- It is obvious that African beggars will soon be left with the choice of either abandoning their profession or face doom. Several African countries have already started the operation to clear beggars off the streets, some of which are considered unnecessarily brutal. In particular in countries attracting tourists, beggars are treated like a pest by authorities.
In The Gambia, 21 beggars were convicted by the court to keep peace for six months, implying that they must not pester people with begging during the period. Their only crime was begging in their large numbers in the heart of the capital Banjul, which had caused obstruction and inconvenience to the general public.
Ironically, all the arraigned beggars pleaded guilty to the charges brought against them. For fear of being harassed, beggars have been forced to beg underground in the West Africa country that is one of the region's main tourist destinations.
In Egypt's capital city of Cairo, beggars have been turned into hoodlums bent on rapping and killing several homeless children.
Their acts remained secret until the police launched thorough investigations following the reported missing of homeless children in northern Cairo. One beggar suspect was arrested. He admitted to be a member of a beggar's gang that has been killing and raping street children.
Through his help, four other suspects were arrested. The beggar's gang was also accused of burying the remains of their victims in a tunnel. The much-publicised and grotesque case has made day-to-day life of other Cairo beggars a daily harassment, as they as being suspiciously watched by the police and the public at large.
But while Cairo beggars still roam the capital's streets, major Egyptian tourist attractions have taken great effort to make life unbearable for this poorest group of society, which often includes the physical or psychic handicapped, people at odds with their family, ostracised women or children of the poorest families. At Egypt's Red Sea tourist resorts, beggars are not welcome at all.
South Africa also seems to be sick and tired with the nuisance being caused by beggars, as Johannesburg metro police sounded the bell that they will remove beggars from traffic intersections, where they wait to accost people when they stop to obey traffic rules.
That obviously will not be the last resort to deal with beggars. Surely, the police are still studying what approach to take against beggars before they finally ban them in all important places in the country, where social differences still are striking more than ten years after the fall of apartheid.
But for now, the South African police said they don't want to follow the footsteps of The Gambia by convicting beggars in court. However, illegal immigrants among them would be sent to repatriation centres, Johannesburg police officers warned. Illegal immigrants belong to the poorest group of all people living in South Africa, often having no other means of living than begging or committing crime.
A wave of criminalising or ousting beggars seems to roll over Africa, visibly led by the continent's major tourist destinations. Morocco is seen as the first country turning this way in the late 1990s, as visitors to the sea resort city Agadir and the cultural destination Marrakech complained over the constant harassment by beggars, self-appointed "guides" and salesmen.
By now, tourists meet more police officers than beggars in Agadir and Marrakech, as tourism is booming in the North African kingdom. Social problems, on the other hand, remain unresolved and frustration with the government is growing among the poor majority of Moroccans. For the disabled and the many women thrown out of their family, it has become even harder to survive.
But begging has become of such a scale in Africa's cities that it seems impossible just to prohibit it. When the renowned Senegalese author Amina Sow-Faal launched a book titled "Beggar's Strike" almost three decades ago, most people never thought begging would be rampant in Africa. Ms Faal depicted the plight of Senegalese beggars but today begging is adopted as a profession by very many Africans, especially the disabled community.
There are also indications that beggars will strike for being deprived to source pittances on the streets for livelihood.
Disabled organisations in most African countries campaign against begging by their members, because for them "disability does not mean inability". But the President of Gambia Federation for the Disabled, Muhammed Kora, scolded the courts for convicting his colleagues.
He argued that the begging syndrome among the disabled community could be only tackled if authorities set aside skills development and employment packages for them, which would be an alternative means of survival.
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