The curse of growing old

IN one of those common injustices against the aged, an 80-year-old grandmother of Chembe district of Luapula Province has been callously murdered by her grandson, who also cremated her body. The suspected murderer, who happens to be a husband of the victim’s granddaughter, stabbed the old woman to death, and, in rage, went on to incinerate her body.
What was the old woman’s offence? You may be wondering. Well, it’s not about what she did, but rather what she was perceived to be, which she may not have been, that led to the senior citizen losing her life in the most gruesome fashion.
The woman, identified as Annie Matongo, was peacefully sleeping in her hut in the early hours of Friday October 1, 2021 when her grandson in-law boorishly forced his way in, with the aim of killing her. From what police shared, the assailant was incensed by a traumatic experience of his three-year-old daughter, who, out of the blue, woke up in the night and started crying. Information has it that the child was saying that ants, which her parents couldn’t see, were allegedly moving over its body. Typical of the common treatment of senior citizens in our society, apparently due to her age, the old woman came out as the prime suspect who could have sent mysterious ants through the so-called black magic. Hooping mad at about 01:00 hours, the suspected murderer, who is about 30 years old, rushed to the woman’s house, which was in the vicinity, forced his way in, and stabbed her to death with a knife. After that, he dragged her body to his house, breaking her left arm in the process, while on a mission to set the remains of the detested grandmother on fire. The woman’s body was burnt beyond recognition, which to me denotes deep hatred which the man had against his grandmother on mere suspicion that she was a sorceress. And according to police, the whole hut where the old woman’s body was cremated was burnt to ashes. This happened in James Chanda village, Chief Kasomalwela’s village in Chembe district. From what I see, the murder of Ms Matongo was premeditated and it seems that her grandchildren had long been suspecting her of being a witch. Perhaps she was staying alone, because certainly at age 80, one would have lost a number of children, if not all of them. One cannot certainly claim that mysterious ants had been unleashed on the three-year-old by God knows who, because that could have been a mere make-up claim of the couple in question which cannot be substantiated. And sadly, the fate that befell Ms Matongo is common to several senior citizens, who, on pure account of advanced age, are ostracised by society. Many of our parents and grandparents live lonely lives as their own children who ought to help them live comfortable lives shun them because, to some people, old age is synonymous with practising sorcery. While every human being looks forward to enjoying long life and living a comfortable life in old age, surrounded by loving children and grandchildren, and of course a good support system at church and the local community, it’s usually not so for many. Lo and behold, longevity turns out to be a curse to some people, especially when they are seen to be enjoying good health ‘at the expense’ of younger people beset by sicknesses and premature deaths. The level of suspicion against senior citizens who have lost biological children is worse and innuendos are often cast on them for allegedly sacrificing their own children so that they could live long. The question I often ask when people make such harsh statements against the aged is, who in this world would want their children to die and only to live at the mercy of well-wishers? And which parent would derive pleasure in burying their own children against the natural desire for children to outlive parents? None obviously, because as the Bembas say, kolwe wakota asabilwa mubana.
According to this Bemba proverb, it is human nature for any person to want to be looked after by children and grandchildren in old age. And believe you me, this desire does not just hinge on material things, because some of the senior citizens can afford a shelter over their heads and a small bag of mealie meal for themselves. What they need is a shoulder to lean on when they are weak, and a hand to nurse them in times of sickness, and, certainly, a horde of loving grandchildren around to root for them. If you ask me, this is a normal human desire for any parent, and some of the young people of today who are mistreating the aged may get to appreciate this one day if God gives them long life. Unfortunately, the harassment of the aged is engineered by their own kith and kin, contrary to familial ethics which demand that family members protect each other from external threats in society. It is not very strange for other ill-advised people to finger the aged for all sorts of silly accusations, but I bet it is more painful if the accusers are one’s own flesh and blood. In any case, it beats normal logic how every senior citizen could be associated to witchcraft because, obviously, aging cannot make one transfigure into a witch or wizard that they have never been. For me, all these allegations and crimes against the aged border on sheer abhorrence of these people because some younger people want to dodge their God-given obligation to senior citizens. Taking care of the elderly is a noble thing which the younger generation must take pride in because it comes with many blessings. In Christianity, we are taught to put a premium on respecting our parents (grandparents inclusive) because with it comes the promise of blessings and long life. This is according to Exodus 20:12. With that said, I feel we all need to work at putting a stop to the senseless killings and related injustices against the aged on account of unfounded allegations of practising witchcraft. All those who commit crimes against senior citizens must be brought to book to deter would-be offenders. For that reason, I hope that the Chembe man who is on the run after murdering his grandmother will be nabbed and brought before court. The elderly deserve respect in society because they are a tool that God uses to birth generations. therefore, we need to embrace them in our homes and teach our children to love them. For your information, the principle of life is such that, what you sow, you also reap. Phone:0211-221364/227793

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