JOHN Mutikizizi, a Reverend with the Evangelical Ministry of Christ Church (EMCC) founded the John Mutikizizi Old People’s Home in 1982 after he was moved by the plight of the homeless, destitute old people.
Report by Yvonne Nenguwo Own Correspondent
Since then, the 70-year-old has dedicated his life to housing and caring for the nation’s elderly citizens. He was concerned by the number of destitute indigenous Zimbabweans found on the streets in the country.
The Old People’s Home is a registered voluntary organisation which accommodates elderly destitute people of all ages, race, religion and sex. It is situated in the Bikita district of Masvingo province.
With a capacity to house 32 inmates, the home has separate accommodation for males and for females.
Half of the residents are from Zambia and Malawi who came as migrant workers in Zimbabwe but found themselves destitute when they were displaced from their employers — former white commercial farmers at the height of the controversial land reform programme that began in 2000.
The support and care given by the old people home is two-fold; it goes to those accommodated at the home as well as others who are assisted while at their homes. The project has an HIV and Aids programme for orphans and vulnerable children.
The home does not only provide shelter. Its assistance extends to food, clothing medication to inmates as well as medication and school fees to orphans who are not accommodated at the home.
John Mutikizizi grew up in Bikita where his family belonged to the Zionist Christian Movement. However, in the late 1970s, he broke away to start his own church and since then his ministry has continued to flourish.
In 1982 he came up with the idea of an old people’s home, which is run entirely by his Evangelical Ministry of Christ Church.
He is married and they had eight children – two of them are deceased – and several grandchildren.
When he began there just five people but the number continues to grow. Currently, there are eight old people, who are being cared for at the home.
Some of the projects that made the home self-reliant have been grounded, among them the grinding mill, which is not operating owing to a Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (Zesa) fault; the small-scale irrigation project which is not running because the diesel-powered water pump broke down; a defunct poultry project owing to lack of funds.
The home is a welfare organisation registered with the government through the Department of Social Welfare (w.o.12 86).
The institution currently has eight old people, but so far it has catered for more than 150 who have passed through the home.
Gogo Banda became homeless in 2002 when the commercial farmer he used to work for lost his property and left in a huff.
“We were also evicted a few months later. I am from Zambia and I do not remember when I was born.
“I had few relatives in Masvingo town but they do not check on me ever since I came here in 2003,” said Gogo Banda
Jeremiah Mugo (72) is Zimbabwean. He was once married but the marriage did not result in children.
His wife died in 2005 and his relatives then abandoned him. Since then he has relied on the shelter that the home provides.
“I heard of the place through a good Samaritan who saw me in the streets at Bikita Growth Point and then informed the Reverend about my plight as I was a beggar. He saw that I was right upstairs.”
More than 150 elderly destitute people have been housed at the home at one point or another since inception.
Some of the old people died but some were reunited with their relatives.
Apart from the elderly, the home looks after 50 orphans and vulnerable children in the vicinity of the home. This is done through the HIV and Aids home-based care programme.
The home is self-funded and does not enjoy any outside funding probably as a result of donor fatigue. Well wishers from the surrounding communities assist with donations of foodstuffs from time to time.
The poultry project, irrigation and grinding mill projects used to generate income, but because they are all down, the institution faces an uphill struggle.
The institution also suffers from political interference.
Droughts also worsen the food plight of the inmates. Water remains a challenge since their borehole and water pump broke down.
Rev Mutikizizi said the community was sceptical during the first days. They argued that the home was attracting bad spirits (Ngozi) because some of the old people were foreigners.
The home has the potential because it has so far turned the lives of the elderly destitute for the better.