PRESIDENT of the Chiefs’ Council Senator Fortune Charumbira has implored government to look into the welfare of the elderly, saying they had now become “poor pensioners” while some of them die before even accessing their pensions.
by VENERANDA LANGA
Charumbira raised the issue recently in the Senate while contributing to debate on a motion on the first report of the thematic committee on sustainable development goals on SDG three which envisages promotion of the well-being of people of all ages, healthy living and increasing life expectancy.
“When one becomes older, they become prone to diseases, and the aged should be properly looked after because last weekend a lot of people approached me complaining about their pensions that they are failing to access,” he said.
“Among those not disbursing pensions, the chief culprit is the Local Authorities Pension Fund where the majority of the beneficiaries were pensioned off two years ago but to date they have not received anything.”
He added that some of the affected pensioners were now deceased.
Charumbira said the country’s Constitution stipulates that the elderly are entitled to free health care yet they were not enjoying such benefits.
“We are aware that the (Health) ministry says that the elderly are entitled to free health care. This is compounded by the need for them to pay for drugs since the hospitals do not have these in stock and they rely on giving these poor pensioners prescriptions so that they can go and buy the drugs from pharmacies. This further compounds their problem since they do not have the money,” he said.
The senator said as a traditional leader, he had handled a lot of cases of the elderly who ended up approaching chiefs for assistance to buy drugs.
“We end up buying those drugs for them and paying for their children’s school fees. The chiefs will have become the ministry by default. We urge the relevant Ministry of Health to have a fund that helps the aged as well as the provision of free health care with adequate medication being provided,” he said.
Charumbira said the Ministry of Health should also do away with the requirement that the elderly should pay cash upfront for treatment.
“The urban population is lucky that it can use plastic money. The same cannot be said about the rural elderly because they cannot afford to pay even a dollar to have their maize processed into mealie-meal. They really need the government’s intervention,” he said.