Being a good corporate citizen in South Africa involves more than paying taxes, having governance procedures in place and keeping it legal. Good corporate citizens also care about the communities in which they operate. At XtraSpace, we make every effort to put this principle into practice.
One of the ways we do this is by donating the use of a storage unit to Traffic FreeFlow (TFF), the non-government organisation that manages the Pointsmen Project. These are the men and women who make the lives of commuters easier by helping alleviate traffic congestion in Johannesburg, Tshwane and Cape Town.
“When we found out Traffic FreeFlow was using one of our units, we decided to donate it to them. We can’t get by without the pointsmen – they do such an important job. Traffic FreeFlow runs and manages the pointsmen, who take some of the stress out of our daily commute,” says Colleen Mansour, Chief Operations Officer for XtraSpace.
Colleen Bekker, CEO of Traffic FreeFlow, says the company uses the unit for all its files and uniforms. “As we are a sponsored company, we run a lean operation and this is the most cost-effective option for us. We have expanded our operations from just 21 pointsmen in Gauteng to over 200 employees nationwide.”
TFF makes a real difference in people’s day-to-day lives. As well as alleviating congestion on our roads and improving road safety, it creates job opportunities in underprivileged communities.
The project’s initial candidates were drawn from Alexandra and had all served extensive time doing community work. Subsequent candidates have approached the organisation themselves.
Bekker looks for certain qualities in TFF staff. They need to be “brave, passionate, compliant, energetic and in possession of a matric certificate”. She explains that “it requires a huge amount of discipline to wake up in the morning before the sun comes up and only get home after the sun goes down. They have to contend with thunderstorms, freezing cold winter mornings and evenings, blistering summer temperatures, very often take abuse from motorists having a bad day and continually have to deal with the lawlessness on our roads.”
TFF tries to employ people from areas close to where the pointsmen are needed to reduce their travelling time.
Once screened, the successful candidates are trained by the relevant Metro Police Academies, such as the Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department (JMPD) and Tshwane Metro Police Department. Traffic Services train staff in Cape Town. On completion of their training and appointment, the candidates are hired by TFF.
The idea for TFF was born in Bekker’s advertising agency, Media³. “Having come from the radio industry, I was aware of the increasing demand for accuracy in traffic reports on air. The initial idea was to brand existing traffic officers with sponsored funding and place them on the roads that traditionally were problematic,” she explains.
“There was a shortage of manpower within the JMPD, both for staff and to manage the deployment. After 18 months of negotiations, they agreed to run a pilot project and 10 years later, the project’s success speaks for itself. We are proud to be the company behind what has been dubbed SA’s most successful public-private partnership.”
Corporate social responsibility initiatives such as the XtraSpace donation allow TFF, which is a sponsored organisation, to stay in business.
Mansour says the trade-off works for all involved. “You know storage isn’t always a sexy subject. But some of our clients certainly are. And Traffic FreeFlow provides such a valuable service and have such a good story to tell. We were only too happy to step in and provide this space for them.”
According to Bekker, the support and administrative assistance they receive from XtraSpace and its staff go a long way in helping them function optimally. Plus it gives them “great peace of mind knowing our belongings are always safe with XtraSpace”.