Sona’s silence on elderly worries rights activists
The absence of a word on the elderly in President Lazarus Chakwera’s State of the Nation Address in Parliament on Friday is cause for concern for civil society organisations that fight for the rights of the elderly in the country.
They organisations say the address fell short of giving the Tonse administration’s policy direction on the elderly amid rising cases of abuse.
Malawi Network of Older Persons (Manepo) Executive Director, Andrew Kavala, said it is disheartening that the Sona was silent on the plight of older persons.
Kavala further accused the government of failing to walk the talk in providing pensions for the elderly.
“I am failing to understand what the Tonse Alliance-led administration meant in the ‘Malawi okomera tonse’ slogan. Perhaps they need to change this slogan for something which reflects their philosophy and ideology of doing things.
“This is totally unacceptable and uncalled for. Where are Oder persons in the entire Sona? Does this mean the President and his government do not see what is happening to older persons in the country? The government ratified the AU protocol on the rights of older persons. Was this mere political rhetoric. We will soon meet and map the way forward,” he said.
Micheal Kaiyatsa of Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) concurred with Kavala saying the President has missed an opportunity to send a message to perpetrators of violence against the elderly.
“It is a missed opportunity for the President. He should have made a strong statement to the nation on abuses against the elderly. It is sad that the President did not mention anything looking at the number of elderly people that have lost their lives because of witchcraft accusations,” he said.
But Minister of Information Moses Kumkuyu said the Sona may not have tackled the matter directly but that does not mean the issue is not at the President’s heart.
“The Sona may not have tackled every tiny detail but that does not mean those issues are not on his desk. If you recall recently he condemned such acts against the elderly at the Gonapamhanya ceremony. That shows that he takes those issues seriously,” he said.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), over the next three decades, the number of older persons worldwide is projected to more than double, reaching more than 1.5 billion persons in 2050.
In Malawi older persons continue to face harassment and killings due to among other factors witchcraft allegations.
This is despite the fact that the Witchcraft Act of 1911 does not recognize its existence.
According to statistics from Manepo just this year, 5 older persons have been killed since January.