Too old to vote

HARARE - At 89, President Robert Mugabe easily qualifies to be in Zimbabwe’s old boys’ brigade, whose members should be tucked at home or in an old people’s institution enjoying their sunset.

Yet he is at the thick of things in the country’s political arena and insists on contesting the next elections.

But the same cannot be said of many his age bracket, and even younger ones.

They have been cast to the periphery of the country’s governance issues despite their desire to remain part of the country’s fabric.

Take the example of 72-year-old Rueben Chimedza.

Spending his twilight years at Bumhudzo Old People’s Home in the populous Chitungwiza town, Chimedza can only reminisce how he voted in the first five general elections held since independence from Britain in 1980.

However, more than 40 elderly home mates including himself may fail to vote in the upcoming general election. They are struggling to register as voters.

A “mobile voter registration blitz that ended recently skipped them and they are fast losing hope. Too frail to walk to registration centres, the elderly such as Chimedza continue to be left out in voter registration and other national events.

While the new constitution has been hailed for widening rights, including giving “aliens” the right to vote, the elderly are unlikely to profit if officials continue to marginalise them.

In a classical case of out of sight out of mind, Chimedza says many of his home mates feel abandoned by their own relatives and a government that has not bothered to involve them in national events because of their advanced age.

“Our rights have been taken away because we are now old,” Chimedza told the Daily News during a visit to the old people’s home.

“We feel we still deserve to make our own choices. During the constitutional referendum we just heard people talk about it but we did not vote because we were not even aware of where it was happening.

“Although we have heard about the elections, we are not going to be voting because we are not registered.

We never saw the mobile voter registration teams that you are talking about, notwithstanding the fact that we are allowed by the authorities here to go as far as the shopping centre up there,” said Chimedza, pointing to a nearby shopping mall.

Co-administrator of the home Angeline Kapere said they would welcome the Registrar General of Voters’ officials were they to visit them and register the elderly.

“It is true that some of them can still walk on their own and need to vote.

"We allow them to go out periodically and it will be a welcome idea to have them registered as voters,” she said before alluding to another hurdle.

“The challenge is that almost half of them do not have national IDs while others are of foreign origin,” said Kapere.

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