Persons with disabilities (PWDs) in Malindi Municipality have decried the increase in the number of fake beggars masquerading as physically challenged persons in the town.
Led by Victorine Nyamwalo, a former nominated Member of the County Assembly of Kilifi representing persons with disabilities, the PWDs claimed that the fake beggars were operating freely under the noses of administrative and police authorities.
They claimed that most of the pretenders are Tanzanian nationals who may have been trafficked into the country by unknown agents who hire young boys and girls to wheel them around the town to beg from unsuspecting town dwellers.
Ms Nyamwalo pleaded with the government to take measures to curb the vice. She lamented that the voice of PWDs had been muzzled since the PWDs who had been denied representation at the County Assembly.
Thima Abu, a representative of persons with disabilities at the office of Malindi Member of the National Assembly, alleged that many of the beggars were able-bodied foreigners.
She said that she discovered that some of the strangers begging in town were fake when one boy jumped out of his wheelchair in excitement and started walking normally after she (Thima) gave him a Sh1,000 note.
“I had heard that some of the beggars were fake but I couldn’t act on that information because I did not have evidence. However, I recently encountered an eleven-year-old lad who on receiving Sh1,000 from me forgot that he was ‘disabled’ and jumped from the wheelchair and started walking,’’ Thima told journalists.
Thima said she immediately confronted the youngster, who out of fear thinking she was a police officer, named others who operate in similar manner within the town.
She said that another beggar was immediately abandoned by his wheelchair pusher when she (Thima) started questioning them and that she had to seek the help of a police officer to prevent the ‘beggar’ from escaping.
She claimed that despite reporting the matter to the police, officers at the Malindi police Station did not take the matter seriously but instead blamed village elders for allegedly failing to perform their duties.
“When we brought the suspects to the police station, officers referred us to the Malindi Municipality where we were in turn referred back to the police,” Thima lamented.
When journalists interviewed one of the ‘beggars’ outside the police station, she confirmed that she was indeed able-bodied and that she was brought alongside others to Kenya to serve as beggars at a monthly pay of Sh5,000.
The beggar, who gave her name as Jessica Daniel Daudi, confessed that she had a boss who provides her and her brother with shelter. In return, the two siblings have to go out begging and bring the loot to the boss, who pays them monthly. She also admitted that they do not have national identification cards.
By Emmanuel Mash and Lucy Karanja