Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Begging for change

It is reported that in Lagos police have cracked down sharply on street vendors who are being persuaded to set up in more formal trading situations.

Those who resist are not dealt with gently.

In South Africa we desperately need the authorities to address this issue, which has resulted in busy intersections all over the country becoming more and more dangerously crowded with vagrants, beggars, aggressive window washers and annoyingly persistent vendors.

Then there is the pathetic sight of little children being used as begging devices, spending their days amid the noxious fumes of neverending traffic in heat and cold, wet and dry.

Then there is the equally depressing use of sightless unfortunates mainly from, it is believed, Zimbabwe, where the calamitous reign of that ANC hero, the maniacal Robert Mugabe, has resulted, among many other tragedies, in the closure of homes for the Zimbabwe blind.

Surely it is the duty of the ANC, which controls all our major cities except Cape Town, to apply their minds to this social disaster.

Surely it is far more urgent for our ruling party to seek solutions in their endless meetings to the problem of the streets and roads rather than to concentrate on making a few “loyal and disciplined” cadres rapidly, obscenely and filthy rich.

How many streetchildren, beggars, homeless vagrants and others of the poor could have been cared for by the billions which went to the likes of Smuts Ngonyama (“I did not join the struggle to be poor”), t
he new mining magnates and those other beneficiaries of Black Economic Empowerment via cushy jobs in government and semi-government organisations in positions to which they brought zero skills or experience.

If for no other reason than pride and 2010 considerations, surely the ANC should kick some rear ends to get our freeway and highway intersections cleared of the mass of ragged, underfed and desperate people who throng them day and night.

Anyone who drives in this country – aside from ANC royalty in blue light convoys – will know how intimidating it can be when a mob of youngish males advances on one’s car demanding to sell some trinket or other or to render some unwanted service.

Quite recently one of these poor souls suddenly darted out in front of my car just as I was taking off after the robot light turned green. I missed him by millimetres, almost colliding with another vehicle as I swerved out of his way.

Now what if I had hit him?

Would I have exited my car to see if I could help him, thus exposing myself to the possibility of being berated, or worse, by the crowd of shouting, dashing street vendors and beggars?

What would probably be the wisest would be to speed off straight to the nearest police station and report the matter. However, does one then leave an injured person unattended? As there are seldom any police to be seen on our streets, one can rarely expect assistance from that quarter.

Among those who bear responsibility for this potentially lethal state of affairs are those who give money to street beggars and buy from the vendors. If they feel obliged to assist the poor there are avenues, such as churches and charities, by which to do this rather than encouraging the dangerous concentration of the destitute at intersections.

However, this is essentially a problem for all three tiers o
f government and the sooner they cease their meetings and endless foreign travel and tackle a serious problem such as this one the better.

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