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Suffer the children – act of women begging with infants ‘abusive’

A woman with a child begs at the corner of Kelvin and Rivonia roads near Morningside, north of Johannesburg. Picture: Boxer Ngwenya/African News Agency (ANA)

A woman with a child begs at the corner of Kelvin and Rivonia roads near Morningside, north of Johannesburg. Picture: Boxer Ngwenya/African News Agency (ANA)

Published May 17, 2022

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Durban - Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu says adults using children to beg on the streets in South Africa is a problem.

“We understand and appreciate the hunger, unemployment and challenges faced by the people we find on the streets begging, but this is abusive … people standing the whole day with a child on the streets at robots with some standing with two or three children.”

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Zulu was speaking on the sidelines of the Fifth Global Labour Conference under way at the Durban ICC.

The plight those begging faced was well known, but it was not right for children to be made to stand on the streets the whole day, she said.

“Therefore as a department, we need to work with local structures and the provinces to say, ‘let’s look at what else we can do to remove these children from the streets’. It’s a priority for me. We (the department) can’t just commit and say we’re removing the children from the streets because the people who are supposed to help us with that are the provinces and local structures.”

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Discussions of this nature had already begun on the basis that there have been complaints from people.

“There were even complaints from people reporting that some of the people hire these children. I don’t know how true that is but until such time we know … I’m of the view we simply do need to get to the bottom of this,” said Zulu.

The bottom line was that children were not supposed to be on the streets the whole day begging, she said.

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“Children are not supposed to be on the streets in the sun begging the whole day. It’s the mothers who take these children begging on the streets.”

Zulu added that when it came to social grants the largest number of beneficiaries were children.

“Because of this, we would have to push those mothers sitting on the streets begging with children. Yes, we know you are unemployed but the government supports child-headed households and mothers not working.”

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Zulu said the Child Labour Conference was very important to the department as it spoke to the well-being of children which was paramount.

“The issue of children and the Children’s Act is our responsibility, so when it comes to the Children’s Act there are a variety of important areas – the health of the child, the education and the environment they grow up in. Child labour becomes an issue to us as a department because South Africa is a signatory to a number of accords for the protection of children, hence our involvement with the Labour Department.”

In December 2020, IOL reported on a child begging syndicate in Durban. IOL’s research, coupled with insights from private investigators and a Durban NGO, revealed rampant exploitation of children which involved parents and guardians renting out their children to begging syndicates in the city.

It found that minor children, including newborn babies, were being traded and used in begging gimmicks that form part of a larger organised movement perpetuating human trafficking, drug abuse, and sexual slavery.

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