As twilight draws near, the streets of Harare roar into life with vendors occupying the every corner, scores of tired and exhausted people outpace each other. Impatient motorists queue up amid jammed traffic.
While many people in the country’s capital despise this traffic jam, Alice Matare (not her real name) has a different story to tell.
For her the traffic jam awards her a clear opportunity to hand over her begging letter to motorists.
She is one of the many kids who roam around town especially at traffic lights and various other intersections seeking aid from motorists as well as pedestrians.
The girl, who has evidently acquired significant begging skills through experience, said she is comfortable with pleading to well-wishers and she also understood that it’s her duty to assist her mother to raise money for a living.
“I understand that I have to help my mother. She also begs and if we go separate ways we can maximise on our daily collections,” revealed the young girl.
Narrating her ordeal to 263Chat, Alice said that she spends the whole day wandering up and down the CBD in search for untapped areas.
“I go around the CBD seeking aid from well-wishers. If you want to collect more in one day you have to go separate ways with fellow child beggars.
“There are some who sympathise with us but many are now reluctant to even look at our letters and such people are hostile to us,” said the young girl.
Alice dreads returning home without the $3 in her very small pocket after begging all day on the streets of Harare. Her mother has set a daily target of $3 every time she is sent out to the streets.
“I have to collect at least $3, which is my daily benchmark. Failure to raise this amount will land me in trouble,” said Alice.
The young and seemingly intelligent girl is supposed to be concluding her primary school studies now, but has been out of the academic world for many years.
She has to help her visually impaired mother to shift from one begging spot to another, as well as supplementing the family income by hopping from street to street pleading with well-wishers to financially help them.
Tapiwa Nhare, who is also a vagabond, narrated his tribulation to 263Chat.
While kids of his age take pleasure in the comfort of their homes, watching their favourite TV shows, he like Alice, has a different story to tell.
“I depend on begging for survival. I usually collect money just enough to buy daily food and also give part of it to the ‘street tycoons’.
“If you don’t bring a dollar to the big guys, you don’t have a place to sleep,” revealed the 15 year old boy.
The young mukoma ndokumbirawo 2 rand (brother can I please have 2 rand) chanter said he despises begging.
“I do not like begging but it is the only option available for me to raise money for survival,” he said.
The children are a common feature at the traffic lights and intersections including Kenneth Kaunda and Julius Nyerere, Rotten Row and Herbert Chitepo Avenue and Corner Julius Nyerere Way and Jason Moyo Harare
Felix Madya, the Monitoring and Evaluation Officer at Chiedza Child Care Centre said poverty and abuse at home are the main reasons why children beg.
“Poverty and abuse force children to turn to the streets,” said Madya adding that children need general love and attention.
He went on to blast parents who send children to beg on the streets.
“Those parents are lazy, they need to be sued, they send children to the streets yet they have not approached relevant organisation for help,” fumed Madya.
In 2009 a research conducted by Streets Ahead shows that 705 children reside in the streets of Harare and it is evident that those numbers have increased.
Zimbabwe’s Children’s Act [Chapter 5:06] contains the same prohibition in Sections 10 and 10A and makes it a punishable offence to use a child in begging or to intentionally absent them from school and engage them insome income-generating work when the child is reasonably expected to be in school.
All this speaks to children’s rights to be protected from economic exploitation.
Photo credit: www.theguardian.com