'I'm sleeping opposite the taxi rank' - City of Joburg targets moms and kids at begging hotspots

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A mother waves her hand to a motorist at one of the intersections in Sandton, Johannesburg.
A mother waves her hand to a motorist at one of the intersections in Sandton, Johannesburg.
Alfonso Nqunjana
  • The City of Johannesburg is removing mothers who sit on the side of the road and beg for money.
  • The City says they are contravening its by-laws.
  • There is speculation that the women are part of a syndicate that uses children as bait.

Mothers who sit on the side of the road and beg for money or food, have been removed by the Johannesburg Metro Police Department (JMPD) and the City of Johannesburg's social development department.

According to the JMPD, sitting next to public roads puts their lives at risk and contravenes City by-laws.

But the mothers say the money they receive as a result of begging is their only form of income.

Amanda Sibanda, a 30-year-old Zimbabwean woman, is a mother of two young girls who has been begging for two years and has no other form of income for food.

She told News24:

Sometimes I get a piece job while sitting here...my child is six years old. She has never been to a crèche because they require money. I barely make R30 in a day and I'm sleeping opposite the taxi rank.

The idea of having to move caused her great distress because she was concerned about what her daughter would eat.

While her daughter played close to nearby shops, she told News24 that she gave her second daughter to a woman in Mpumalanga and had no idea how she was being treated.

"My second-born [daughter] is doing Grade 2 and she is staying with a woman who I don't know. She told me if I get money, I should come and visit. We went to the police station and she explained to the police she wants to take care of my daughter while I try to get my [affairs in order]."

"I don't know if she is being abused or not but because I have no plan, I saw it as the right thing to do and I am putting everything in God's hands," Sibanda said.

As part of Operation Buya Mthetho on Tuesday, the JMPD as well as social workers, the Human Rights Commission, the International Organisation for Migration, and social development officials instructed five mothers and five of their children to vacate hotspots that are located close to traffic intersections.

A minor walking barefoot approached News24 to ask for money while his mother sits back wrapped in blankets to stay warm.
News24 Alfonso Nqunjana

JMPD spokesperson Xolani Fihla said: "The main concern is that should there be an accident whilst they are sitting at this intersection, no one will be held accountable. This endangers their lives as they may be run over."

The City's health and social development spokesperson, Ewan Botha, added that many of the women who were approached the start of the operation on 10 June, were undocumented Zimbabweans.

Botha said:

During the dry run activities, it was discovered that all of these women are undocumented foreign nationals, majority of whom are from Zimbabwe, then followed by Mozambique, Malawi, and one from Swaziland.

Botha added there was a concern that the women exposed their children to many dangers.

"The common concern is that the women are using the children to get sympathy from motorists and other passing pedestrians. In the process, the children are exposed to the dangers of being involved in motor vehicle accidents; sickness, as weather can be very cold in winter; [and] a lack of educational stimulation" Botha said.

Is it a syndicate?

There is speculation on social media that the mothers are part of a syndicate that uses children to get people to give them money or food.

Thami Mpahlwa tweeted:

Those children are rented. I can take [you] to a place where they're all collected from and distributed accordingly.

But Botha told News24 that most of the women denied that they were working for anyone and said they took taxis to the area from the bad buildings in the inner city that they were living in.

A mother sitting outside a store with her daughter in Randburg Square said begging is the only thing that helps her survive.

"It is alleged that these women are being dropped off at the intersections but when asked, they claimed to be coming to those places by taxi. There are rumours that these women are part of a syndicate that hands children to these women to be used as begging bait. It is still a rumour that needs to be investigated by the relevant law enforcement agency.

"The City will continue with the awareness and education of the public and motorists, and possible prosecution should the investigation provide evidence of a syndicate," Botha said.

A mother who sleeps in Randburg Square told News24 she knew nothing about the allegations and had never been paid to go to the area to beg.

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