Bako reDonhodzo’s sad ‘love’ story . . .

Emmanuel Kafe
Burdened by the struggles of life, Mbuya Angelica Chibuke (69) sits resignedly, crammed in her small compartment.
She has a sad tale to tell.urdened by the struggles of life, Mbuya Angelica Chibuke (69) sits resignedly, crammed in her small compartment.

In her old age, she lived and prayed for a better life from above, as according to her, “We are living by faith, taking each day as it comes”.

She is paralysed.

It was in 2008 when fate visited her, she had a stroke and now she hardly walks.

Pained by her sudden illness, Ms Chibuke was abandoned by her two sons. She found herself a new home, a place where she can spend the day with her peers. In pain and agony, the ailing poor woman said she is struggling with life.

A motley group of male and female elderly people are spotted basking in the sun just adjacent to her compartment at the Society of Old Destitute and Aged (SODA), popularly known as Bako reDonhodzo, in Highfield, as they wait for their sole meal of the day to be served.

SODA occupants include people abandoned by their families or thrown out of their houses after ownership wrangles, others were picked up off the streets, whilst some are of foreign origin, with no known relatives to look after them.

At the other end of the premises, homeworkers are running around conducting their daily duties of ensuring senior citizens are well taken of.

To the caregivers, it is a daunting task as Government has not been forthcoming in unveiling funds to support old persons.

Ms Agnes Kamanga, administrator at Bako reDonhodzo, said a lot of senior citizens are of foreign origin and some had been disowned by their families.

“Some of their children have told us that they have no obligation to look after them because they were not there when they needed a father’s attention,” she said.

The home has been running with the help of volunteers as there is no funding for full-time staff.

She says they are constrained when it comes to food provisions, and money for other bills like water and electricity.

Although the Harare municipality subsidises the city’s old age homes by meeting a percentage of their water and power expenses, the institutions are struggling to foot their bills.

Old people’s homes use a lot of water as home workers do a lot of laundry. Consumption of electricity is also high.

A resident from the surrounding area said water cuts are frequent, exposing the home’s inmates to risks of communicable diseases, while power cuts often force them to spend cold nights in the dark.

Bako reDonhodzo houses 18 inmates — 16 males and two females.

“That demographic is telling, it’s because most men abandon their families, they are in turn abandoned in old age,” explained Ms Kamanga.

The oldest inmate is 94 years old.

She added that looking after the old was no stroll in the park which demands patience, resources and fortitude.

“The most difficult times is when a member dies. Fortunately for us we have an arrangement with Doves Funeral Services who have been helpful as part of their corporate responsibility,” she said.

One of the elders, Jeffrey Gundani (78) said he has been at SODA for the past 15 years and is originally from Mozambique but has been away for far too long now.

“I worked on farms in Centenary but left in 2004 to do odd jobs here until someone told me about this place,” he said.

He added that when they took him on board, he was very grateful.

The story of the inmates mirror that of many elderly citizens around the country.

The situation for older persons, who, by definition, are people over the age of 60, and because of their mental, physical and poor financial status are considered vulnerable, is sad.

Life can be harder for the elderly living outside of such institutions.

Many of them are either living by themselves or are looked after by relatives, and their plight is more disturbing in cases where, because of the HIV and Aids pandemic, they are forced to provide care for children left behind by their parents. Society seem to have deserted them.

Social worker, Mr Munyaradzi Maonde, attributed some of the causes that have led to the deterioration in the life of the senior citizen to family structure.

“Family structures that used to provide care and attention have broken down across all spectrum of society.

“Some had their life savings wiped out in the financial disaster of 2008/9,” he said.

He added that society has an obligation to take care of its elderly because they are past the age of fending for themselves.

According to Help Age Zimbabwe, there are an estimated 800 000 older persons in Zimbabwe, about 7 percent of the total population.

The importance of caring for the elderly cannot be over-emphasised as it is clearly enunciated in the supreme law, the Constitution.

Chapter 1, Section 21(1) states that the State and institutions and agencies of Government at every level must take reasonable measures, including legislative measures, to secure respect, support and protection for elderly persons and to enable them to participate in the life of their communities.

More importantly Section 21 (1b) speaks specifically on the needs of the elderly: “The State and all institutions and agencies of Government at every level must endeavour within the limits of resources available to them to provide facilities, food and social care for elderly persons who are in need.”


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