The life and times of runaway boys on the streets

The Chronicle

Tonderai Zvimba, Showbiz Reporter

They are found on almost every street corner of Bulawayo and yet no one knows their story. No one knows where they came from or what they are doing on the street yet they are a familiar feature of Bulawayo’s landscape.

 These are the street children of Bulawayo, the young boys who are scattered on pavements around the city. They live, sleep and, on the few occasions they have something, eat on these pavements.

 They walk the streets barefoot in the afternoon and when the sun sets pull threadbare blankets over their heads and call it a night. As the temperatures plummet through the night, they pull closer together as their tiny bodies try to fight off the cold that is proving too much for those that are sleeping indoors, buried under thick layers of blankets. 

 This is the life of Desire Maphosa (16) from Nkayi and Prince Dube (14) from Kwekwe, two friends who are among the street kids who live at an abandoned shop along 9th Avenue. 

I found Desire and Prince at around 3PM basking in the sun at the front of the building where they stay and I asked to interview them. They both agreed.

Prince whose parents died when he was a baby said he ran away from home last year to live on the streets of Kwekwe as a result of poverty.

“I ran away from home because my uncle was not taking good care of me. I’d go to school without eating and return home to find nothing to eat. I’d only eat once a day and I therefore decided to go and live on the streets,” he said.

Prince, whose dream is to become a policeman stopped going to school at Grade Five as his uncle could not afford to pay his school fees.

He said his uncle would leave him home alone for weeks without food. 

“When he was not around, I’d be given food by a granny who lived nearby. She’s the one who would help me and if I’m to go back to Kwekwe, I would rather ask to live with her,” he said.

After living on the streets of Kwekwe for a while, Prince and his friends decided to relocate to Bulawayo.

“One of my six friends who I lived with on the streets of Kwekwe came up with the idea that we board a train and go to Bulawayo and that’s how I ended up here early this year. After staying here for a while, five of my friends returned to Kwekwe leaving me,” he said.

Desire who was raised by his adoptive parents said he left home because he did not want to do chores for everyone in their home.

“I was raised by my adoptive parents and the reason I left home is because I was being overworked and I couldn’t even find time to rest. I’d wake up early in the morning to herd the cattle and wash everyone’s clothes including their children’s clothes yet they are older than me,” said Desire.

When schools closed this April, Desire said he ran away from his adoptive parents in Nkayi.

“During the school holidays, I got money after doing a piece job and moved to Kwekwe to my adoptive parent’s relative who chased me away and told me to go back to Nkayi. I then boarded a train and moved to Bulawayo last month.”

Prince and Desire said they get their morning and afternoon meals from the Scripture Union offices and their evening meals are bought by money they get from washing cars.

From the group which stays at this building on 9th avenue, Desire said there is only one street kid from Bulawayo, the rest come from other areas.

“Out of all of us who stay here, there’s only one boy from Bulawayo. He is from Cowdray Park. The rest of us are from various cities such as Harare and Kwekwe.”

Desire also said there are often street kids who sodomise other street kids.

“There are some street kids who sodomise others. Although this doesn’t happen among us here, there’s one boy who used to stay with us who was sodomised by eight boys. 

“We were told today at Scripture Union that the eight boys will be appearing in court soon.”

The boys said they would like people to donate clothes and blankets to them as they have not been receiving any assistance.

“I’d like to be assisted with new clothes and blankets since it’s now winter. I don’t have a blanket,” said Prince with tearful eyes.

He said he would like to go back to school and finish his education.

“I’d like to go back to school and finish my education because I’d like to be a policeman one day,” said Prince.

Desire said he does not want to go back to school as he just wants to find a job.

“I don’t really want to go back to school. What I’d love is to get a job so I can take care of myself,” he said.