Home » Governance » More Expected to Be Done for Older Persons

The Deputy Minister of Labour and Social Services Tongai Muzenda was recently quoted in the media as claiming that older persons in Zimbabwe were better off than those in Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia. The deputy minister did not furnish his interlocutors with empirical evidence to support his claim. It is very difficult to compare countries in terms of their recognition and assistance to older persons without an agreed framework for comparing or probably grouping them.

One main barrier that prevents older people from accessing social pensions is the assumption that someone out there, not Government, is looking after them.

It could be individuals, the corporate world and community-based social safety nets. Such assumptions, even by officials with a mandate to design policy to improve the living standards of older persons, are not only misleading but are also detrimental.

While the assumption by Deputy Minister Muzenda was far from the truth, he could also be alienated from developments that are taking place locally, regionally and internationally that have an effect on older persons, positively and negatively.

Locally, there was a huge sigh of relief among the older persons’ community as the Older Persons Bill, which was drafted in 2002, was finally enacted on September 21, 2012.

The close to 7 percent population of persons 60 years and above was highly expectant of a dignified life following a long history of suffering due to the failure by Government to improve their living standards, especially in the absence of a specific policy for the aged.

Unfortunately, the enactment of the Older Persons Act did not bring with it the desired changes in the areas of shelter, health, social assistance and representation at various platforms except, probably, the setting up of the older persons board.

The board has only met one since its formation.

A number of old age homes in Zimbabwe are in dilapidated states and have no adequate resources to meet the needs of older persons under their care.

Furthermore, the Ministry has not looked into the non-contributory aspect of pension given that a number of older persons today have not been formally employed thereby not receiving any pension.

Those on NSSA pension and other schemes are receiving too little to be able to eke out a living while investments made by NSSA to date have not benefited old people.

In light of the foregoing and on the evidence on the ground, especially in the absence of grants and other social protection schemes, Zimbabwe’s aged people are facing hardships.

Without pensions, confronted by mounting medical costs, many older persons are making the choice between hunger and health, where hunger takes precedence over health, thereby compromising their health.

The Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Services reduced the number of beneficiaries on Assisted Medical Treatment Orders early this year as presented to the portfolio committee on Public Service Labour and Social Services.

There is a huge threat to ageing in a country where a significant number of people are either employed in the informal sector or not employed at all given that all of them are not contributing to NSSA pension schemes due to lack of legislation and policy frameworks to do that.

There is also a high possibility that players in the informal sector are not making any investments given indications that huge volumes of money is circulating outside the formal sector and also due to the lack of confidence in the system based on the change over from the Zimbabwean dollar to the US Dollar where investment was lost.

In comparison, Mozambique has fared well in terms of recognising older persons.

The 2007 Mozambique National Health Policy makes reference to older persons as a particularly vulnerable group. Similarly, in Mozambique, ageing is main-streamed into the National Strategic Plan for HIVAIDS 2005-2009.

The Social Action Policy of 2008 provides for a review of current legislation on shelter to ensure that it includes reference to older persons. Older people also have access to free public transport.

In Mozambique, the National Five-year Plan 2010-2014 provides for the development of actions against physical and sexual abuse of older persons.

Source : The Herald