heart-rending tale that beggars belief

NOT TOO many kilo-metres from Sun City, if you approach from Brits, there are youngsters who ply their trade at a busy intersection.

NOT TOO many kilo-metres from Sun City, if you approach from Brits, there are youngsters who ply their trade at a busy intersection.

They hold up a tiny board on which they have scribbled their heart-wrenching message: "Donations for our cricket tour".

You have to feel sorry for them. Here are bright-eyed youngsters, smack in the bosom of what used to be Bophuthatswana, in a nondescript tiny village bereft of any basic mod cons.

You can't but imagine their hunger to succeed in sport in spite of their geographical handicap.

If you have any heart, you should be driven to give a coin or so ... maybe another Makhaya Ntini could rise from their ranks. Who knows?

The problem is these beggar buggers have been collecting for their alleged cricket tour for more than a decade now.

Every time I travel that road - as I have done countless times in the past 10 years or so - I find them at the same spot, peddling the same sorry story.

If I do not go to heaven it will probably be because I called the bluff of another teenage beggar, this one at traffic lights in Sandton, a couple of years back.

On biting cold winter days he chose to stand at the intersection wearing no shirt, no shoes and trousers so ragged they had to have been cut up with scissors.

No one will claim there are no genuine cases of children without warm clothes to wear in winter.

But a boy who stands in the middle of the road in that cold, in filthy rich Sandton, each winter day, makes you doubt if he is as needy as he wants us to believe, or whether we passers-by are such a heartless bunch.

I chose to believe he was conning us, and I was right.

I caught up with him at another spot on the opposite side of town during the that same winter.

This time he was not braving the cold: he was quite warmly dressed.

But then, to bleed our hearts, he had contorted his body so grotesquely you would have thought he was a quadriplegic who had been stricken by a serious bout of polio at birth.

I couldn't resist the temptation to turn back at the first possible opportunity and return to the spot, ... just to make sure that it was the same boy of the tattered pants and no shoes.

It was him all right.

I pulled the car off the road and beckoned him to approach.

While he was limping "painfully" towards me the humanitarian in me kicked in. Surely nobody wants to beg on the streets, even if they have to put on an act.

I though that it was dehumanising to beg in this way and that he needed to be desperate to put himself through this.

I (stupidly) asked him why he was doing this.

The answer was sharp and to the point: "F'tsek".

He then limped back to the road to con more moegoes like me.

Still, I urge you to give.

Judge not, lest ye be judged.