6 February 2013

Zimbabwe: Street Kids Rounded Up By Police in Central Harare

Photo: Jeffrey Moyo/ IPS
16-year-old boy sells sweets and popcorn to earn a living.

Streets kids and vagrants were this week rounded up in a police swoop that involved organizations that work with vulnerable children.

Duduzile Moyo, a director with Streets Ahead, an NGO that works to protect children living on the street from violence and abuse, said the exercise on Monday was meant to reunite children with their families.

She said the raid on the streets was carried out after a meeting of all stakeholders, who included the social services, police and NGO's. Moyo also confirmed that none of the children who were taken from the streets were put in police cells or slept in custody.

'As they were brought to the police stations we had our members waiting to take them away to a safe, clean environment where we provide counseling, rehabilitation and education,' Moyo said.

While police said the kids' presence on the streets of the capital had transformed the city into a hostile environment for shopkeepers, commuters and residents, Moyo said not all of them were out to cause problems.

'Obviously there is growing concern when you see such a high number of these kids rooming the streets and becoming unruly or engaging in violent activities. This is where we come in to try and keep them away from trouble,' she said.

Asked what forced the kids onto the streets, Moyo said there are many complex reasons.

'Poverty, family disintegration due to death or abandonment, abuse, neglect, loss of parents due to HIV/AIDS, are all often triggers that result in a child living on the street and doing hazardous work.

'It is evident that conflict and poverty disasters can decimate communities, leaving children helpless, without parents and family and resorting to a life on the street, they simply have nowhere to go,' Moyo added.

Our correspondent in Harare, Simon Muchemwa, cited business

sources who said many of the children and adults engaged in unlawful activities like stealing, drug abuse and prostitution. The street kids have also invaded food courts, becoming a public nuisance to customers keen to enjoy their meals with family and friends.

Muchemwa said most of the children are not on the streets by choice but forced out from their homes by circumstances beyond their control. He said most are forced to go out and beg for money to supplement whatever little income the family gets.

'Lack of financial resources, cruel treatment and neglect are among the factors that facilitate the huge presence of street children in the city,' Muchemwa added.

A police spokesman Tadious Chibanda said street kids can be a danger to the public as many become habitual criminals.

He explained that the police had received complaints from the public about street children who end up robbing people or assisting criminals in committing crimes in the Central Business District.

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