Shirking Zimbabwean economy hits old population hard

By Jeffrey Moyo

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AA) – With recession contracting the economy of the landlocked southern African country of Zimbabwe further, households particularly the elderly population are feeling the heat.

Confined at their home in the low-income suburb of Mufakose in the Zimbabwean capital Harare, an elderly couple, Dambudzo Choruviri, 93, and his wife Sekai, 91, have fallen deep into poverty.

Chroruviri’s nine young sons died of AIDS, leaving behind a troop of orphaned children.

A former prison officer during British rule till Zimbabwe got its independence in 1980, is running from pillar to post to earn a livelihood to feed his large family.

After independence, Choruviri never worked in any formal sector. He worked as a contractual employee at various private security companies until his retirement almost three decades ago. The couple had nine children to shoulder their burden in the old age, whom they had raised in the Zimbabwean capital.

Unfortunately, over the years, all their sons died one by one after contracting AIDS, leaving behind a group of orphaned children.

Talking to Anadolu Agency, Choruviri said he did not get pension benefits, although he had contributed over the years when he was working for numerous security companies. He even did not get a penny after quitting the Rhodesian police service.

Their only asset is the two-bedroomed home that they had acquired during their happier days in the 1970s. In absence of renovation, the house has dilapidated. The potholed floor, old broken kitchen cupboard, torn sofas, an old radio stereo tells the wretched story of its inhabitants.

But, even then, Choruviri is nostalgic about his past years of employment.

-No pension benefits for elderly

“Life for me and my wife was really good, especially during the years I worked for various security companies. Sadly, I have obtained nothing in terms of pension benefits from them,” Choruviri told Anadolu Agency.

“Our children worked in South Africa for decades. They used to tell us about how aged persons there are getting social grants from the government. The government here does not take care of the elderly population,” Choruviri said.

-80% elderly population in abject poverty

South Africa is one of the few countries in the southern African region to disburse old-age pensions, the maximum amount is 1780 South African rand ($102), which is increased to 1800 ($105) after 75 years.

In Zimbabwe, the elderly population accounts for 6% of the country’s estimated population of 16 million, according to Help Age Zimbabwe, a leading organization catering for the needs of senior citizens.

As such, in numbers, it makes 760,000 elderly persons, with 80% of them living in abject poverty, according to statistics from the Zimbabwe Statistics Agency (ZIMSTAT).

Most senior citizens are not counted as they are living in the remote parts of the country, according to a development expert Bothwell Sundire based in Masvingo, Zimbabwe’s oldest town.

“You should realize that many of our elderly persons who bear the brunt of poverty are living in the rural areas where they hardly receive any aid,” Sundire told Anadolu Agency.

“Abuse of the elderly in Zimbabwe is rife. The neglect by the government for years has deepened poverty levels in this country,” Jonathan Mandaza, chairperson of the Zimbabwe Older Persons Organization, told Anadolu Agency.

Even though the elderly population on paper has a legal cover since 2012, it has been hardly been implemented for want of funds. In 2012, Zimbabwe approved the Older Persons Act, which called for granting allowance and other social welfare benefits to the country’s aging population. But as the country’s poverty levels surge at alarming levels, its operation remains a mirage.