Malawi street children, beggars defy government’s order to move

Hundreds of street children and perpetual beggars in Malawi’s major cities and towns have ignored an ultimatum government issued to them to be off the streets with some challenging that nobody has the knack to drag them out of their “revenue collecting” base.

The Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Welfare reiterated recently that street begging remained illegal in the country and ordered all beggars out of streets by December 21, 2012.

The ministry warned it would prosecute those still found loitering and begging after the ultimatum.

It also stressed that by December 21, 2012 all child street beggars and other habitual beggars who use kids to beg in the streets would be forced out of the streets by law enforcers if they chose to defy the order.

Girl making a begging gesture: Many of the children end up on the streets as a result of poverty

But Nyasa Timesspot check over the week revealed that street kids and beggars in the commercial capital Blantyre were still enjoying quality time in the streets.  And those talked to did not show any signs of moving out of the streets anytime time soon.

In Lilongwe and Mzuzu, it was also business as usual for the alms-seeking Malawians as they freely plied their trade without any intimidation.

“Whoever issued the ultimatum was a big joker and tell that person he or she has no right to remove us from the streets because this is our office. They should mind their offices and we mind ours,” challenged one teenager, who said was Manenga from Safarao in Ndirande.

On Thursday, Nyasa Times reporter counted over 80 street children and beggars around Blantyre streets of Haile Sellasie, Victoria Avenue and Glyn Jones as well as at the Mibawa minibus stands, flea market and main market.

“I don’t know about what you are talking about. They want to remove us to where? I don’t know but may because I have been here several years, actually all my three boys were born here so moving out of it, I doubt,” said Marita, a partially visually impaired lady.

The begging lady, who said did not know her exact age but comes from Lirangwe in Blantyre, said she would not tussle authorities once they come to remove her.

“But they must know they will have to provide me with my needs so that I take care of my family, otherwise they should forget that I can leave this place, and when am moving out I will say am going where,” she queried.

Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Welfare, Dr. Mary Shawa observed that it was annoying that most of the street children were sent by adults, some of whom were very able people.

“What is worrisome is that most of these kids are employed by adults to be begging in the streets and some are even sent by their own parents.” noted Dr. Shawa.

However, while some people have welcomed the exercise, others deem it as wastage of resources, arguing government should first find out why there is such a worrisome proliferation.

But Shawa has defended that the aim of removing the kids off the streets is to protect them from various forms of abuse they face in the streets.

The eviction campaign mostly targets Malawi’s three big cities of Blantyre, Lilongwe and Mzuzu.

A few days after the announcement, Malawi police raided the streets removing child and other habitual street beggars in Lilongwe, Blantyre and Mzuzu.

Apart from begging, experience has shown that these children, who move in gangs, are also behind city robberies and harassment of women.

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