Vulnerable Aged Persons Haunted by Abuse in Zimbabwe
Tinago Murape, 86, claims that his grandchildren are starving at his Mabvuku home in Harare, Zimbabwean capital.
Not only that, but Murape, who now walks with the support of a walking stick, said his three grandchildren – grown-up men with their wives and children living in his house, accuse him of bewitching them.
Murape’s wife, Sekai, born in 1941, died two years ago after she contracted COVID-19.
Murape, a father of two sons and a girl, said that all his three children, including two sons and a child, were killed by AIDS decades earlier.
His grandchildren, who are now jobless and live in Harare as part-time domestic workers, strongly believe that their grandfather cast spells upon them. This led to them not being able to get formal jobs, despite their education.
Now the grandsons, and their wives, have reportedly slapped Murape with sanctions – denying him food as a way of punishing him for causing their economic misery, according to him.
The accusations have been repelled by the grandchildren.
“That’s not true. It’s old age pushing him to think like that,” one of the grandchildren told IPS.
Murape claims that he has been abused for many years. He claims that his neighbours and well-wishers have fed and clothed Murape.
The grandsons, Richard, Benito, 29, and Tamai Murape, 32, are all 27-years-old. They have never been formally employed since they finished their technical courses at Harare Polytechnic College.
According to the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (90% of Zimbabweans are currently unemployed).
Murape’s grandsons are part of the country’s unemployed, although they blame witchcraft, which they pin on their aged grandfather, for their joblessness.
Director for HelpAge Zimbabwe, Priscilla Gavi, said: “Older people are wrongly accused of practising witchcraft, which sees them blamed for deaths, drought, floods, disease and other calamities.”
Gavi said that sometimes older people are attacked by community members and beat them with beatings that can be fatal, leave them with disabilities, or burn their homes.
Murape said that he has learned to accept the abuse.
“Sometimes they shut me out of my own house on top of denying me food, knowing I have no source of income and well-wishers have become my saviours every day,” Murape told IPS.
In fact, with many aged Zimbabwean citizens like Murape putting up with abuse, the abuse of the country’s senior citizens has turned into a growing trend.
In Zimbabwe, police claimed that they have handled 900 cases related to the abuse and neglect of elderly people in 2021 alone.
Many elderly people in Zimbabwe, such as Murape, claim to have been victims of emotional and physical abuse. Some even claim to have been sexually abused.
Many elderly rape victims exist, like Agness Murambiwa (76), from Harare. She claimed that her 22 year-old grandson raped it before he fled to South Africa earlier this month.
Gavi stated that sexual abuse of elderly people is not an exception.
“Cases of rape of older women by much younger men are increasing in parts of Zimbabwe. In some instances, these arise from the mistaken notion that having sex with an older woman can cure one of terminal illnesses,” Gavi told IPS.
But the wounds remain for Zimbabwe’s aged rape victims like Murambiwa.
“Earlier this year, Themba, my grandson, attacked me while I slept in my bedroom, threatened to kill me if I made any noise before he raped me. It pains me that my own blood did this to me,” Murambiwa told IPS.
Murambiwa is taken care of by her two daughters, both of whom divorced their husbands and one of whom is Themba’s mother.
The daughters are also stressed by caring for their mother, who is now 92 years old.
“It’s not easy looking after an aged parent. We have limited resources and she complains that we don’t do enough. Yet, none of us are employed. We are vendors living from hand to mouth,” 52-year-old Letiwe, one of Murambiwa’s daughters, told IPS.
Many elderly Zimbabweans, such as Murape or Murambiwa, said they couldn’t fight their abusers because of their desperate need for care.
Zimbabwe doesn’t have the resources to support its elderly citizens.
This means that elderly people like Murape or Murambiwa are left on their own, as they suffer the brunt of abuse in their final years of life.
Yet the Constitution of Zimbabwe protects the elderly, defined in Section 82 of the Constitution as people over 70.
Many of Zimbabwe’s aged citizens have no money after the 2008 hyperinflation eroded their savings.
This time, a new round of inflation has not helped the country’s growing number of abused aged persons who depend on their relatives.
Inflation in Zimbabwe is currently at 257 percent. Food prices are on the rise, which could mean that the lives of elderly people like Murape could get worse.
Other than inflation, for aged men – widowers that have remarried, according to HelpAge’s Gavi, abuse could be even worse.
“Some older men have also faced abuse from their younger wives who mistreat their spouses wantonly, leading to some of these men finding themselves on the streets,” said Gavi.
IPS UN Bureau Report
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