Robin Muchetu, Senior Reporter

THE Department of Social Welfare has come under spotlight for neglecting deserving beneficiaries following the illness and subsequent death of a senior citizen, Mr Armando Dube of Nkulumane 5 in Bulawayo due to lack of proper medical and social care.

The touching story of the passing on of Mr Dube left residents questioning the role of the Department of Social Welfare as the couple were ignored for decades while able bodied people have been benefiting. Mr Dube and his wife Mrs Thuke Dube were never on any form of Government assistance despite their advanced age, economic status and childless marriage.

Although Mr Dube’s age was not given because he did not have a National Identity card it is believed he was above 80.

“We have always been submitting our names and identity numbers, they said they will come and give us food but we have not received anything. We registered our names when we heard that there would be money given to the elderly but nothing came. We usually wake up and just sit with no food and we go back to sleep again, with nothing in our stomachs,” said Mrs Dube.

A resident who is a neighbour to the family was at pains to explain the predicament of the family.

“We have our leaders around us, they must fill pity for the people and correct such issues. We are not insulting anyone at all, we have lived with the Dubes for years, they have no food and are aged. When we heard Mr Dube was ill we came together and bought some food, we are asking the Government to come to the rescue of such people,” said Mr Stanley Nyoni, a neighbour to the family.

Mr Richard Moyo, another neighbour also concurred.

“We have such people in our communities and they are not being looked after by the Social Welfare yet their case is so plain. Khulu did not get help at all. Can this be reviewed somehow. It does not make sense that Khulu got help from very far away when we have offices meant for that. The Department of Social Welfare must have a register of people who are deserving and are visited regularly, we feel so embarrassed that we had to get help from very far away,” said Mr Moyo.

The residents alleged that some residents were benefitting yet their situations were far much better than that of vulnerable people like Gogo Dube and her now late husband.

They suggested the Department of Social Welfare needs to reassess cases by physically visiting the homes of the so-called vulnerable communities and make a correct assessment than to register people without physically checking their vulnerability.

The councillor for Ward 22, Rodney Jele said he was aware of the family’s plight.

“Just before the death of Khulu I got to hear about him, about two days before the story was published. Social Welfare officers from Government are responsible for taking note of these people and also giving them money or grain. We as council give the needy via our structures through the Mayors Christmas Cheer Fund but that is once a year. I have registered Gogo Dube though,” he said.

Clr Jele said he was also puzzled why the Dube family did not get help over the years and why residents were quiet about the matter. After Khulu Dube’s death on Monday last week, community members, churches and business people chipped in with the resources that they had and they said they were also grateful for the assistance they got from the Zivhu Foundation that came in with R5 000 that was used to buy  a coffin and pay for services at the funeral parlour and council. Clr Jele said he was making a follow-up with the Department of Social Welfare to make sure Gogo Dube was registered to receive assistance. Gogo Dube is, however, left with a huge water and rates bill that needs to be settled.

“We have a safety net at council for the elderly where they pay 50 percent of the bill and the rest is scrapped off,” said Clr Jele.

Deputy Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Cde Lovemore Matuke said councillors had a crucial role to play in identifying vulnerable people in their communities.

“That is the job of councillors because their duty is to identify vulnerable people within their catchment area and take the names to the Department of Social Welfare. If need be our officers then reach out to come up with a database for those people. You cannot then have officers being able to know every case.

“At ward level there are people who can get that information, they cannot stick to a stagnant data base year in year out, they need to constantly be on the lookout for more people in need and update their lists. It is then up to the Ministry to look into their budgets to see what they can do for each district,” he said.

He said Clr Jele should have taken it upon himself to identify such people.

“Every ward has local leadership, the councillor of that ward in question in Bulawayo should have alerted welfare officers that we have such a case where people are struggling and if the Department of Social Welfare had ignored then we would have a starting point. If the leadership did not do anything then that’s another case, we respect them enough to feed into issues happening in their areas, same applies to Members of Parliament for that constituency. They are responsible for coordinating and addressing issues that happen in their areas of jurisdiction,” said Cde Matuke.