If it is healthy lets legalize it

It is around 8am in the morning am heading to my workplace seeing young beautiful woman coming my way, approaching me she tried to stop unexpectedly she asks me if I have some 300/- at that particular time of the day but unfortunately I have nothing more than my cheap Nokia. I have been meeting this woman several times around the same time, it is unfortunate that she can’t remember that she have asked money from me more than thrice at different points.

Let’s ask ourselves the following questions; is begging lawful? Is the law provides for people who beg that right? Is Ujamaa and Self Reliance the de jure national ideology we are to adhere to according the current constitution or the de facto capitalism values we are pursuing allows it as part of the normal thing or values to be promoted and maintained?

These are the questions the first rural urban migrants or the kiosk or retail shop owners ask about those who are begging especially the Fridays where they flock in numbers at the shops. Sadly these people, beggars have letters sometimes claiming that they have them from the ministry or from the national hospital that they can’t settle their hospital bills for that matter.

It seems that the law provides at some point that people who are not able to settle their hospital bills be served by alms begging permits from the so called good Samaritans or to move around from office to office, university college to university, house to house and even from kiosk to kiosk looking for the good Samaritans.

At a time I was somewhere and I used to see a woman who was coming as far as Mkuranga Coastal region to Dar es Salaam to beg for alms especially early October and April. These was the time when life at that place was booming and almost everybody was having some hot tokens for kebab and “Chips Mayai” at Muuza Chips Stall or for a bottle of Safari or sometimes to enjoy and make many friends at the campus.

This woman claim to be care taker of some hundred or more orphanated children at the centre she owns. Surprising is that who gave her permission to gather all these children if at all she can’t afford to take care of them in the first place? But, second question which will automatically pop up in your mind is that what if these people she is asking alms from are not there how is she taking care of these innocent children? Last question is that for how long will such behaviours of establishing centres where the source of their survival depends largely from the proceeds of good Samaritans of which I don’t is sufficiently?

In these October and April visits at the campuses was, is not for the above woman only, but the second instance was that one good looking and energetic young man was also in the park of beggars. His claim was that he wanted to go back to his rural home some hundreds of kilometers from Dar es Salaam, his claim was that he had seventy per cent of the bus fare, which was equivalent to 20,000/- that was 2009. That means he wanted some 8,000/- but he was seen coming for alms more than three times in a period of one month. I remember at one instance he got 7000/- when he introduced himself everyone contributed from 50/- to 1000/-.

Let’s stay focused on our primary question who serves all these people with letters with government stamps? Does the law states that if one can’t afford something in life the responsible authorities should serve them with letters to legalize their begging?

I don’t have problems with the begging alms my problem lies in two major things; one because they are being served with government letters they see begging as their right and it is the responsibility of others to give them some coins or token notes, some go to the extent of asking if what you have given can even help them accomplish their missions example of the the children care taker from Mkuranga, is there a law or act that provide for handing alms begging permits?

Two, why do government allow people who aren’t able to provide basic needs to children take care of them or it the Tanzanian culture of the day that if you feel you want others feel the body pain with you is to move around in people’s offices, work places or learning centres like schools and colleges?

I am told in the tourist attraction centres these people are out of bound; just not to tarnish the image of the nation or country. This is common practice. In 2010 FIFA World, South Africa cleared beggars from all of the cities hosting the football finals just to tell foreigners that there are no beggars. The Gambia and the Nigerian commercial city of Lagos begging is illegal and it is a crime.

The Gambia’s economy largely depend on tourism maybe this give them authority to legislate such laws against begging, contrary to Lagos where the law was put in place to reduce the number of beggars were in increase especially from other parts of Nigeria, it is believed that 60 per cent of beggars in Nigeria were in Lagos.

In recent years we have seen begging not sparing even the people we don’t expect begging. In Dar es Salaam for instance some people are hiding behind their religious sects and denomination to ask for contribution from commuters in the city buses claiming that it is for spreading the Good News or building churches or mosques.

Some board the upcountry buses claiming to pray for the passengers but at the end of their prayers they use envelopes or any other containers to ask for offerings. Are these the best places to ask for money for such noble activities of faith?

Visiting Dodoma and Dar es Salaam towns you will notice slight difference in the rate and number of people who sit at crossroads, bus satiations and around important buildings and areas asking for msaada, on Arusha-Moshi highway and Arusha-Namanga border you will see pseudo pastors and preachers asking for sadaka after their sweet safe journey prayers in Dar Express or Spider or any other bus.

But giving msaada (help) and sadaka (offerings) to such people whose lifestyle is begging and some conning some faithful believers is it an end in itself, does it solve the problem or it ignites it more?

Because proceeds from begging is not charged any rate or it is not to be refunded sometimes it just ignites the problem rather than reducing it, it is caused by the fact that nobody will be asked to account for it anywhere, the seasoned beggars will keep reaping but not sowing to create economic independent. Like a myth if people are too generous to you, you will not think of an alternative way of generating your own or even wanting to change the lifestyle until your ‘40th’ day come when every door is closed and the door open is to create your own castle of hardworking and new way of dealing with life challenges.

The debate is always hitting the papers headlines with sympathetic openings. Recently in one of the Tanzania’s daily English paper in its mid August issue published news about one DC in Rukwa region asking the government to illegalize begging or lock beggars behind bars, his arguments were that they give wrong image of growing towns like Sumbawanga bad impression, secondly that they are lazy, not hardworking.

The problem is not peculiar to certain part of the society but it has become something common at certain point, it is rooted in the society to the extent that we need a third party to observe it and come up with a remedy on the other hand it tells how poverty has been increasing in the recent years as liberal economy take roots in Tanzania forcing youth and energetic people to leave their old parents behind in order to look an alternative to survive on.

The rate of unemployment is high and that means so many children and elderly who depend on the middle aged people who are unemployed will turn to begging as the way to survive the claws of capitalism.

The quick solutions to begging can be by establishing nursing homes for the elderly and people living with disabilities and vulnerable environment that can be one; the senior citizens who were once employed in private and public sector should be having special fund inclusive social security, the other can be create conditions where people who are unemployment but skills be given jobs where they will be paid some stipend to cater for their needs and their dependants.

By Joseph Ogana

Joseph Ogana is an activist based in Dar es Salaam.

One Comment

  1. kweka says:

    A long term solution is basically to get rid of the unjust petty-imperialist economy that we are reluctantly building.This country like many other African countries is at the crossroad.Our government is oblivious of the need to establish social justice.In any imperialist nation where the majority labor and the few appropriate beggars are inevitable as they profess how unjust the system is.In fact if `authorities` issue them with stamped letters,it is basically because they are too irresponsible and incapable of helping them.

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