Friday, April 21, 2006

Street friend

I consider Simon as my friend. We sort of hang out together each time we bump into each other in town. He's much shorter than me, which of course is explained by the fact that he's much much younger than me. We both live in Zimbabwe so that gives us a lot in common. But Simon practically survives on the streets. Though he doesn't necessarily sleep on the street at night, his life is a life lived on the pavements of Harare's central business district. The last time I met him, which is now a while ago, he wanted some money to buy a school trousers.

Simon and I go back together a number of years. He was not yet of school going age when we met. Now he's grade 3 or 4. So hows life for Simon like? Each time I think about it, I cannot even start to image how it must be for him. He once narrated (still with all the childhood innocence) to me how he got arrested during the days of the clean-up operation. He told me how he had to sneak out and run when he got a chance. That day he had walked from Epworth into town, now, I'm not too good at estimating distances, but it should be at least 10km outside town. Seeing that Simon is probably 8 – 9 years old, you cannot help but ask why?

Simon didn't choose to be on the street. He didn't choose to beg for a living instead of doing what every other 8/9 year old should be doing. I don't even think Simon dreams about what 8/9 year olds are supposed to dream. Simon now knows who is likely to leave him something when he begs. He knows which shops he's not allowed to enter, and which corners of the street are the most 'fertile'. Simon thinks in money. He is my friend. He knows if I have something to give I will give. He knows he doesn't have to ask me to give him money, but each time we hang around together, he'll still try to sweet talk me into giving.

Simon was telling me how life has become tougher now. More and more people have 'taken to the streets' for survival, and its not accommodation that's any issue, it's just more and more people can barely survive without an income. People are now giving less, Simon says. Simon raises his own school fees, and money to feed him, his brother, sister and grandmother from what people are willing to give. So, though Simon doesn't pay any taxes, he's employed and already burdened with responsibilities to look after the family, just like you me, only that Simon is a street beggar by profession and he's 8 years old.

Simon's grandmother by the way, sits at some corner, not really begging, but waiting. She waits for Simon to go round begging and bring all he gets to her 'for safe keeping'. This is a new trend in Harare's street begging tactics. Children are now being (ab)used to beg because, hey, who doesn't feel for the kids? People respond more to kids than adults. So that's why Simon is my friend, that's why he stays on the streets until 9, 10 or even 11pm on school nights. Isn't Simon's future already destroyed? Haven't we already taken away his innocence?

I wonder if Simon can grow up to be a doctor, or a computer geek, with all the iPods, mp3 players, blackberry enabled cellphones and all that stuff? Will he even know such things exist? Will it be his fault when he ends up a thug or in prison? How many children out there are in a situation like Simon's? Surely someone's to blame... who?

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Sawhira said...

insightful blog, please keep blogging.
Also wondering if I could use your template for my blog as well ;)

Anonymous said...

Are you still there?

Don't stop blogging. It helps the world to know what is happening.

Peter said...

Wow, this story was incredible - I hope you never give up writing about issues like this.
is my world so far removed from yours. Keep up the good effort on your blog - I'll be passing it on to others I know.

Anonymous said...

Continue to blog, it is needed.

Fjäderlös Tvåfoting said...

Hi, I just surfed in.


Anonymous said...

Hallo there,

My name is Irene and I am a producer at the BBC World Service. I was looking at your blog, and was fascinated by the material you publish. Would you be interested in doing a phone or Skype interview with the our programme, World Update? We can disguise your voice and can keep your contribution anonymous, obviously.

You can reach me by email or and we would be most grateful if you could get back to us as soon as possible. We are deeply interested in the situation in Zimbabwe and would love to hear from people on the ground.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Best regards,

Anonymous said...



Anonymous said...

I think Mugabe deserves praise for his leadership Where things went wrong, is that he took over the apparatus of colonialism. It allowed him to be the exploiter and receiver of graft. The revolution needs to destroy the institutions left by colonialism. and build new ones.

onix said...

for this guy its money that makes the world stand still.
well written. I think you are a friendly man. With that money, are you married;)
gl u all

Duke said...

Peace be with the reader.

The harvest is ripe.

The Faithful Witness

enyamayaro said...

As a Zimbabwean I am so touched by your blog. Luckily for me I am working for the United Nations in Geneva, however all my family are in Zimbabwe and continue to suffer like the rest. I have set up a blog to try and help folks at home and would welcome your comments on what the Zimbabwean diaspora can do to help at my blog: I am also interested to hear from other Zimbabweans on how we can help.

Demotix said...

Please get in touch
we'd love to hear from you!