A curse to be old in Zimbabwe today

via A curse to be old in Zim today | The Zimbabwean 02.04.14 by Sofia Mapuranga

Rudo Tenenga believes that it is a curse to be old in Zimbabwe. She envies the way elderly people are treated in developed countries.

“Their social, economic and health needs are well catered for by the government of the day, In Zimbabwe, the government is failing to protect and provide for its elderly citizens,” said Tenenga, , founder of Chitungwiza Old People’s Association of Zimbabwe.

She told The Zimbabwean that although growing old meant earning the respect of the young, old people in Zimbabwe were treated like society’s outcasts and young people took advantage of their vulnerability.

Unity of purpose

“The majority of old people die like paupers and this is what motivated me to form this organisation,” she said. The Zimbabwe Statistical Agency reported that the elderly constitute seven percent of Zimbabwe’s total population.

Tenenga, 62, said her organisation, with a membership of over 3,000 was started in 2011. Membership, drawn from the Chitungwiza’s 25 wards, is open to anyone over 60. “We want to promote the protection of old people’s human rights in society and the country. Old age results in a lot of injustices in society. Close family members perpetrate these injustices. Old people end up destitute because they are too old to seek justice,” said Tenenga. A committee in each ward is responsible for taking care of the elderly who do not have relatives or friends to turn to. “We identified at least four people in every ward who are prepared to visit those who cannot walk and give them the support that they need,” she said.


Tenenga said because of elections, 2013 was a challenging year for the organisation’s activities. “Despite the clarity that we are a non-political organisation, we were shocked when we received a letter of suspension from the district administrator on February 21, 2013” she said.

Nothing to hide

The organisation’s suspension was only lifted on September 23, 2013, in a letter written by Z Chisango, which advised the organisation that their suspension had been lifted. But it cautioned them to ‘desist from any political activity because this had the potential to jeopardise their operations.’

Read the letter: “We also request that you furnish this office with written monthly reports every month end before the 25 of each month.”

Tenenga said because her organisation had the elderly at heart, it was complying. “We have nothing to hide because we are saying this association is for anyone who is old – regardless of their political affiliation,” she said.

She had no kind words for politicians who took advantage of the elderly. “They are good at taking what is meant for the elderly and they have no mercy that these people are sleeping on empty stomachs.”

Tenenga said she would continue working for the elderly until justice prevailed. “Currently, we have established a trust fund to assist the elderly who are most affected by poverty,” she said.

Free graves

Chitungwiza Town Council has chipped in and assured them that any member of the association who dies and wanted to be buried in the town’s graveyard could do so for free.

“This is a positive development because some of our members could not afford to buy the graves. This initiative compliments the partnership that we have made with Old Mutual, which has also agreed to provide funeral cover for our members upon three months subscriptions of $1. We want to thank Old Mutual so much for extending their love to the poor,” she said. Plans are underway to extend the organisation to the areas. “We are catering for old people in Chitungwiza only because we identified this area as our starting point. As soon as we have the capacity, we will move to the rural areas starting with Seke communal lands because we are aware that there are more old people in the rural areas,” she said.

Sad reality

She said her organisation did not have any money but worked with any available resources, no matter how meagre.

“Some of the food that I give to the old people in this community comes from my children. I cannot imagine someone spending more than one week without eating anything,” she said.

She said poverty and failure to put food on their tables was the sad reality for many old people in Chitungwiza, some of whom had come to Zimbabwe from neighbouring countries such as Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia.

“They have no- one and they have no home to go back to. They are a part of us and they deserve our love. Some of them cannot walk and some of them are too sick to even speak. They need a voice,” said Tenenga. Tenenga urged society to embrace and assist the elderly as a way of ploughing back into the community.

“Old people are not useless. They are the ones who raised you and now is the time to show them some love and appreciate what they did. All they need is that care and love. It is not always about the money,” she said.

Government provides retirement pensions for elderly citizens ranging from $20 to $60 monthly. This is woefully inadequate and there are times when the funds are not disbursed on time. The elderly spend a lot of money and time at various banks trying to access their pensions.



  • comment-avatar
    Panda moyo 9 years ago

    Its very sad.some senior citizens this month found their pensions cut in half .there is no explanation as the pension office is a law unto itself.these people contributed towards pension but they dont even get a written note to advise them on how much they should get,why n how so those who contributed the same amount for the same number of years get different amounts.lo n be hold if yo bank collapses n u change to another.u may lose yo pension for awhole year even after numrerous trips to harare n just forget about reimbursement on the loss ,pensions office does not write to anyone,,no paper work ,no payslip,evrything is done by word of mouth,the pensioners stand in long queues n get shouted at.phaps only soldies n the police get their things done kindly n efficiently.the rest,what can u do to me?

  • comment-avatar
    Tongoona 9 years ago

    In actual fact, it is not a curse but a blessing to live to see one’s old age. Today’s old people were workers during their prime productive years. The Zimbabwe we see today was built by the same old people being looked down upon by the the youth supposed to be their children. Zimbabwe was born in 1980 after the old people of today had worked so hard to keep it going, afloat and in the enviable condition ZANU PF found it. All ZANU PF did was to destroy what was in 1980, a very vibrant and prosperous economy built and maintained by the same senior citizens. They provided labour in the farms, mines, government departments like municipalities, rural councils, business and government offices. Yes, they live in good rememberance and memories of the good they did for the nation of Zimbabwe now treating them like they lived on charity the rest of their lives. They (senior citizens) did not volunteer to be in the present predicament, but that it is destiny that put them there.
    In 2007, the RBZ governor Gideon Gono with the support of his party (ZANU PF and government) invaded all bank accounts without exception including pensions for the senior citizens to finance ZANU PF which then was stone broke. As though that was not enough trouble for the seniour citizens, the change over from Zim-dollar to multi-currency put the last nail to the dire impecuniary position senior citizens find themselves in today. I bet you ZANU PF is in government today because seniour citizens voted for then thinking that government will in turn look after them. The New Constitution provides for the well being of senior citizens but because of government’s careless attitude towards senior citizens the law has not been put into practice seven months after elections. Senior citizens still pay utility bills exempted from them through the new constitution, they are still charged tax when they should not, they still pay for medical treatment because government is not enforcing the law. I know the President is now an advanced senior citizen but he is not suffering like other senior citizens. I know of many government officials now advanced senior citizens but kept in jobs to comfort them. Senior citizens are senior citizens without exception. ZANU PF look ahead to 2018 when age will not matter but the vote. Senior citizens being 7% of the population means nearly a million votes that ZANU PF is neglecting. Tenenga many people want to join your organisation. What is your Email address?

  • comment-avatar
    Saddened 9 years ago

    I would like to applaud Rudo Tenenga for taking the initiative to start an organisation to assist the elderly in Chitungwiza. I would like to offer a small bit of advice to her & that is please keep good records especially of finance received. I say this because there are many people both internally & externally who would want to assist you financially provided there is accountability. Good luck!