‘I’m not begging by choice, it is not nice at all,’ says Mamelodi man

Begging is not for sissies – and when people fall on hard times, some have no choice but to ask for help.

Phillip Tshabalala from Mamelodi said he started begging after he lost his sight 15 years ago when he developed a brain tumour.

“I’m not begging by choice, it is not nice at all,” he said.

Tshabalala said his life completely changed after he lost his sight. “This is not a job. There is no flat salary. What I make depends on how the people feel when they walk past me,” he said.

Tshabalala, who stood outside a shop in Pretoria East for six days a week, said he understood people didn’t have money to give.

“Circumstances have changed, and life has become difficult…” Tshabalala said he dreamed of getting a job to sustain himself because he felt like a human dustbin.

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“Sometimes they give me food that’s off; they give it to us like we are dustbins,” he said.

Tshabalala said he didn’t enjoy begging. “It wasn’t a life I wanted for myself,” he said.

Irene Thompson said she didn’t mind beggars and regularly donated to Tshabalala.

“People need to make money and eat, especially in our current economic situation,” she said.

Thompson said things were difficult even for the average Joe who had a job. “If I have spare change, I don’t mind giving it to him; he is blind and it’s probably the only way he got money,” she said.

Thompson said the state should cater for beggars to upskill them and get them off the streets. Henk Pretorius said he didn’t have much time for beggars.

“Especially the young ones at intersections. They can go and get work. But I always wonder what broke them and why they give up.”

Pretorius said he supported the hawkers at the intersections selling stickers. “At least they are trying. There is always a way.”

Gert Jonker, founder of Tower of Life Shelter for men in Krugersdorp, said beggars were considered a nuisance and a danger to traffic as they congested intersections.

ALSO READ: Shock as ‘dead’ Pretoria beggar found alive

“Instead of complaining about beggars, I acknowledge their humanity. I started looking at them, instead of looking away. Looking at them means more than giving. It means I acknowledge your existence and your humanity. I soon realised that often that means more than my R2,” he said.

Jonker started a project where he gave a voucher to a beggar which he could exchange for services such as food, a shower and a place to sleep.

“That meant that my giving was secure and it was not going towards drugs or alcohol. The recipient gets much more,” he said.

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