My attention has been drawn to the continued suffering of elderly people in the country.
Reports indicate that most of our senior citizens, especially the majority living in rural areas, are living in abject and absolute poverty.
They sleep in shacks that leak, often on empty stomachs while covering their hard and time-honoured bodies in rags.
To survive, most turn to begging and, of course, complete reliance on handouts from the younger generation if not strangers.
Their painful situation is exacerbated by the fact that existing traditional systems of care and support for the elderly in Malawi are increasingly breaking down as the extended family system is collapsing.
They are on their own; rejected, abandoned and accused of witchcraft. If they are not killed, they die like stray dogs, wrapped in mats and buried in unmarked graves.
Is this the kind of treatment we should continue to accord our senior citizens?
I am saying no.
President Lazarus Chakwera and Vice-President Saulos Chilima won on a ticket of ensuring that we create a better Malawian that benefits all.
They prefer calling it ‘Malawi wokomera tonse’.
We are certain that even the elderly are part of this new Malawi.
However, the situation on the ground is troubling for our elderly.
That is why I support submissions by Malawi Network for the Elderly People (Manepo) who propose an urgent need for the Chakwera administration to implement a universal pension for all elderly people in Malawi.
A universal pension is just an example of social protection schemes aimed at protecting the most vulnerable in our society, especially those who are either too old to work or sickly and frail.
In Malawi, some of the poorest of the poor have been beneficiaries of social protection schemes, including social cash transfers and farm input subsidies.
However, these schemes are generic. As such, not much trickles to the elderly.
In 2016, a government study showed that three-quarters of the elderly do not benefit from these schemes.
That is why a special scheme, entirely targeting the elderly is a matter of urgency if, as a nation, we care to protect our senior citizens to live their life in dignity.
You see, there are only about one million old people in Malawi.
However, only five percent are on pension and studies show that they live a better life.
This means that if government can implement a universal, non-contributory pension scheme, the lives of our senior citizens will begin to improve.
The good thing is that government has already done studies on this and the conclusion has been that social pensions represent an important component of an institutional foundation for old-age social protection.
The Tonse Alliance government just needs to take it up from there.
There is a good reason not just for the elderly, but for the entire society as regards why we should have a universal pension scheme for the elderly.
A universal pension would also create multipliers within the households and the wider community. There is empirical evidence of how pensions can reduce child poverty and rates of child labour —and boost school enrolment.
The extra cash being pumped into rural communities would also catalyse efforts towards agricultural development.
Further, a scheme of this nature would provide a long-term tool to systematically share the proceeds of growth among society as a whole, and thus contain levels of inequality.
This is why I feel time has come for Chakwera to live to his ideal of an inclusive government that takes care of all, including the elderly.
Malawi needs a universal pension scheme for our senior citizens.