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Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Des Van Rooyen. Picture Credit: Gallo Images
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streets are their

By Thobeka Magcai | Jul 06, 2009 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

YOU have seen women with children begging for money from motorists on street corners.

YOU have seen women with children begging for money from motorists on street corners.

In some cases the children do not belong to these women but are either distant relatives or children borrowed from friends for the occasion.

Sowetan spoke to a few beggars about the dangers of exposing children to harmful elements such as car fumes, extreme weather conditions and the possibility of being knocked down by cars.

Nana Sithole, a 36-year-old widow, says she used to earn R60 a day selling vegetables, but since her husband, a contract construction worker, passed away last year in July she has had to hit the streets to raise enough funds for a cleansing ceremony.

Sithole says she lives in Diepsloot, north of Johannesburg, and spends R24 travelling between the corner of Dowling and South road near Morningside with her 3-year-old and 11-year-old children.

"I cannot look for a job dressed like this (in black).I'll look for a job after the cleansing ceremony," Sithole says.

Sithole, who moved to South Africa from Mozambique in 1989 to seek greener pastures, says her vegetable business became too expensive to run but on the streets she collects about R80 a day - and this is her only option now.

She says she is not using her two children to make money, but because of the school recess she cannot leave them at home alone.

Sithole says neither she nor her children have ID documents, so they cannot register for state grants.

Though she cannot afford to pay school fees, Sithole says she is able to buy food and warm clothes for the children.

"I buy them food and clothes with the little money we collect every day."

Ester Gadza, 26, from Zimbabwe, has been on the streets with her late friend's 2-year-old and her 3-month-old baby boy since February.

Her friend allegedly committed suicide after she found out she was HIV positive a year ago.

When we met Gadza she was changing the baby's diaper and claimed it was her second day on Corllett Drive near the M1, where she hoped to make more money than at her previous spot on West Street in the Johannesburg CBD.

"When it is too cold I don't come here because is not good for the children," Gadza says.

Gadza says she saw women with children on the streets and decided to take her friend's child. Now she has to bear verbal abuse from motorists who shout and hurl insults at her.

"Some tell you to go and look for a job and others just shout at you," she says. "They don't like it when you bring the baby out to the streets when it is cold."

Gadza, who lives in Doornfontein with of friends, says she lost her job at a Nigerian-owned hair salon in central Johannesburg, when she asked questions about outstanding staff payments.

Another 26-year-old woman we met in Auckland Park became agitated when we approached her and refused to give us her name.

But she revealed that she came to South Africa in February from Zimbabwe and worked for an elderly couple nearby.

She told Sowetan she cooked, cleaned and ironed clothes, but lost her job three months after she gave birth to her son because the baby disturbed her.

"Had I not had a baby I would be working," said the unnamed woman.

The woman, who only spoke English and Shona, said she finished secondary school in Zimbabwe. Her family back home do not know she is on the streets.

Department of Social Services spokesperson Zanele Mngadi issued a broad statement saying the "department is concerned to the extent that we have decided to do a proper survey throughout the country, starting in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and t Eastern Cape.

"We will not speculate on the possible outcome until we have completed our survey," Mngadi said.


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