43 years of a secure nation

The story of Waygard Security (Meet the boss)

In the late 70s up to the turn of the millennium, in Botswana it was common to refer to every security personnel as ‘Ma Waygard’, regardless of which security company they worked for.

This is due to the impact made by the country’s first security company, Waygard Security.

Founded by visionary leader Peterson Bothongo, the organisation became what Colgate is to toothpaste and surf is to washing powder.

Carrying on Peterson’s legacy is his son, Owen Bothongo Khupe – this is what he had to say when The Voice’s Kabelo Dipholo caught up with him recently.

Q. You are a Director at one of the country’s most successful indigenous companies. How long have you been with Waygard Security and what does your day-to-day routine entail?

I’ve been the Executive Director of Waygard Security since 2003.

I work hand in hand with my brother, L.A.K Bothongo, as one of the Directors.

He joined Waygard in 1993 August after completing his studies abroad.

My main duties rest on making sound implementation decisions as prescribed by the board through distributing and monitoring various tasks assigned to management.

Otherwise periodically I sit with the board and feed them with the status quo as new adoptions are being decided upon.

We sit for monthly meetings and briefings with the Executive management.

Q. Waygard Security is the oldest security company in the country. Briefly share with our readers the story behind the enterprise.

Waygard was formed by my father, Mr Peterson Uyapo Khupe Bothongo – or P.U.K as he was affectionately called – in 1975, becoming the first security company in the country.

My father had an extensive policing background, with 25 years as a police officer in South Africa and five years in Botswana, his home country.

His motivation for this establishment, besides a better livelihood, was the fact that he saw the struggles borne by his countrymen.

The company started with 15 guards and grew to 1, 100 in the 1990s, due to my father’s knowledge of security and investigation.

My father was a hard worker, intelligent and dedicated.

He was also an honest person and God fearing pastor – thus the business was formed on the principles of Christianity

All these traits contributed to the success of this business, giving it a strong background, which is the basis of its survival to date.

Q. Despite its legacy, Waygard has seemingly slipped under the radar in recent years, especially in relation to the emergence of other players in the industry. What caused this?

It may seem that Waygard had at some point been under siege, but this came as a blessing in disguise because it put us under the spotlight to rediscover and rearrange ourselves anew.

We were not accustomed to competition and neither had mitigation plans nor any sense of worry about it.

Competition helped us to adopt a marathon approach rather than a hundred meters dash.

It means that we are more composed and learn as we go with the best interest in good service for Batswana.

This has recalled us back into the game.

Waygard Security enjoyed its dominance in the early years, however there was an emergence of other security companies who stole the idea and came aboard.

Competition became stiff but since we were relevant and made sure we provided quality services, Waygard remained unshakable.

Security companies flooded the market with lots of ‘fly by night’ organisations plus a few genuine ones who came from outside the country – those are the ones who gave us tough competition with the introduction of new security products and international experience.

Q. What are the major challenges you face as a company?

Private security business thrives on the upkeep of well-informed people and suitable tools among others.

The challenges, not only for our company but also the industry, stem from the fact that it has become fairly easy for anyone to enter the industry because of minimal requirements.

This has given the industry a bad name due to people who just want to make a quick buck, as they are indifferent to proper practices.

The real irony is that criminals may come armed with a firearm while the security officer is relying on a mere baton stick!

However, the biggest challenge is that of cash flow since revenue is tightly locked in wages, expenses and benefits stipulated by the government.

Although we have been in the business for a long time, we still have many challenges of personnel i.e. the right personnel who are dedicated and honest on the job.

Security is a sensitive job that requires an individual who loves the job and has proper training to understand what he is required to do.

This seems to be a problem nowadays with the kind of personnel that is selected for the job.

Q. Security is a major concern for all business entities. How do you cope with the ever-increasing demands and sophistication needed to remain relevant?

The average business dealing in Botswana needs to budget for security – it has come to that!

We currently employ over 1, 100 officers countrywide and we also conduct ongoing training in basic security as a pool from which we can satisfy demand just a phone call away, after vetting the individual or groups.

Investing in this procedure credits us as reliable suppliers.

Furthermore, we have established good relationships with our suppliers of security technology, such that credit facilities rescue any situation of threat to us.

However, to remain relevant, due to the increasing demand and sophistication we decided to hire a team of educated individuals to be responsible for key areas of the business, who come up with new things and also experience acquired from exposure.

Q. You have been in the business for 43 years. What is the secret to your longevity?

In 43 years, we have adopted a culture first fostered by the founder – that of integrity, i.e. honesty and good moral principles.

We endeavour to have the best interest at heart for the community rather than aiming for financial rewards first.

Another strength we have is that of abiding by the law and following good citizenry on our part.

We work closely with the Botswana police as partners in fighting crime.

The secret of this company to surviving all these years is taking care of its workers, who are its assets, and also following laws governing the industry, such as respecting labour laws, recognising workers and remunerating them accordingly.

Q. What does the future hold for Waygard?

We aspire to be the dominant security company in the country and be involved in other big investments that will create employment and wealth for shareholders.

This is a reality that we envisage, which can be achieved as long as there are available opportunities as a result of stable government and sound economy.

Waygard Security has stood the test of time and its bright future is already redeemed.

We pride ourselves with an excellent team who are well educated, conventionally and technically.

We see ourselves as the last man standing so to speak because of our historic resilience no matter what.

After all, we have a duty call by the founder and my father, P.U.K Bothongo. Waygard Security, ‘First on the scene’.

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