Elderly Citizens Abandoned, Hard Hit By Poverty

Nationals from other countries make up the majority of the elderly community in Mtuya, the state of their living conditions is dire.

It is 41 years after Zimbabwe obtained its Independence from colonialism, the right of having a safe home and shelter are some of the privileges some Zimbabweans in other areas are enjoying from the independence, but for Mtuya residents it is a different story.

The residents are still living in houses built by poles and mud, a situation not conducive for a semi-urban setup as no electricity connectivity is suitable for the houses. Unstable thatched roof, small metal ablutions are some of the features found in this compound.

Mtuya area is found in the oldest township in Dete, Hwange district. The place is popularly known for accommodating elderly foreign nationals who descended from other countries.

Gogo Banda who is a senior resident of Mtuya sits outside her pole and mud house basking, wrapped in a Malawian sari, she slowly moves her neatly knitted mat to the wall as she tries to lean against the decorated and cracked walls.

She is oblivious of where she will get her next meal. With no one to provide for her, Gogo Banda (78) came to Mtuya as a little girl when her late parents got a job at the Railway station. She has seen all the heydays of Mtuya as she is one of the elderly people living in this area.

The old township was established in the 1960s and has more than 500 houses built initially to accommodate migrant workers who were employed by the National Railways of Zimbabwe and Dete Ceramics.

“The houses built here were for a temporary basis, but they became permanent structures,” says Gogo Banda.

“Those who came after us managed to build better and stronger houses. I once worked for a Tour operating company as a housekeeper, as I got older I left the job, I now stay with my grandchild since all my children left me for greener pastures to South Africa, it’s just me and my 14 year old grandchild now,” says Gogo Banda.

Banda is one of the elderly residents of Mtuya who are finding the going tough due to financial constraints.

“I have financial challenges, my health is deteriorating daily. I am appealing for well-wishers to assist me with food and money for bills,” she says.

Dennis Kawengo (72), an Angolan national says his whole life is now in Zimbabwe as he has found solace in Dete. “I don’t dream of going back to Angola, my home which I have known since childhood is Zimbabwe,” he says.

Although the foreign national claims to be comfortable in Mtuya he expressed his concern over the living conditions saying some of the homes collapsed due to excessive rains that have been pounding the area this year.

“Most of us lost everything in our homes due to heavy rains, the roof collapsed even the walls were shattered. Some of the senior citizens were even forced to move in with their colleagues,” says Kawengo.

“The toilets in our area are in a bad state, they are built using poles and scrap metals and we are always encountering water shortages,” adds Kawengo.

Hwange local ward 15 Councilor Stanley Torima says the state of the Mtuya community shows that it is not known by the responsible authorities and it is high time they know about this community.

“I feel that the government does not know that we have a community of the elderly foreign nationals in Dete. The area has poor drainage thus the reason for flooding in the suburb.”

Torima says the elderly in this community survive on handouts, a situation which is disheartening; he also blames the government for not reaching out to this community.

“I sometimes wonder if really the government does not know about Mtuya. Probably this was not brought forward to the attention of the Zimbabwe government. It’s sad to note that we have 41 years of independence while other members are still living in pole and mud houses in a semi-urban setup,” he says.

“These elderly have been in Dete for long now making them citizens of Zimbabwe, they are ratepayers to the council like any other residential area, but the state of the houses tells us a different story, they pay for the sewer and road service yet they are not even enjoying these services,” says the Councilor.

Source: The Citizen Bulletin

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