Botswana: Street Kids Are Treated Like Animals
Mmegi/The Reporter (Gaborone)
February 5, 2007
Posted to the web February 5, 2007
They go around with empty cartons of milk sniffing glue and staring at passers-by with glassy eyes. They do not seem to care and they look like a bunch of men who have lost the plot some way in their lives. No one seems to care about their welfare or where they get their next meal or where they will spend the night on a given day. Their beds are any corner where they will be when they start dozing and their meal is from any dustbin near any restaurant or supermarket. The streets have become their homes and they are fondly called bo-bashi.
Last week they nearly killed each other over a P12 or so it seems at the African Mall in Gaborone when the other one grabbed a knife from a nearby stall without the consent of the owner. According to the information gathered at the scene, the other man was stabbed on his neck and stood there with his neck tilted with blood oozing from the wound till he fell face down unconscious. "There was so much blood from the wound that we thought he was dying," said one eyewitness who did not want to be named.
The eyewitnesses who were supposed to have intervened when they saw one man being murdered in front of them were indifferent, revealing a shocking world where bo-bashi are not regarded as human beings, a world where the poor souls are taken like animals that deserve whatever comes their way. "You know how these boys behave. They always fight one another and sniff their glue. When they are high they start harassing each other and even people they do not know," said the eyewitness.
Over what were they fighting for that could have led to such brutality? "How would we know? We just saw the other one stab the friend right there," he continued to say pointing to a nearby butchery where there are some vegetable stalls. "You can go and ask those ladies, maybe they would know because they were nearer. I was just busy with my business when that happened," he stated.
At the said stalls the women are busy packing the vegetables in plastic bags and when asked about the fight all they could say was, "who cares. We do not know why they were fighting and we do not care. The one who was stabbed did not die he came by today."
According to Superintendent Andrew Bugalo Montshiwa, the knife that was used was from the stalls where the same women who do not care sell their vegetables. Montshiwa explained that according to the accused, the victim owed him P12 but refused to give him the P3 that he needed at that time. On his part the victim is said to have explained that the accused wanted to be loaned P3 that he refused to give and the accused grabbed a knife from the stalls and stabbed him on the neck. "He is however not in a critical condition," Montshiwa said.
He lamented their worry at how bo-bashi sniff the glue and that arresting them for common nuisance all the time would not solve the problem. "At least a centre where they could be taken for rehabilitation should be set up instead of arresting them for common nuisance on a daily basis," Montshiwa said.
He said that bobashi do not end up on the streets out of choice. He explained that they are forced by their traumatic childhoods that they are exposed to by their parents. He gave an example of a five-year-old who was brought to their station on January 23 after being left in front of Edu-tech College near Gaborone Main Mall. He said when questioning the little girl she revealed that her mother left her and boarded a combi.
"We took the girl to a safe place while investigating the matter and assuming that the mother would later report her child missing. We waited for a week and the mother only came after the report was aired on Radio Botswana," Montshiwa said. After questioning the mother, she stated that she left the girl with her father who had promised to buy her some clothes but later reneged on his word saying he did not have money.
"We do not know how the father abandoned the daughter and we are still looking for him. If she was not brought to our station she could have gone astray and ended up as another street kid.
"These are some of the things that we have to guard against as Batswana if we want to solve the problem of street kids in the country," Montshiwa added.