- Police hunt for syndicate
Police have embarked on a manhunt for a syndicate suspected to be trafficking children nationwide and using them, including some with physical disabilities, as street beggars in the country’s cities and towns.
Police say the suspected syndicate members share he begging proceeds with the children’s parents, agents and the children themselves.
Minister of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare Patricia Kaliati, in an interview at the weekend, warned that government will embark on a sweeping exercise for the suspects and that those found involved will be taken to court.
Lilongwe Police Station spokesperson Kingsley Dandaula said the police have launched an investigation on the issue following the discovery of a child who was being used by older people to solicit money from the public.
He said: “In the meantime, we have gone full throttle to establish who is behind these cases as there have been a number of cases in which children with various disabilities were being paraded in the streets to solicit money from people.”
The girl child (name withheld) is aged 12 and was rescued by Eye of the Child, an organisation that advocates for the rights of children.
The girl is said to have been trafficked from Mulanje a few months ago.
Eye of the Child executive director Maxwell Matewere said the mother of the child has been using different names to hide herself from social protection workers.
He said: “The child has multiple disabilities, including hearing impairment, speech and language disorder, among others. She was being used as a source of income by her uncle with the consent of her mother, taking advantage of her condition. This is against the laws of this country.”
Kaliati said government is armed with legal instruments to fight such malpractices and will take on any offender of children’s rights.
She said: “Now we have the National Social Policy which is supporting the Child Care and Protection Act of 2010. With these instruments, we [government] are moving to break any syndicate that has been there to abuse children.
“With the law now in full use, all collaborators, including parents that send their children to beg, will be severely punished. Every child must go to school.”
Kaliati said before the end of this year, her ministry plans to clear the streets of children who go about begging.
In recent months, police have gone on the offensive, arresting people who have been taking advantage of children to traffic them from their homes and use them as beggars.
City, town and district councils have been grappling with the influx of street children most of whom are engaged in begging. n