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State Dumps Elderly

State Dumps Elderly

Andrew Kunambura 25 Jun 2015
Old Age

Zimbabwe has 166 registered old people’s homes.

GOVERNMENT has fallen foul of the Constitution by failing to avail per capita grants to old people’s homes dotted across Zimbabwe.
Under the Older Persons Act, government is mandated to give grants to registered old people’s homes, but has not paid a dime in the past four years.
Zimbabwe has 166 registered old people’s homes.
The supreme law of the land also obligates the State to take care of the elderly.
Section 82 of the Bill of Rights states that all persons over the age of 70 are entitled to receive from the State reasonable financial assistance under social security and welfare programmes as well as healthcare and medical assistance.
Currently, none of these services are being given.
The per capita grant is pegged at a paltry US$15 per month for each elderly person, yet government has not bothered to discharge its responsibility.
As a result, the elderly people in these homes have been condemned to much suffering at a time when humanitarian organisations are also struggling to get funding from the donor community.
Due to the global recession, donor funding has been drying up.
HelpAge Zimbabwe, which has been the country’s largest sponsor of the old people’s home, is tottering on the brink of collapse due to sluggish inflows of foreign and local donations.
As a result, the elderly in its care are going about in dirty, tattered clothes, bare feet and largely go hungry while being looked after by unsalaried volunteer caregivers.
Most of the elderly are immigrants from neighbouring countries such as Malawi and Mozambique.
They came to Zimbabwe to work in mines and farms around the country during the colonial era and after independence.
They were dumped once they became too old to work the fields or enter the mines.
So desperate is their situation that most of them are living with the torturous imagination of how better their lives would have been in their home countries where they however know they have no chance of returning — although they openly said they would, given the opportunity.
Among the elderly immigrants are some Zimbabweans who were driven out of their homes over allegations of witchcraft or have not sired children.
Many of the residents at old people’s homes are shut away from the rest of the world; without access to radio, television and newspapers.
“We are like people enclosed in a clay pot here. Our lives begin and end within the fence that surrounds us. We do not have any radio or television to inform us about what is going on in the world out there and we cannot afford cell phones,” said Bizent Joseph, a Malawi born citizen who migrated to Zimbabwe during the era of the Federation of Southern and Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland. He stays at Melfort Old People’s Home near Marondera.
He says due to the situation he finds himself in, he was always thinking about going back home but without any money, he knows he cannot afford the long journey.
The old people at Melfort told the Financial Gazette heartrending experiences of having to live with their dead colleague for four days as logistical challenges prevented them from burying him.
Garikai Francis, the home’s administrator, said they were finding it increasingly difficult to run the home due to lack of finances.
“We have not received anything but more elderly people from government for the last four years and we therefore rely on well-wishers that make small donations whenever they can afford. We actually owe our continued operation to the local community,” he said.
Among the elderly at Ida Wokwako Old People’s Home in Marondera were two white people, Shendra Macphal, a woman of Irish descent, and Colin Sidders.
They were brought in by the Department of Social Welfare three years ago and Macphal said: “I do not want to be in an institution but I have no choice.”
Nelson Langerveldt, a coloured man who stays at Zororai Old People’s Home in Mutare said he had a gripe with the government as he has not received any pension despite having contributed to the pay-as-you-go pension scheme, the National Social Security Authority.
He is a former City of Harare employee and without his pension, he was driven into destitution, which landed him at the institution he has called home since 2005.
At Mucheke Old People’s Home in Masvingo, there was a man who participated in World War II. He passionately recalls his time fighting on the side of the allied forces in the Himalayas from 1941–1945.
He is one of the black heroes of the world’s bloodiest war ever who have not been rewarded, unlike their white counterparts, and is now destitute.
HelpAge Zimbabwe programmes manager, Adonis Faifi, said the misery of the older persons was being brought about by social structure breakdown and the country’s decaying economy.
And given the drying donor funding, the situation will get worse for the elderly, unless government comes to their rescue.
“Donors stress the importance of value for money. They want to give money for self sustenance projects and argue that because the elderly can no longer work, they are a social welfare case for government and therefore they cannot commit resources to support them. Our message therefore to government is that it should try by all means to assist the elderly. These are people who have worked for the country for many years and deserve respectful treatment,” Faifi said.
But Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, Prisca Mupfumira, said government has no money to pay the per capita grant.
“I know we have not been able to pay all per capita grants due to financial constrains and this also affects the older persons,” she said, suggesting that the situation would not improve anytime soon.
Government’s failure to avail per capita grants to the elderly has crudely exposed the extent to which the economic crisis bedeviling the country has eroded its citizens’ social security, leaving vulnerable groups such as the elderly at the mercy of fate and a myriad of societal ills.
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