Government fails to protect the elderly
RUSAPE – The land reform-largely discredited – not for its noble cause of equitable distribution of land but for its chaotic fashion has other unheralded casualties.
Forgotten in their native countries and abandoned by white farmers-fleeing from rowdy war veterans at the start of the land grabs- whom they worked for, elderly immigrant farm workers now wait for death at an old peoples’ home.
At Makoni Old People’s home in Rusape eleven of the elderly people housed there, nine are ‘aliens’ who worked on white commercial farms.
As winter chills bite, the old people look frailer as their appeal for blankets and warm clothes was a painful narration of hopeless souls, cast on the peripheries of society.
Here food is scarce narrated the voluntary chairperson of the homes’ board Portifah Guta as the home relies on food handouts from voluntary benefactors.
“Hatina (we don’t have) any permanent source of budget yekutenga chikafu chekuti vadye to buy food for them to eat.
“Nekukura zvirwere zvinenge zvakuwanda saka (Through old age diseases increase so) we have a challenge of getting adequate medication for their health support,” said Guta.
Speaking to journalists on a tour under a civic society initiative to promote the Older Person Act of 2012, one such individual said all they want are decent meals and rest before they meet their creator.
Twin Jamusi (72) originally from Mozambique narrated his ordeal, with the sketchy recollection of an ageing mind, of being homeless after the farm invasions.
He said despite his chronic stomach problems, he was failing to access medication which used to be facilitated by his employers.
“Taishanda mumapurazi kusvikira varungu vakazongodzingwawo timirimo vadzingwa manje zvikanzi hakuchisina kwekuenda better muende ku welfare. (We were working in farms until the whites were chased away while we were still there and I was instructed to go to Social Welfare since I was advanced in age)
“Matambuzdiko ndeangu ekurwara kunyanya mudumbu senguva dzino idzi kuenda kwakaita varungu zvinongonzi hakuna mushonga hakuna mushonga.(I have my personal problems of chronic stomach ache but since the whites left they always tell us that there is a no medication),” he said.
The tour was organised by HelpAge Zimbabwe in collaboration with Humanitarian Information Facilitation Centre (HIFC).
Cathy Manase of HIFC said her organisation was there to facilitate for a three way information flow under the premise that information access is central to development linking civic organisation, people and the media.
“Our mandate as HIFC is to bridge the information access divide. We work on the premise that information is the pillar of everything. So we work with the media, civil society and communities to get the information to the public,” she said.
HelpAge Programs Director Adonis Faifi said this tour was organised to find evidence based information on the plight of elderly persons in view of the protection accorded to them under the Old Persons Act.
Faifi said they were advocating for universal monthly stipends from government through the Social Welfare department.
“We want to find out if the older persons are aware of the provisions of Older Persons Act and if they are also receiving any assistance from the government through the department of Social services.
“But I’m aware that as we speak the Government of Zimbabwe is actually not giving any money to the older people so as HelpAge Zimbabwe, we are basically advocating for the introduction of universal pension to all elderly persons in Zimbabwe,” he said.
Faifi said HelpAge was working on the premise that at least 7 percent of the total population of Zimbabwe using the United Nations baseline definition of older persons as those aged 60 and above.
The older Persons Act was signed into law to among other things, provide for the well-being of older persons, appointment of a Director for Older Persons affairs, establish an Older Persons Board, create an Older Persons Fund and provide for matters connected therewith, or incidental thereto.