Sibongile Mafu

White beggars can be choosers

2013-02-06 12:24

Sibongile Mafu

White beggars are supposedly swimming in money. It seems you can comfortably make R10 000 a month, if you have the right complexion.

In a study conducted by trade union Solidarity, it was revealed that white beggars earn between R50 and R500 per day. I use the term "earn" loosely. They can easily make between R1 500 to R15 000, not doing much. The study, which was carried out in November and December last year in KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng and the Western Cape revealed a few other things about beggars, but none more interesting, but not at all surprising, the earning potential of the white beggar.

I've always been curious about the struggling white man in South Africa. My friends and I often joke that homelessness to white people is being made to sleep in your car. It's sometimes very hard to reconcile struggle with white people.

When I'm at the robots and a white beggar, with their neatly written Afrikaans cardboard, stands by my window asking for some change, I switch off. The windows roll back just as quickly as my eyes, and I carry on with my life. My reaction to black beggars on the other hand is completely different. I look at them in the eye, the hands go up sadly as I mouth the pathetic "I can't help you, sorry" words through the window.

Poverty has a colour

I can safely say that the lack consistency in my reaction to beggars is based solely on the colour of their skin. For me, poverty in this country has a colour, and it's black. All this study reveals is that the world is just kinder to white people, even the down-trodden.

The Solidarity study goes on to reveal the mindset of beggars, many of whom want to work, have a desire to be employed but circumstances have seen them being forced to become these faceless bodies wrapped in a blankets with their hands cupped. It is assumed that laziness plays a part in choosing this way of making a living, but this is untrue. Beggar does not equal bum and when the study further reveals that 60% of them had not passed matric and some had been begging for almost 10 years, you realise how laziness is far from the truth.

The first and only time I've given money to a beggar was in my early teenage years. After I did, I told my parents about it and was scolded for "feeding the fire". My mother would tell me that all they would do is buy drugs to escape their sad realities, and all I was doing by giving them some change was being an enabler.

After that talk, I became that annoying person who tells people "it's better to give them clothes and food rather than money". I think it would be much better if they had a home, and some dignity, but we can't all provide that for them unfortunately. Well, except for white beggars, who perhaps could?

Is it shocking?

The idea of the poor white will continue to fascinate me. Those white people who go out of their way to tell you they grew up poor in apartheid too, so that makes them just like black people. Those white people who said some black people had more than me, therefore it's difficult to see what the problem was back then. Those white people who say there was nothing they personally gained during that time, even in a system that went out its way to make them great.

Is it truly that shocking that white beggars have this much earning potential, when they generally earn more in everything else too?

It just mirrors how the rest of society operates, and how the world is just a bit more accommodating to those with a lighter hue.

- Sibongile is a videographer, blogger and social media enthusiast who would be nothing without her thumbs. Follow her on Twitter: @SboshMafu.

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