HARARE – Traffic came to a standstill in Harare as police officers swooped on homeless people and street children in an exercise meant to clean up the city.
The clean-up, code named Usagara Mumugwagwa (Leave the streets) is targeting vagrants who have flooded the streets pestering the public for food and money.
Some of the vagrants end up snatching items from unsuspecting motorists, police said.
Tadious Chibanda, the police spokesperson, said street urchins are now a danger to the public as they have become habitual criminals.
“As police, we have received complaints from the public about street children who end up robbing innocent people or assist criminals in committing crimes in the CBD (Central Business District),” Chibanda said.
Plain clothes police officers yesterday descended on the homeless “families” and showed no mercy as they grabbed wailing children from reluctant parents who vainly tried to resist arrest.
Blind beggars, the deaf and the dumb were not spared in the blitz.
Traffic along the busy Samora Machel Avenue came to a halt as some street kids tried to flee.
Police had to use handcuffs and sjamboks on adults who have turned street pavements into their homes and were resisting arrest.
A number of civil society organisations are bankrolling the programme aimed at ending child abuse.
“It is an offence under the Child Protection Act to allow a minor to beg for food in the street. These children are being abused by their parents and end up street kids,” Chibanda said.
Most of the people who now have families living on the streets are former street children who continue to wallow in poverty as the vicious cycle continues.
A police cell was cleared yesterday to accommodate the vagrants after officers had interrogated some of the adults suspected of being behind criminal activities rampant in the city centre.
Investigations to establish the whereabouts of parents of some minors are still underway. – Xolisani Ncube