Mazowe Old People’s Home is located about 260 kilometres away from the capital of Zimbabwe, Harare where more than 30 kilometres is dusty road which is so old and bumpy, closely reandering the Home inaccessible.
Rushinga District where the old people’s home is located falls under region 5 in the country and is charactrised by low rainfall, high temperatures coupled with harsh climatic conditions and low crop yields.
Mazowe Bridge Old People’s Home is at the boarder which separates Rushinga from Murehwa District.
Formerly, the Home was a refugee camp and when the refugee camp was dissolved some of the buildings were allocated to Ministry of Health and Child Care which houses Mazowe Bridge Clinic.
Mazowe Bridge Vocational Training Centre also got some infrastructure from the former refugee camp.
The Ministry of Home Affairs and Culture’s Zimbabwe Republic Police were allocated some buildings and the rest were left for the Old People’s Home.
The home housed 9 old people with a complement of 5 staff members and the adminstration was done by Help Age Zimbabwe by the time of visit.
Unfortunately one old person died before this story was published.
The writer will hasten to say that the ownership of the home is shrouded in secrecy, if the position of the Help Age Zimbabwe’s Programmes Manager, Emmanuel Dzenga is anything to go by.
Having researched about the institution prior on embarking on the arduous journey to Mazowe Old People’s Home, the writer was puzzled when he was blocked to interview the old people at the home as an administrator, Ishmael Chipuriro was commanded not to allow the writer interfering with business after he had contacted Harare Headquarters.
“Unfortunately I can not allow you to proceed as I have been told to request a government clearence which yiu can obtain at Rushinga”, Chipuriro said.
It is suffice to say that, Rushinga is approximately 50 kilometres away from Mazowe Bridge and about 30 kilometres is hardly accessible by the bumpy road.
The writer however, managed to do some investigations from the community and the old people without the knowledge of the Help Age Zimbabwe personnel at Mazowe Bridge.
The findings will be articulated later in this script.
Wilson Jara, the Rushinga District Social Welfare Officer (DSWO), was the person the writer was referred to see so as to get clearance to visit and interview at the homage.
“The old people’s institution belongs to a Non-Governmental Organisation by the name Help Age Zimbabwe, we as a Ministry just supervise if they are running the institution through laid down parametres and we do not clear journalist to interview people on any NGO business”, said Jara when he was asked for a clearence.
Journalists are mandated to gather and disseminate information for the public good.
When people seem to block the constitutional obligations of the fourth estate especially coming from civil society organisations, it raises more eyebrows than answers.
NGO’s are known to work for charity and not for profit, most of the resources used to charter for a cause are donated.
Jara went on to say that, “I initiated a memorandum to have Mazowe Old People’s Home taken into Government custody since the conditions did not meet the recommended standard of an Old People’s Home”.
The home was not taken as Help Age Zimbabwe promised to look into the issues raised and correct them of which they are yet to meet their promise, said Jara.
The old people who were interviewed but denied to be named for fear of victimisation said they were given one meal a day in the morning and they have to look for other meals in the village.
Peter Kasanzu who have a business at Mazowe Business Centre said, “The old people in the camp exchange clothes that are given to them by the institution for food as the always complain that the food given to them was not enough”.
Most of the old people at the home are foreigners and do not have relatives who can assist with food provisions, Kasanzu said.
This was so unfortunate as the DSWO was complaining about how the staff was not preserving food stuff so that it lasts longer and remain consumeable.
DSWO Jara said that, “I had been to the old people’s home yesterday (that time) and I was reprimanding the staff there for leaving the maize which the Ministry donated being eaten by insects instead of treating the maize for longer shelf life”.
The occupants at the home are suffering from hunger which might be necessitated by failure to manage food provisions by the NGO.
Upon returning to the Harare, the writer managed to visit the spacious offices of Help Age Zimbabwe equipped with luxurious infrustracture and up-to-date technology.
A favourable smell of meal being prepared could not be avoided and kept the writer acompany as he comfortably set on a couch waiting for Dzenga the Programmes Manager who was occupied.
The writer could not remember picking an smell whether good or unfavourable as an unsmellable meal was being prepared at Mazowe Old People’s Home.
An interview could not be done when Dzenga aveild himself as he insisted on having the writer cleared.
These are some of the challenges that journalists face in their everyday work life.
The Zimbabwe Media Commission is responsible for accreditation of journalists so that they identify themselves using media cards during duties but several times journalists are blocked from gathering information.
Let the writer leave the issue of hinderance from getting information for another story as this will derail the story of the Old People.
Dzenga finally managed to get in touch with Bindura Province’s Office of the President and Cabinet who purportedly approved the interview.
However, it is of significance to note that the person on the other end of the conversation was perplexed by Dzenga’s request basing on the answers given by him.
“I thought he can write something which is not good”, said Dzenga who was in the corridor before hanging his phone.
Subtle threats were given before the Interview could begin.
“You have been cleared, they said that they will take over if you write something which might not be good”, Dzenga said.
All this was done by Help Age Zimbabwe an NGO supposedly doing charity work to the country but going all heights to throttle information gathering for the public good.
Dzenga insisted that Mazowe Old People’s Home was owned by the Government of Zimbabwe.
When pressed to explain how the Government was involved in the ownership he said that, “The buildings belongs to the government since the were formerly refugees property.
Even though we also built some other buildings, we surrendered them to the Government”.
Help Age Zimbabwe are responsible for administration of the institution, that is they are in total control of the upkeep of the old people and the staff and also meet the everyday operations of the institution.
The Government of Zimbabwe only plays a supervisory role as to registration the NGOs, checking the standards of old people’s homes as well as assisting with resources to old people under the care of NGOs.
Dzenga promised to have the homage fenced as a requirement for all old people’s homes in the country.
“The old people are given three meals a day and all dietary considerations are met”, said Dzenga.
However, Dzenga later on said that there was no stand alone funding for Mazowe Old People’s Home and they were squeezing the budget from othe projects.
During this year’s Harare Agriculture Show, Help Age Zimbabwe exhibited in an effort to seek funding and support from various stake holders.
“Delta Beverages seems to be interested in supporting Mazowe Old People’s Home with a piggery project being in mind”, Dzenga said.
If the project comes to fruition, it will have a major bearing to the people’s home which is struggling to be self sustainable.
Dzenga said that “There is a garden project at Mazowe which provides the relish in the kitchen and the surplass is sold”.
This is positive as the homage is also responsible for providing the food of the old people.