The blind leading the blind

With no government ministry tasked with the responsibility of caring for the disabled, some are left with no choice but to make a living begging on the streets.

A blind Zimbabwean man who travelled as far as Johannesburg to find work.
A blind Zimbabwean man who travelled as far as Johannesburg to find work.

At six o’clock in the morning, Susan Mhashu wakes up and gets ready for the day ahead, but this 43-year-old woman won’t be sitting behind a desk in an office, she will be holding out a begging down on the dusty streets of the town with her two children.

Suffering from a visual impairment, Mhashu sends Tatenda, 12, and Tavonga, 8, out to the busy intersections to beg for money. She is part of the growing number of people with disabilities who have resorted to begging in order to feed their families.

With bowl in hand, Mhashu sings gospel songs in the popular Meikles Park, hoping for small change from passers-by.

“Life in Zimbabwe is worsening by the day. I am a widow and there is no one to look after me and my children. I have tried to look for help from the Ministry of Public Service Labour and Social Welfare but to no avail,” said Mhashu.

NGOs chased away

She said she tried to get assistance from various Non Governmental Organisations, but due to political reasons some of the NGOs abandoned their food relief programmes.

“We were sidelined and were labelled as MDC supporters by the traditional leaders in my home area. So when the relief food was distributed, they sidelined us. I became hopeless and desperate. The last thing was to look for other alternatives and I decided to come here to beg in town,” narrated Mhashu who comes from Chivi.

“My children and I did not have any bus fare. But a lady whose name I cannot remember drove us here. Kind-hearted person Mrs. Mushambadzi from Hobhouse gave me accommodation at her place for a month while she looked after me and my children.

“She was later transferred to Masvingo, leaving me behind. I had nowhere to go and I stayed at Sakubva Bus Terminus. I used to sleep in the backyards and sometimes would sleep in the shop verandas,” she added.

“I am now renting a room in Sakubva High density suburb. I survive from handouts from well-wishers. Everything is upside down. Things are not working at all,” she said.

Govt responsibility

“The government and other stakeholders should ensure that the rights and other issues affecting the lives of people living with disabilities are uplifted.

“There are many issues that need to be addressed to improve the lives of people living with disabilities.”

She said the government should ensure that the disabled have free access to health and education, among other critical services, to ensure that they lead normal lives.

“The government should address the issues affecting blind people and other disabled people. We cannot have people going to the Department of Social Welfare every time to be given letters so that they can access health services," she said.

The Zimbabwe Disability Forum, an organization that discusses issues pertaining to disability, has noted the increase of visually impaired and disabled persons flocking the streets.

Great tragedy

James Kufakunesu, the Advocacy Officer, said: “We have noted the plight of blind and other disabled Zimbabweans. The increased advent of these vulnerable groups is a cause for concern to us. It clearly reflects the great tragedy that is in Zimbabwe today.”

He said life for the vulnerable groups was tough in Zimbabwe, as they were not getting adequate support from the government.

“There should be humanitarian mechanisms in place to assist the disabled persons. The government should know that disability is as old as creation."

Kufakunesu added that the absence of a Zimbabwean law binding a specific ministry to take care of the needs of the disabled was disadvantaging them.

“We are witnessing cases were disabled people are being forced to move from one government department to another to have certain issues attended to. Now there is need for people living with disabilities to speak with one voice so that issues affecting them can be seriously addressed," he said.

Post published in: News

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