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Zimbabwe military government abandons senior citizens

07 Jun 2019 at 07:45hrs | Views
When l was growing I just loved to be near my maternal mother she taught us a lot of things about life, she would also tell us traditional folk tales around a fire, everybody loved her she would wrap herself in her checked blankets my father had bought for her , she was well taken of and respected.

But as years went by as the Zimbabwean economy fast deteriorated she became hopeless and would spend most of her time in her hut, she had given up on life and one could see she was waiting for death which eventually came.

Today I reminisce the time I spent with my granny as I see elderly women running away from the police for illegal vending now common in most of the country's suburbs. In the evenings elderly men in their seventies are seen milling in front of locked shop or supermarkets working as security guards. Some sleep in bank queues waiting to withdraw their meager pensions.

On the outskirts of most cities and towns the elderly toil away in the scorching sun digging in their small plots that yield hardly enough grain to feed them and their dependents, similar scenarios are also common at dumping sites where elderly people scavenge for anything of value for resell to raise money to buy food.

Reports of murder and rape of old people in these small fields have been handled by the police and reported in newspapers. These old people well past their working age are Zimbabwe's senior citizens who have been forced to work again to supplement their meager pension pay outs from Government.

The economic meltdown experienced in the country over the four decades due to corruption and bad governance saw the deterioration of these senior citizens lifestyles leaving them as the most vulnerable people in the country.

In rural areas the elderly have either fled their homesteads or live in constant fear due to harassment by political hooligans who assault and steal from them.The have lost everything they worked for as ruling party youths also rob the elderly of goats, chickens, and cattle, their last earthly possessions.

Despite the suffering endured by the elderly, the government continues to turn a blind eye on their plight. While in 2002, Zimbabwe was the first African Country to draft a Bill for older persons soon after the Madrid International Plan of Ageing that took place in Madrid in 2002, nothing has happened in terms of the protection of old people have already succumbed to economic and other social hardships that have forced some of them to scavenge for food do menial jobs or rendered them destitute.

According to reports by HIV and AIDS Service Organisations most of the elderly assumed the role of care givers to their sick children and worse still look after the orphans left by the their dead children as a result of the pandemic.

The Zimbabwe Human Development Report 2003 noted that the increase in home based and orphan care due to Aids places an enormous burden on the elderly, especially women.

"In developing countries such as Zimbabwe, where the welfare system has limited resources and is under extreme pressure, the elderly find themselves doing care work under extreme conditions of poverty, stigma, lack of support and abuse," said the report.

There is growing evidence that older people are increasingly being infected by the HIV virus. There is clear epidemiology of HIV and AIDS among the elderly in Zimbabwe, a study on orphan care by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2000 revealed that, in a sample of 810 households, 79 percent of the care givers were people above the age of 50, this has however exposed them to infection.

Older people make up a significant population in our communities and form the heart of cultural inheritance as they have the duty to pass cultures to next generations while upholding social values.

The government continues to segregate the elderly in the provision of free food aid and NGOs have assumed the role to care for the elderly in most rural parts of Zimbabwe in the form of food and cash handouts. Hospitals charge high medical fees for those with complicated diseases such as arthritis, cancer and in need of crutches.

Some elderly people have also had residential properties auctioned as they could not afford to pay monthly rates. In prisons some are doing time for crimes they did not commit because they cannot afford the services of lawyers.

In some banking and service halls the elderly are made to queue for longer hours despite their fragile ages. While in public transport they are not offered special seats or rates.

According to Help Age Zimbabwe, a local NGO dealing with older persons a lot still needs to be done.The organisation's programme officers carrying out projects in Zvishavane in the Midlands Province said that a lot still needs to be done for older persons in Zimbabwe. Older people in the country continue to be treated unfairly despite the country having drafted the bill for older persons almost a decade ago.

In his 2011 national Budget, former MDC Finance Minister Tendai Biti received a pat on the back when he announced that the number of the vulnerable groups including the elderly, the disabled and orphaned children was growing, but the social protection coverage and actual expenditure s have remained very low, with administrative costs consuming the bulk of resources in most programmes.

Biti acknowledged that the absence of a comprehensive strategy and overall underfunding remained the key challenges on social protection.

To this effect the inclusive government carried out a comprehensive review of Social Protection system and formulated a more integrated and inclusive Social Protection and Assistance Framework which guaranteed basic minimal livelihood for the vulnerable groups including the elderly.

This is the last time some of the elderly people got respected and benefitted from their government, since the end of the late Morgan Tsvangirai led coalition government all the social protection safety nets have since collapsed and for those old people still surviving they look back with nostalgia and whish for a speedy change in government. I also reminisce the good old days I heard with my grandmother, may her soul rest in eternal peace.

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Makho Precious, I write my personal opinions as a free spirit standing for human rights and space in society

Source - Makho Precious Moyo
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