Government neglecting the elderly

Former minister of social welfare, Paurina Mpariwa

By Mthulisi Mathuthu
SW Radio Africa
19 June 2014

Former minister of social welfare, Paurina Mpariwa, has accused the government of neglecting the elderly, saying it has yet to implement the provisions of the Older Persons Act two years after it was signed into law.

Mpariwa said this after dozens of elderly people commemorated the UN Elder Persons Day with a protest march through the streets of Harare on Wednesday. The protesters demanded protection from all forms of abuse, including physical and psychological harassment and social neglect.

Among other things, the protesters called on the government to set up a fund to cater for the elderly since most of their pensions and savings have been wiped away due to the economic meltdown in the country. Most of the protesters, including those who were gainfully employed during their productive years, said they were unable to look after themselves as their children are also unemployed.

In an interview with SW Radio Africa, Mpariwa agreed with the protesters saying most elderly people were homeless and those who had accommodation were unable to pay their utility bills. Mpariwa said those who were receiving assistance from the National Social Security Authority (NSSA) were getting very little had to travel long and costly distances to get their dues. They are also often looking after the grandchildren who are AIDS orphans, with no additional assistance.

The MDC-T shadow minister for social security accused the government of making things worse by not making funds available. She said as minister of social welfare she introduced the Older Persons Bill in parliament but up to this date its provisions have not been implemented and the last budget omitted any mention of the elderly people.

She added: ‘The Act says there should be a fund and a board to look into the needs of the elderly people and that there should be decentralization of the management of the fund to allow easy disbursement of benefits. My ministry did its best but up to this date there has not been any allocation from the treasury. Not even a cent.’

According to the Constitution the government has an obligation to look after vulnerable people, including the elderly, but this is not happening with officials from the social services ministry telling parliament this year that there was no money.

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