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The residents of the Ruth Mompati District Municipality welcomed the amendments of the Older Persons Amendment Bill during public hearings that were conducted on the Bill by the Portfolio Committee on Social Development in Taung yesterday where participants took turns to make their contributions on the Bill.
The Bill seeks, among other things, to strengthen the protection and prevention of abuse of older persons; eliminate harmful traditional practices including witchcraft accusations against older persons; and recognise the responsibilities of older persons in passing on inter-generational knowledge and wisdom. It also agitates for the provision that advocates for the removal of older persons to temporary safe care without a court order.
The most common concern that was highlighted by the elderly people in Taung was the financial abuse they suffered at the hands of their family members, particularly grandchildren. Their grandchildren steal their grant money to buy alcohol, leaving them with no money to buy food and care for themselves. As a result, some of them have no beds to sleep on and are subjected to unhygienic conditions and squalor because they don’t have access to their pensions, the committee heard. The people want this to be considered as a statutory abuse that should be punishable by law.
The increase in incidents of burglary on older persons' facilities in the district also came to the fore. The elderly people told the committee that they report these cases to the police but no investigations are conducted.
They proposed that the Bill should consider the establishment of facilities that are geographically nearer to where older persons live than them having to travel long distances to access medical services or to get recourse to their rights and privileges.
The committee was also informed that the pay points (ATMs) of social grants are only available in Vryburg and this results in long queues as the district is vast. This forces frail and sickly older persons to travel long distances and to be subjected to inhospitable conditions as there are no chairs, shelter and ablution facilities at the banks. Some older persons who live far from towns spend a night queueing so that they can withdraw their pension and travel back home on time.
Most older persons told the committee that the means test in the Old Age Grant has resulted in gender-based violence between spouses. Elderly women who never worked but do not qualify to receive the Old Age grant because their husbands receive either government pension or private pension, are disadvantaged and are often subjected to abuse from their husbands. These elderly women are mostly primary caregivers in their families.
The elderly people highlighted the lack of professionalised care for older persons at healthcare facilities and police stations. They appealed for the capacitation of officials who run older persons facilities; to empower them with administrative and business skills to enable these facilities to meet the needs of older persons as prescribed in the Older Persons Act.
The committee was told that older persons service centres in villages operate under trees. Centres that have a structure often do not have ablution facilities and necessary services such as water supply or food gardens that would enable the elderly to sustain themselves. The committee heard that as a result of that older persons are reluctant to attend these centres to get advice on various illnesses they suffer from because these centres do not meet their expectations and promote active ageing as prescribed in the Act.
The Chairperson of the committee, Ms Nonkosi Mvana, stated that the committee will collate the views and submissions made and formulate a report that will be tabled and debated in the National Assembly. After which, its recommendations on the amendment Bill will be sent to the National Council of Provinces to be subjected to its own law-making processes.
Issued by the Parliamentary Communication Services on behalf of the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Social Development, Nonkosi Mvana