Zimbabwe Government violating constitution
IN a rare admission, government has openly come clean on its disregard of the Constitution as far as fulfilling its mandate to look after the country’s disadvantaged citizens, particularly the elderly, orphans and people living with disabilities.
Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, Prisca Mupfumira told Parliament, during the National Assembly’s question and answer session that government was well aware that it was falling foul, a fortnight ago, of the national charter and the laws by not availing per capita grants to special needs groups, blaming a deteriorating economy for the failure.
Mupfumira was responding to questions from backbench legislators who wanted to know why government had turned its back on defenceless citizens.
Under the Older Persons Act, government is mandated to give grants to the country’s 166 registered old people’s homes, but has not paid a dime in the past four years.
The per capita grant is pegged at a paltry US$15 per month for each elderly person. The supreme law of the land also obligates the State to take care of the elderly, children and the handicapped.
Section 75 of the Bill of Rights states that all children have the right to State-funded education, while section 82 says all persons over the age of 70 are entitled to receive from the State reasonable financial assistance under social security and welfare programmes as well as healthcare and medical assistance.
Section 83 mandates the government to provide state funded education and training for the disabled.
Currently, none of these services are being given.
As a result, children from poor communities have failed to go to school, with latest figures from the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education indicating that over 13 000 pupils dropped from school in 2013 alone mainly due to nonpayment of school fees, while the elderly people in old people’s homes have been condemned to much suffering as much as those living with disabilities.
The situation is further exacerbated by the fact that humanitarian organisations that intervene are struggling to get funding from donors due to the global recession.
In the face of such cases, Proportional Representation MP, Muzondiwa Emma Shanziwe, asked Mupfumira what government was doing to save the situation.
In response, Mupfumira said: “We have a department of Social Welfare which is responsible for ensuring that the vulnerable are looked after. These include the elderly, orphans and people living with disabilities. Due to financial constraints, government is unable to disburse public assistance as they would normally do but we have provincial and
district social welfare officers who have the responsibility of identifying the needy in various constituencies. We assist with food and finances when available, clothing and other things including assistance with hospital fees, also subject to availability. We are all aware that government is not able to do what it would really want to do, but we care about them and our people interface with them.”
Her response drew a follow up question from Mkoba legislator, Amos Chibaya, who wanted to know if Mupfumira was aware that by so doing the government was actually violating the Constitution.
“I am aware and I have said it in two previous questions that my ministry does its best under the circumstances to look after the needs of the vulnerable,” Mupfumira answered.