LIKE most cities and towns in the country, the streets of Harare have over the years become home to hundreds of men, women and children.
While others have graduated from being street dwellers to “slum” dwellers, everyday there are always new entrants on the streets of Harare.
Whereas the well-heeled are building mansions, some among the poor are finding solace on the fast overcrowding streets of Harare.
With the biting economic challenges, there has been a steady increase in the number of people in such desperate situations.
For these, their options are limited; they either resort to begging or simply roam and sleep on the streets.
To make matters worse, there are very few, if any at all, social welfare services to help the destitute, orphans and people living with disabilities, whether on the street or not.
Previously, the primary coping strategy for communities was the extended family, but the capacity of these extended families to support the growing numbers of orphans has declined.
Beggars and street people who spoke to the Financial Gazette say they can make anything between a few coins to US$10 a day depending on the generosity of their benefactors who usually are motorists.
“In as much as we all want money, sometimes we get food from our benefactors,” Kudzai, a boy begging at corner Rekayi Tangwena and Samora Machel, said.
“Our main reason for being here is not about making money, its survival; if we go back home there is nothing there. It is a hard living on the streets, but it is still a living, something we cannot do in Epworth,” Kudzai’s friend Prince said.
Every intersection in Harare’s central business district (CBD) has been invaded by beggars and “the destitute”. They all claim to be destitute and if they are children, they all say the same message: “We are orphans and I need money to pay my school fees and take care of my siblings.”
Despite their different backgrounds and challenges, men, women and children have found a haven on the streets of Harare with children being used to attract sympathy from mainly motorists.
The street children are so daring that they run around between the lanes of fast moving vehicles to beg. The kids are completely oblivious of the danger they are exposing themselves too. They have become permanent features on the city’s roads, with children with babies strapped on their backs, moving from one lane to the other.
Many children, especially girls, barely into their teens, prowl the city’s traffic intersections while their parents sit in the shadows away from the public’s questioning gaze as their kids beg for money for food or school fees.
“People tend to understand the plight of the girl child so we use our daughters more because they attract sympathy from motorists and get paid more. If I am to beg, people would ask a lot of questions and accuse me of being lazy,” Cynthia Muzula (33) said.
“We are always moving from one intersection to the other because if my daughters become a permanent feature at corner Leopold Takawira and Samora Machel people would end up not sympathising with her,” she added.
As the number of street people continue to increase, there is pressure on beggars to be innovative and look for new begging techniques and unconAgested spots in the city.
“There are a lot people who are begging for money in the city such that my friend and I; we sometimes visit the Simon Mazorodze and Remembrance Drive intersection. We get a few dollars, especially from those people driving cars with South African number plates,” Kudzai said, further explaining that despite having a home in Epworth, they live on the streets, because they need to survive.
“Begging is a survival strategy for some of us. There is a lot of money on the streets of Harare, you should see what happens at night,” Kudzai laughed as he refused to explain the nocturnal happenings.
Statistics show that 34 percent of the children are not full-time on the streets, but rather return home to sleep.
Zimbabwe’s worsening economic conditions have contributed towards the growing number of street persons and as the situation worsens, as predicted by social commentator Tawanda Majoni, the numbers of people on the street will continue to increase.
“The road signs are actually pointing towards more problems for Zimbabweans. Government is struggling to pay civil servants, fund key projects and mobilise adequate resources and revenue. This is going to get worse in 2016, especially considering that there are no visible strategies on the part of our government to reverse the economic meltdown. On the one hand, there are no signs that the thousands of jobs that were lost in recent years will be replaced because there is no tangible investment. That means more poverty and suffering.
“On the other hand, the situation will be worsened by the acute drought that is already being felt due to the El Nino phenomenon. Households will be forced to spend the little money that they have on food, there will be less for other essential livelihood and socio-economic needs and more people will get into vending to survive. In other words, the dim Zimbabwe narrative will persist in 2016,” Majoni said.
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