The Older Persons Amendment Bill is garnering widespread support from communities in KwaZulu-Natal, with public hearings held in the King Cetshwayo District Municipality drawing hundreds of elderly men and women to the King Dinuzulu Hall in Eshowe. The proposed legislation aims to enhance the protection and well-being of older individuals and address various concerns faced by the elderly population.
The primary objectives of the Bill include strengthening measures to prevent and combat the abuse of older persons, eradicating harmful traditional practices, such as witchcraft accusations directed at the elderly, and recognizing the significant role older people play in passing down inter-generational knowledge and wisdom. Additionally, the Bill seeks to provide a legal framework for the removal of older individuals to temporary safe care without requiring a court order.
One of the most pressing issues raised during the public hearings was the concern regarding witchcraft accusations targeting older people, particularly those with darker complexions. The elders reported instances of being unfairly labeled as witches by fellow villagers or even family members, calling for measures to address this harmful and discriminatory practice.
Among the key issues raised, the adequacy of the old age grant emerged as a prominent concern. The elderly residing in the King Cetshwayo District Municipality expressed dissatisfaction with the current R2000 grant they receive. They argued that the grant’s amount was insufficient, especially in times of economic hardship with soaring food prices. Many elders disclosed that they use a significant portion of their grants to support their adult children, who are struggling to find work due to the prevailing nationwide unemployment problem.
Criticism was also directed at a provision within the draft Bill that introduces a means test, potentially disqualifying former civil servants from applying for an old age grant. The elders urged for the removal of the means test requirement, advocating for universal access to the old age grant for every individual upon reaching the age of 60.
Another critical proposal put forth during the hearings was the demand for individuals accused of killing older persons not to be granted bail by the courts. The elders argued that such crimes required stringent punishment to ensure the safety and protection of the elderly population.
In response to the overwhelming support and concerns raised during the public hearings, the parliamentary committee in charge of the Bill announced that today, August 1st, they will hold further public hearings in the Umkhanyakude District Municipality. The hearings are scheduled to take place at the Makhonyeni Hall in Jozini starting at 10:00. This continuation of public engagement demonstrates the government’s commitment to addressing the concerns and aspirations of the elderly community in KwaZulu-Natal.
The Older Persons Amendment Bill signifies a step forward in ensuring the protection, well-being, and rights of older individuals in KwaZulu-Natal. As the legislative process continues, policymakers will need to carefully consider the feedback received during the public hearings to develop a comprehensive and inclusive approach to support the elderly population in the province.
The Bill’s proposals to combat abuse, eliminate harmful practices, and provide temporary safe care without a court order are commendable steps towards creating a more secure environment for the elderly. However, it is crucial for the government to address the concerns over the old age grant and means test to ensure financial security and social welfare for all older persons in the region.
As the Bill progresses through the legislative process, communities in KwaZulu-Natal will be eagerly awaiting updates and ensuring that the final version of the law adequately reflects the needs and aspirations of their elderly population.