Jabulani Mall in Soweto and the local police yesterday honoured the centre's 22 car guards at an awards ceremony.
The function took place at Galito's restaurant, where they were treated to a sumptuous breakfast.
The guards received Valuable Contribution certificates, duvet sets and Jabulani mall hampers.
The car guards do not earn basic salaries but depend on tips from shoppers.
The mall was opened in October and 15 cars were stolen that day. The centre's manager, David Pooe, found young unemployed men to guard the parking lot.
Pooe said: "These guards have done so much for the mall and it is now a much safer place."
Jabulani police station commissioner Director Daniel Mthombeni said: "These young men have helped reduce the crime rate at this centre. This is a way of saying thank you."
Jackson Malapela, one of the car guards, said: "I am very grateful to the hosts. It is good to know that our job is appreciated and that we have made a difference."