Orphans in Africa being rented to beggars.
Police made the discovery after questioning beggars who congregate around busy intersections about the origins of the children accompanying them. Creches in the South African city of Pretoria have been renting out babies left in their care to beggars who use them to elicit sympathy money from motorists.
It follows reports last year that parents in nearby Johannesburg were themselves renting their children to beggars for as little as 20 Rand a day – just under £2.
Doortjie van Rensburg, a spokeswoman, said officers suspect a crime syndicate is running the unnamed creches.
She said that parents would drop off and collect their children unaware of how they had been used and urged them only to used childcare facilities licensed by the state.
The discovery came amid a general crackdown by police in the city on the use of children in begging, which is widespread in South Africa where up to 45 per cent of the population is unemployed and the gap between rich and poor is still growing.
Police, social services and volunteers have mounted patrols of intersections, and children begging either unaccompanied or with adults have been moved to shelters.
A spokesman for the Department of Health and Social Development said the issue of street children had been neglected “for some time”.
“We should protect children from exploitation and from adults using children for financial gain by begging at street corners,” he said. “We want to ensure that the children get to a place of safety where they can go to school and get properly fed”.