Older persons bill: will it really help?

More than 30 years after independence senior citizens are still struggling for respect and rights. The older persons bill, which seeks to provide holistic care, protection and support, was eventually finalized last month. But senior citizens are still afraid.

They have faced traumatic times recently – political violence, hyper-inflation, economic collapse and disease. Many find themselves parents again when their children die or leave the country, leaving grand-children to be cared for.

Clause 9 of the bill states that the fund will be open to those who are handicapped either physically or mentally, suffer continuous ill health or are in need of social welfare.

Mbuya Elizabeth Demba (79), a Kambuzuma resident, said she was happy the government finally took action, but afraid that she might not benefit from the funds intended for the elderly.

“Aiwa ndakafara kunzwa kuti government yedu yakapasisa mutemo mutsva wekutiriritira asi takanzwa kuti pachasarudzwa vanokodzera zvichireva kuti kwete tose saka vamwe vacho vachabatana nei? (I was happy about the new development towards the enactment of the bill for the elderly but I heard there would be a selection which means not all of us is going to benefit),” she said.

Tapera Munyaradzi (69) said she did not think the bill would make any difference.

“Lots of funds and bills have been put in place, like the Disabled Persons Act, but not much came out of it. The supposed beneficiaries are still struggling,” he said.

HelpAge Programmes Manager, Adonis Faifi, said the organization was delighted with the bill, which he hailed as a breakthrough.

“This is the beginning and it is better than nothing as we have been waiting for over a decade. The fund is set up to cater for the needs of the elderly, but not all of them will benefit. There will have to be some sort of means testing or selection of the most vulnerable,” he said.

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