One of the clear signs that tough times are upon us is the sight of men and women, old and young, who stand around street corners, and throng shopping malls asking for alms. It is almost impossible to go to a shopping mall and not be approached by one of these. The biggest challenge is whether to ignore them or give them the money they are asking for because there is no knowing whether the need is genuine or not. The fact of the matter is, while some are genuine, many are not but have only found a way to make easy bucks. Some of these ‘beggars’ are well known around the city.

There is one around Gaborone station, who has become very good at her craft that she would sell ice to an Eskimo. She is so convincing that you could fall for her trick. The funny part of it all is that her story never changes. She does not even make an effort to at least avoid people that have helped her, because she can approach you with the same story a few minutes later. Her story is that she came into town to seek medical assistance and now needs transport fare to go back home. She target shoppers and approaches them with an innocent, needy look that would cause anyone to dig deep into their pockets to help, especially that she is elderly. The more dangerous, however, are those who ask for rides late at night, and end up attacking unsuspecting good Samaritans who were just trying to help.

Some go into homes under the pretext that they are looking for odd jobs like cleaning, only to disappear with people’s valuables shortly after they have been trusted. It is such a pity that the goodness of people has been taken advantage of. Humanity is slowly but surely fading, and such incidents create a hard-hearted society that turns a blind eye to situations that they could intervene in. It is no longer easy to trust strangers as a result of the high level of crime and manipulation.

On the flip side, not everyone who begs for money in the street will use it for drugs and alcohol. Some do need the money for bread and milk. Some are not ‘professional beggars’ who are lazy to look for jobs like many of us think. Some genuinely would be willing to do any odd job to make ends meet. In fact, the help they need might not be to throw change at them, but to offer them employment, get them groceries, or clothes. It is generally a good thing to help the disadvantaged of society, but ensure your safety first.