Despite the police being very much aware of the terror being perpetrated by street kid beggars in the City of Blantyre — and also in the Capital Lilongwe — the urchins are continuing with their menace and are even daring to attack victims in daylight.
The daylight terror is even carried out not when there is a lull of pedestrian traffic but in view of people, who watch from a distance as they fear the terrible weapons they carry that include knives and sharped bicycle spokes.
Their targets are Chichiri Shopping Mall, Bank ATMs on deserted streets especially from 6pm and sometimes hotel car parks to pounce on unsuspecting motorists as soon as they open their car doors.
A victim disclosed that they are armed with sharp objects including knives and don’t just threaten but keep jabbing their prey around the stomach and back for them to oblige and handover cash.
“I didn’t notice anything amiss as I approached my car which I had parked away from the entrance where there wasn’t any human activity at all,” said the victim, who declined to be named.
“As soon as I was in the process of opening the car doo, I realised I was sorrounded and I felt a sharp pain on my back — I immediately knew this was going to end very badly if I don’t oblige to their demands.
“I opted not to be aggressive but I engaged with them by casually saying: ‘I have some change in my pocket, can I take it out and give you’? They gave me a benefit of doubt and I took out my wallet — which had over K20,000 and gave it all to them.
“I showed them the empty wallet and satisfied that I gave all, they scampered off. It was just before 7am as darkness was creeping in.
“I was quite surprised they managed to access the hotel car park undetected. As it was a huge relief that I escaped the ordeal unscathed, I just got into my car and drove off.
“But I realised I made a mistake of not reporting the incident to the hotel management after observing the way the guard looked at me as I drove by — it was a look of sympathy.
“As I contemplated on going back to report the incident, I decided to let it go because the guard might probably lose his job or risk having being attacked by the kids as a retaliation for snitching on them,” he said.
A report on malawianwatchdog.com says a Blantyre-based lawyer was returning to his office around 5pm on Friday and realised he was being followed and when he started running, the kids followed suit.
It is reported that he managed to outpace them till he safely reached his office as he was protecting a flash disk which had important files.
Many other testimony stories have been shared through social media, with victims or their relations warning the public to be wary and alert of certain hotspots around Blantyre City.
From the many testimony reports, the whole of Blantyre City central business district (CBD) is a must-leave area after 17:30hrs in streets that are less patronized by pedestrian traffic and after 19:00hrs in other busy areas where minibuses wait on passengers.
“Thereafter, when minibuses stop operating, a pedestrian is an easy prey for these kids,” said a Ndirande-based source, who also declined to be named. “To avoid being physically assaulted, the best a victim can do is to avoid any confrontation with them by just complying to their demands.
“These kids don’t act alone — they have their some elderly mentors and peers who watch from a distance and sometimes act out as if to help if some well-wishers rush to assist victims.
“It’s a network and it is suspected that the police are aware of this syndicate but surprisingly we rarely see armed police patrols at night. Maybe, they too fear for their safety knowing they just can’t gun down such kids.
“Ndi ana a ziwindi (these kids are just daredevils). They can do anything and that includes attacking an armed cop,” said the source.
One mostly deserted street after 18:00hours is that from Wenela bus depot to Blantyre CBD through the Clock Tower and a victim, who had just gotten off the bus had his big plastic bag of Irish potatoes he was carrying slashed — even after frisking him of cash from his pocket.
“I just stood their as they ran away, completely in shock. I didn’t have a spare plastic bag to retrieve the potatoes — I just left them there and continued on my way, totally drained out of the energy to collect them into my backpack on my back.
“Fortunately, there was some cash in my wallet that was in my backpack with which I managed to pay out my minibus fare back home to Chilomoni,” narrates the victim.
Early this month, police in Lilongwe arrested 98 people that included 20 street kids who were terrorising people around Lilongwe Bridge, Wulian Shopping Complex and Bwaila Hospital.
The Police said the sweeping exercise was conducted following increased cases of theft in the Capital and probably after Minister of Gender, Community Development and Social Welfare, Patricia Kaliati implored on Lilongwe City Council in April to forcibly evict all street kids beggars.
She had her Ministry had already engaged human rights organisations on best way possible to proceed with the eviction in order to control the high record of rape, thievery and vandalism emanating from street disorderly.
In November 2020, Kaliati also urged the general public to support foster homes, orphanages and other organizations that take care of needy children as opposed to giving alms to street kids.
She had said this when she graced a Blantyre-Zomba Big Walk on November 7 which NGO, Yohane Banda Foundation, organised to fundraise for the welfare of street kids.
The core mission of Yohane Banda Foundation is to work towards removing young beggars from the streets of Blantyre by offering them alternative means of survival and it conducts fundraisers to meet their initiatives’ financial costs.
And the Big Walk was also part of sensitising the general public from giving cash to street kids that encourages them to keep to the streets — benefiting from the begging.
Kaliati, whose one of the portfolios under her cares for good welfare of underprivileged children, had said the support for such needy should be done modelled through what Yohane Banda Foundation is working on achieving.
“Give, yes but support the needy by doing it the smart way,” said Kaliati, who donated K250,000 towards the fundraiser and also walked 6.8km of the 57.5km route from the start at Mpingwe Sports Club in Limbe up to Mapanga.
“Giving alms encourages street begging and bad behaviours that they learn from [adult street smart] criminals.
“Parents should also take care of their children by keeping them in schools and that we should all work together towards withdrawing kids from the streets,” she said.
The Mayor of City of Blantyre, His Worship Councillor Wild Ndipo also walked the same 6.8km distant from Mpingwe Sports Club to Mapanga and other dignitaries included Blantyre City Council CEO and high profile members of the Asian Business Community.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :