Horror of the aged

Tue, 17 Jan 2017 07:57:03 +0000

THE sporadic killing of elderly citizens by their close relatives on mere suspicion of practising witchcraft is a matter of great concern which must be addressed by Zambian society with the same vigour and intolerance we give to defilement and gender based violence.

We cannot allow miscreants in our midst to wage a ruthless massacre of their parents and grandparents who sired them and brought them into the world, sometimes at great risk to their health, on the pretext that they were witches or wizards – something that no-one has ever proved in a court of law.

The brutal murder of an 80-year-old woman in Chingola at the weekend who was axed to death and her body set ablaze, allegedly by her own grandson, is beyond reproach. It will requires a homicide psychologist to delve into the mind of a perpetrator of such violence to explain what drives a man to do that.

Hardly a week ago a 60-year-old man of Mufumbwe in North Western Province was shot dead by suspected ‘‘karavinas’’ – gunmen hired, sometimes by relatives or rivals, to kill those suspected of practising witchcraft. The victims are often elderly, prominent members of the community and the killers are jobless youths who can kill for a K100 reward.

In March 2016, a 71-year-old woman of Chief Kanongesha’s chiefdom in Ikelenge district in North Western Province was murdered by a mob of fellow villagers, some of them close relatives, who suspected her to be a witch. By the time police rushed to the scene, they found the village deserted as everyone had run away out of guilty.

As the Human Rights Commission says, this form of crime is a grave violation of the human right to life which has become a growing pattern of violence against innocent people whose only ‘‘offence’’ is that they are aged, frail and often lonely. They are easy prey because they cannot defend themselves and in most cases their biological children are dead and are being looked after by relatives who feel burdened and look for an excuse to get rid of them.

We concur with the commission that this inexcusable violation of the right to life, dignity and security should not only be condemned in the strongest terms but society must take effective measures to protect the weak and punish the culprits.

Unless something drastic is done to halt this crime, Zambia will soon move from being a Christian nation to one ruled by a new generation of Nephilims, cousins of those blood-stained ‘‘men of violence’’ – as the Bible calls them – who filled the world with unspeakable atrocities and God had to cause the Great Flood of Noah to wipe them off from the  face of the earth.

Says the Human Rights Commission: ‘‘Senior citizens should be considered a blessing and a source of pride to families, communities and the nation at large. Measures must be taken to prevent and protect them from any form of discrimination, exploitation, abuse or harm.’’

Indeed ageing is a natural process of physical development and should not be the cause of myths and superstitions, leading to physical exclusion or elimination of older members of society. Old age is in fact a gift from God and in most cases product of a life worthy emulating.

While Zambians seem to be spooked by senior citizens and may want to reduce their numbers, people over the age of 65 make up a quarter of Japan’s population. Between 2010 and 2060 the percentage of Japanese over the age of 75 will more than double from 11 to 27 percent while the population of the young is rapidly declining.

Part of the boom of great grandfathers and mothers is the immaculate health care system, healthy lifestyles and above all the great love and care elderly Japanese receive from their close relatives and government.

While we hunt down our elderly parents over myths and superstitions, the Japanese adore their centenarians.  And yet they don’t claim to be a Christian nation.


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