“Discrimination of persons in any form is prohibited and all persons, are under law, guaranteed and effective protection against discrimination on grounds of race, colour, sex, language, political or other opinion, nationality, ethnic or social origin, disability, property, birth or other status”. Malawi Constitution, S.20
In Malawi it is criminal to get old. So says Professor Dr Joyce Befu, MEGA-1 and her righthand man, Alhajj Jean-Philippe LePoisson, SC. And the older one becomes the more criminal one becomes. So say we.
Although the Malawi Constitution bans discrimination in any form, no operationalization policy honours that. Day after day, we hear people calling Malawians of Asian descent as Indians, Chinese any worse, half castes or coloureds yet everybody knows that a person belongs to a country and space in which one is born. If we seriously wanted everybody to be described by his or her ethnic or place of descent, Malawi would have no citizens, except may be the Akafula.
The Chewa would be Congolese because some of their prominent tribal historians claim that is where the Chewa came from. The Tonga would be Mesopotamians because some tribal historians claim that is where the Tonga hailed from. The Lhomwe and Yao would be Mozambicans as some historians hold that that is where the two tribes trekked from.
The Tumbuka would be Tanzanians because their migration story links the tribe to Tanzania. The Ngoni would be South Africans because, they always remind us, that was where they ran away from during the great Mfecane. Nobody would be called Malawian.
The Malawi Constitution bans discrimination based on age. But in Malawi, we repeat, ageing is a crime. If you think we are joking seriously as usual, hold your breath and listen carefully.
At a health centre in Ntcheu, two elderly women were sent back without getting medication. They had gone to the health centre to seek help for their ailments. They were told by health officers there that they were wasting medicines meant for the young, the workforce, the people that were beneficial to the development and economy of Malawi. If you don’t believe this, ask, in a friendly manner, any ill old man or woman in any village what he or she does not want to seek medical help from a local health centre.
At a rural hospital in Nkhata Bay, a man who had been stretchered from his home nearly 30 kilometres away died without being attended to because the rural hospital did not have enough drugs to waste on old dying people. A health worker told the pallbearers to carry the patient back home because the few drugs left in the hospital were reserved for children and the youth, the future of the country. As his relatives were trying to lift the stretcher, the man died.
Go to Mizimu, MudiHealth, Horizontal Health, Liberated Health, and any other reputed health insurance provider in Malawi. You will be told that if you are aged above 55 years, you are not entitled to health insurance. Why? Only those who can contribute to the development of Malawi deserve health insurance. Those above 55 years of age are past their ‘use by date’; they are supposed to be dead in five years’ time.
Even in teaching, which mostly involves talking, and therefore very little physical effort, people aged 60 and above are considered deadwood.
Interestingly, the same deadwood dominates Malawian politics where it makes laws and decisions for running Malawi. Implicitly, political deadwood is healthier, younger, than academic deadwood.
Interestingly, in Europe, Asia, and Latin America aged academics are treasured. In one Australian university, at one point the oldest faculty member was aged 102 years and still very active and productive, having published six or more papers after his 100th birthday.
Interestingly, Judicial Service Commission allows magistrates to work until they are 70 while justices of the high court and Supreme Court may work until they are 65. All occupants of political and judicial positions are entitled to health insurance even after 60 years of age. At Parliament, a speaker of Parliament may retire on a full salary and other benefits for serving for just five years. Same country, same constitution but different retirement ages.
At MEDF or NEEF, a man must be less than 60 years old to access an employer guaranteed loan but a woman can get a loan until she is 65 years of age. To go to secondary school or public university, a boy must score better at MSCE than a girl. Same country, same constitution but different opportunities depending on one’s gender or sex.
When did you last read George Orwell?
“All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others”, Animal Farm.p.81