A week after Ministry of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare called for arrests of street beggars, the Police have said they are yet to execute the directive.
National Police spokesperson Nicholas Gondwa explained in an interview on Thursday that they were still working on modalities, for example, as how they would keep the arrested people.
Gondwa said MPS was discussing with social welfare on how they would deal with the offenders considering that space in holding cells or reformatory centres was limited.
Meanwhile, the Malawi Law Society (MLS) has said government’s directive to arrest beggars, street children, their parents or anyone who procures and encourages them to beg on the streets is unsustainable.
While backing government that the arrests if they come to pass would be lawful and its cases prosecutable, MLS secretary Khumbo Soko said the best way was to address problems that compel beggars to be on the streets.
Soko said: “We can make the arrests today, clear all the streets and scare away all the beggars, but if government fails to address the core issues, trust me, these underprivileged people will pop the streets sometime.”
He said begging in Malawi is a criminal offence under Section 180 of the Penal Code. Thus anyone found wandering or placing themselves in public place, seeking alms, causing, procuring or encouraging any child to do so, is termed an idle and disorderly person and can be arrested and charged.
Soko said: “If you have children who are being sent to do this, it is basically the parents who will be liable. Under our law, people who are under the age of 10 are not criminally responsible for any act or omission, that’s what the law provides.”
He said in a situation where there are children begging under instigation of older people or their parents, the children are innocent and those sending them become responsible and could be charged.
The private practice lawyer said Child Care, Protection and Justice Act demands that parents must look after their children and provide for them.
The lawyers’ body, however, bemoaned that government does not have enough resources to keep the children in place of safety.
Gondwa said police would abide by the law not to arrest children under the age of 10 as prescribed by the law.
Principal Secretary (PS) in the Ministry of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare Dr Mary Shawa told a news conference in Lilongwe on February 29 that the police were going to start arresting people that beg on the streets and people that offer alms.
She said government wanted this illegal act stopped immediately. A survey conducted by the ministry and Chisomo Children’s Club in 2015, found that there are 4 400 street children on the country’s streets and only 400 of them are genuinely homeless. n