Malawi Parliament has sternly warned the government against arresting street beggars some of whom are minors, saying this cannot be a solution to the tendency.
Chairman of parliament’ Social Services Committee Richard Chimwendo Banda said the arrest of young street beggars will only turn them into hardcore criminals as prison is not a good place for rehabilitation.
“We agree that these children need to be in schools, they should be out of the streets but they should not be arrested as this may harden them,” said Chimwendo Banda.
However, Principal Secretary for Gender Ministry Mary Shaba said street beggars have until the end of March to be on the streets or risk arrest.
“Actually, we will also arrest those who give alms because the law empowers us to do so,” she said.
Shaba said the ministry will place officers and police who will effect arrest on the spot on those giving the alms and beggars.
Minister of Gender Patricia Kaliati said the government has exhausted all means to take street beggars out of the streets.
“We have given them money, sewing machines and other things so that they engage in income generating activities but they still come back. Our concern is that they use children who should be in class to beg on the streets this is why we.will arrest parents whose children are in the streets,” she said.
However some street beggars in Lilongwe have brushed aside Kaliati’s assertion as mere rhetoric.
“We cannot be here suffering and humiliated if the government gave us an alternative means of earning a living,” said a blind man near Lilongwe bridge.
A woman with disabled legs said she will not leave the street, saying she has one choice of either leaving the street and starve to death or be in the street to survive.
Executive director for Federation for Disability Organisations in Malawi (Fedoma) Action Amosi is on record saying that poverty remains at the core of the swelling numbers of street beggars.
“Because it is not only people with disabilities who are begging, it means the problem is bigger. Now that calls for government to start addressing the root causes by coming up with sustainable initiatives to empower its most vulnerable citizens. Unfortunately, this is costly to our economy too,” he said.
However, Amosi demanded a tightening of controls to begging, citing cases where the rights of children of parents with disabilities are denied opportunities to develop.
“So many times parents take advantage of these children and use them into handlers as they go about begging. But these children were supposed to be in school so that they can secure their future to become independent; they might even help their parents in future. This is against all local and international child rights protocols. Such exploitation must stop,” he said.
But Kaliati argues that “poverty is not a new phenomenon and should not be used as an excuse for acting improperly.”Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :