The elderly population in the Amathole District Municipality of the Eastern Cape province has called on the government to provide them with increased protection as they face growing vulnerability to various crimes, including rape, assault, attempted murder, and burglary. During public hearings on the Older Persons Amendment Bill in Butterworth, heartfelt testimonies were shared by the elderly, shedding light on the extent of their vulnerability and the need for urgent action to address their safety concerns. The proposed bill aims to strengthen the protection and prevention of abuse of older persons, eliminate harmful traditional practices, and recognize the responsibilities of older individuals in passing on inter-generational knowledge and wisdom.
Vulnerable to Heartless Crimes
The elderly residents of Amathole District Municipality spoke openly about the harrowing experiences they have endured at the hands of heartless criminals, particularly the disturbing rise in incidents of rape, assault, and attempted murder targeting their age group. These heinous crimes have left them feeling exposed and without adequate protection from law enforcement.
Contributing Factors: Substance Abuse and Unemployment
Participants in the public hearings highlighted the role of substance abuse, particularly drug addiction, as a contributing factor to the vicious and cruel crimes they face. They also pointed out the impact of high unemployment rates among young people, which further exacerbates the vulnerability of the elderly population. They urged the government to prioritize tackling drug abuse and creating employment opportunities to address these issues at their roots.
Calls for Enhanced Measures
To safeguard their communities and enhance their overall security, the elderly made several appeals to the government:
Transportation Support: They requested transportation services to be provided for those who struggle to reach old age service centers, ensuring accessibility for all elderly residents.
Increased Caregivers: They urged for at least two caregivers to be stationed at each service center to better address their needs and well-being.
Securing Service Centers: The elderly called for the fencing of service centers to create secure and protected environments for their activities.
Dedicated Queues: They proposed a clause in the Bill that requires public and private spaces, including banks, to have separate queues for older people, as younger individuals often push them in queues, leading to discomfort and potential safety concerns.
Permanent Old Age Homes and Service Centers: The elderly advocated for the construction of permanent old age homes and service centers on the allocated sites provided by their municipalities.
Extended Funding: While they appreciated the Department of Social Development’s funding for nutrition, they asked for an extension of funds to cover building centers, maintenance, fencing, caregiver employment, and payments.
Simplification of Norms and Standards: They appealed to the department to simplify norms and standards, as the current language used is often not understood or implementable in rural areas.
Committee’s Response and Future Plans
The Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Social Development, Ms. Nonkosi Mvana, expressed gratitude to the elderly participants for their attendance and valuable contributions to the public hearings. She assured them that their inputs would be considered as the committee continues its engagements across all provinces. After thorough deliberations, a report will be submitted to both the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces for further consideration. Once the bill receives approval, it will be assented into law by the President.
The pleas of the elderly residents in the Eastern Cape’s Amathole District Municipality serve as a poignant reminder of the need for comprehensive measures to protect and support the vulnerable elderly population. As the Older Persons Amendment Bill seeks to address their concerns and improve their safety and well-being, the onus is on the government to carefully consider their appeals and ensure that their voices are heard and acted upon. By taking proactive steps, authorities can make a significant difference in the lives of these elderly citizens, ensuring they are treated with the dignity and respect they rightfully deserve.