we are all choked and out of breath just by thinking about this, I extend this poetry piece as an invitation to look inward.”
How did she come up with the poem, titled I Don’t Mind!, and its accompanying video?
“It was late in the night, my fiancé was fast asleep, and I thought to myself, ‘how do I really feel about all this, what are my true thoughts about this pandemic, what can I do’? I opened my notes and the words began to flow.”
A few days later, she shared the poem with her fiancé, Christian Kayiteshonga, a filmmaker.
“We had previously been pondering ways to make art in our home. This poem seemed like the perfect push to set us in our new path. Our home became the film set, using blankets and cake mix as props, windows and office space as locations, myself as the talent, him as the crew, and now you as the audience,” says Uwamahoro, who also performed for the ‘In the Spotlight’ segment at the FORBES WOMAN AFRICA Leading Women Summit in Durban, South Africa, on March 6.
True Sport: Gary Player On Family, Isolation And The Covid-19 Aftermath
South Africa’s 84-year-old golf legend Gary Player speaks to FORBES AFRICA about the greatest honor of his life and on training like a 40-year-old at his daughter’s home during the lockdown in the US.
South Africa’s nine-time Grand Slam golfer, Gary Player, is currently in lockdown with his wife Vivienne in Pennsylvania, in the United States (US), where the couple are visiting their daughter Amanda-Leigh Hall and her family.
Player had also arrived in the US to receive what he calls one of the greatest honors of his life, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, from President Donald Trump at the White House on March 23; some of the past recipients of the prestigious award include Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Mother Teresa, Toni Morrison, Tiger Woods and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
But the lockdown changed all plans.
So the golfer, best known for an illustrious playing career that included 165 professional victories, is now in his daughter’s home, “training like a 40-year-old”.
Elated, Player classifies the Presidential Medal of Freedom recognition as coming second to the honor of being a husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather.
When asked how the Covid-19 pandemic has affected him, the world-renowned 84-year-old golfer, nicknamed the ‘Black Night’, says in a phone interview from the US with FORBES AFRICA: “We are living in extraordinary times. This is not life as we have come to know it. My heart goes out to people during this trying time.”
Player fears the aftermath of the Covid-19 virus could be devastating to all, as some are already beginning to suffer due to the inability to earn an income.
“The post Covid-19 world may cause humans to sink into an inevitable hole of depression, and I fear that people will be dying not of the virus, but of hunger and thirst,” he says.
Player says he prays numerous times a day to thank God for his blessings. This year, he celebrates being married to Vivienne for 63 years.
“I love her even more now than I did back then, I wouldn’t trade the last 63 years for nothing on this earth,” Player says.
Vivienne has traveled the entire “amazing” route with Player while raising the couple’s six children: Jennifer, Marc, Wayne, Michelle, Theresa, and Amanda.
“I can safely, and with confidence, say that my wife is my best friend,” adds Player.
Although in his eighties, and true to his second nickname, ‘Mr Fitness’, Player may be in lockdown in his daughter’s home but he exercises diligently at the in-house gym.
He also ventures into the forested area on his daughter’s property for long, peaceful walks in solitude. There is also a simulator at the house where Player can tee off as though on a golf course.
Including him and his wife, there are currently nine people in his daughter’s home, and although being in isolation, this experience has brought the family even closer, he says.
“All of us participate in joint activities that were never possible before due to everyone’s busy lifestyles. I love my large family,” attests the man blessed with 22 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. He is yet to meet his month-old great-grandchild born to granddaughter Antonia and who is the newest addition to his large family.
When the lockdown ends, Player hopes to return to normal life “as soon as possible”. As a businessman with a “hectic, hectic” schedule, he is eager to get back to doing what he loves and says that being patient is not an easy feat.
Commenting on his own future, Player says he wishes to be remembered as a man who tried to contribute to society despite the mistakes he made.
“When I die and pass away, I want people to know that I tried my best in life. And that I am sorry for all the mistakes I made. Admittedly, we all make mistakes.
“I want to be remembered as a man who loved his fellow men,” says the legend who has also recently been key to integrating golf courses into local communities back home in South Africa.
“I am convinced there is a black girl or boy in South Africa today with tremendous athletic prowess, with the talent. If they can just be incentivized, then there is a chance,” Player told FORBES AFRICA for a story on his new initiatives in November 2018.
– Brandon Nel, FORBES AFRICA contributor
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How To Become A Billionaire: Nigeria’s Oil Baroness Folorunso Alakija On What Makes Tomorrow’s Billionaires
One of only two female billionaires in Africa, with a net worth of $1 billion, Nigeria’s oil baroness Folorunso Alakija elaborates on the state of African entrepreneurship today.
The 69-year-old Folorunso Alakija is vice chair of Famfa Oil, a Nigerian oil exploration company with a stake in Agbami Oilfield, a prolific offshore asset. Famfa Oil’s partners include Chevron and Petrobras. Alakija’s first company was a fashion label. The Nigerian government awarded Alakija’s company an oil prospecting license in 1993, which was later converted to an oil mining lease. The Agbami field has been operating since 2008; Famfa Oil says it will likely operate through 2024. Alakija shares her thoughts to FORBES AFRICA on what makes tomorrow’s billionaires:
What is your take on the state of African entrepreneurship today? Is enough being done for young startups?
There are a lot of business opportunities in Africa that do not exist in other parts of the world, yet Africa is seen as a poor continent. The employment constraints in the formal sector in Africa have made it impossible for it to meet the demands of the continent’s working population of which over 60% are the youth. Therefore, it is imperative we harness the potential of Africa’s youth to engage in entrepreneurship and provide adequate assistance to enable them to succeed.
Several governments have been working to provide a conducive atmosphere which will promote entrepreneurship on the continent. However, there is still a lot more to be done in ensuring that the potential of these young entrepreneurs are maximized to the fullest. Some of the challenges young startups in Africa face are as follows: lack of access to finance/insufficient capital; lack of infrastructure; bureaucratic bottlenecks and tough business regulations; inconsistent government policies; dearth of entrepreneurial knowledge and skills; lack of access to information and competition from cheaper foreign alternatives.
It is therefore imperative that governments, non-governmental agencies, and the financial sectors work together to ameliorate these challenges itemized above.
The governments of African nations should provide and strengthen its infrastructure (power, roads and telecom); they should encourage budding entrepreneurs by ensuring that finance is available to businesses with the potential for growth and also commit to further improving their business environments through sustained investment; there must also be a constant push for existing policies and legislation to be reviewed to promote business activities.
These policies must also be enforced, and punitive measures put in place to deter offenders; government regulations should also be flexible to constantly fit the dynamics of the business environment; corruption and unethical behavior must be decisively dealt with and not treated with kid gloves. We must empower our judicial system to enable them to prosecute erring offenders with appropriate sanctions meted out. There should be no “sacred cows” or “untouchables”. The same law must be applied to all, no matter their state or position in the society; non-governmental organizations can also provide support for them through training and skills acquisition programs that will help build their capacity; they could also provide finance to grow their businesses; more mentorship programs should be encouraged, and incubators of young enterprises should be supported by public policy aimed at improving the quality of these youths and their ventures; and also, avenues should be created where young entrepreneurs will be able to connect, learn and share ideas with already successful well-established entrepreneurs.
What, according to you, are the attributes needed for tomorrow’s billionaires?
There is no overnight success. You must start by dreaming big and working towards achieving it. You must be determined to succeed despite all odds. Do not allow your setbacks or failures to stop you but rather make them your stepping stone. Develop your strengths to attain excellence and be tenacious, never give up on your dream or aspiration. Your word must be your bond. You must make strong ethical values and integrity your watchword. Always act professionally and this will enable you to build confidence in your customers and clients.
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