Members of Parliament have called for the repeal of the Vagrancy Act saying it criminalises poverty and discriminates against homeless people in contravention of the Constitution.
The Vagrancy Act was enacted in 1964 and empowers the police to arrest vagrants or anyone who encourages another person to become a vagrant.
Online sources define as vagrant as a person without a settled home or regular work who wanders from place to place and lives by begging.
A motion to repeal the law was moved in the National Assembly by Bubi legislator Sonny Mguni.
Mguni argued that the Constitution provided for equality and non-discrimination based on nationality, race, colour, tribe, or economic or social status. He said:
An increasing number of children are being forced to the streets as a result of poverty, abuse, torture, rape, abandonment or have been orphaned by the AIDS pandemic.
He urged the government to address the plight of children living on the streets as the family unit had disintegrated due to the economic hardships being faced by many people.
Umzingwane legislator Levi Mayihlome echoed Mguni’s sentiments, saying the law makes poverty a crime. He said:
This law says a vagrant is a person of no fixed abode and a person who wanders from place to place without cause.
It criminalises these kinds of persons and it also criminalises the people who were giving them help, assistance or protectiveness.
So, it becomes a kind of a crime to be poor, a crime to be homeless, a crime to be destitute, a crime without employment and a crime to be without shelter.
He added it was time that society addresses the problem and show a human face as a country.