Blind Zimbabwean beggars clog South African subways.

A BLIND man plays the guitar and sings Christian songs inside a packed train en route to Johannesburg – South Africa's largest city – from Soweto Township.

He walks among commuters with the assistance of a guide to ask for donations. A few generous people drop coins in his mug with a loud rattle.
"Thank you very much. May the mighty Lord bless you with more," the blind man says in appreciation as he moves on to another train car.

Within a few minutes, the train stops at another station and he disembarks.

Surprisingly, however, more blind beggars board the congested morning train at the same station and begin asking the same passengers for alms.
Blind Zimbabwean beggars clog South African subways.
"How many times must we give to these people?" Pretty Motsami, a Johannesburg hairdresser, wonders.

She says that, even though she feels sorry for the blind beggars, she feels there are too many of them on the trains and at street intersections.

"Why can't some organisations help these people get off the streets," Motsami, 27, told The Anadolu Agency.

Blind beggars are a common sight on Johannesburg subways and at traffic intersections, where they – usually with the help of guides – ask passers-by and motorists for spare change.

"I came from Zimbabwe in 2006 to seek a better life here because the economic situation back home was extremely bad," 45-year-old Tyson Augustine told AA at a Johannesburg traffic light.

"I used to own a small poultry farm in Zimbabwe, but the business collapsed as a result of the 2005 economic crisis and I decided to leave the country," he explained.

His friends in South Africa advised him to try begging on the streets of Johannesburg, since he could not find a job due to his disability.

Augustine, a father of four who lost his sight when he was 11 years old after being afflicted with measles, now wakes up at 4am to come to the traffic intersection – along with his guide – to beg for money.

"On a good day I net about $10," he told AA. "Whatever I get I send back home to my family in Zimbabwe." 
Augustine says his eldest child is now in secondary school, while the others are still in primary school.

His is assisted by a 35-year-old relative who helps him cross the street and navigate through the urban traffic.

"I help him because he has no one else," the man told AA, declining to give his name.

Street begging illegal in Jo’burg

The majority of South Africa's blind beggars appear to be from Zimbabwe or other neighbouring countries.

"I have been begging all my life," 55-year-old Happiness Chiyingwe told AA while standing in her usual spot.

She, too, left Zimbabwe in 2008 due to the dire economic situation there.

"People there no longer had any money for beggars," said Chiyingwe, adding that Johannesburg residents were wealthier and willing to part with loose change.

"On a good day – if I am at a busy traffic light – I go home with between $8 and $15," she said.

Chiyingwe, a mother of two, complains that she is frequently robbed.

"I was attacked twice by robbers who took my entire day's earnings and my cellphone," she told AA.

Asked what happens when law enforcement officers find her begging on the streets, Chiyingwe says she cries and tells them of her difficult situation.

"They eventually leave us alone," she said.

In February, Johannesburg's Metro Police Department took several people off the streets – including blind beggars, hawkers and car window washers – as part of a campaign to make the city safer.

"We screen the blind beggars and other people we arrest or take off the streets and deport those who are found to be here illegally," Johannesburg Metro Police spokesman Wayne Minaar told AA.

The rest are taken to city shelters, where they are given free accommodations, warm blankets and food.

Most of them, however, usually end up back on the streets.

"They prefer to go back to the streets because they are after the money," said Minaar, a chief superintendent, adding that a fresh citywide campaign would soon be launched.

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