Speech by the Deputy Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces, Hon Thandi Memela, on the Occassion of the International Day on Elderly Abuse Hosted by Ilitha Labantu
Gugulethu, 15 June 2011
Topic: The Role of Parliament in Ensuring Prevention of Elderly Abuse
CEO and Executive of iLitha Labantu
Ngiyabonga ngokuthola isikhathi sokuba lana uma sigubha usuku lwabadala, lapho sithi akuphele ukuhlunkunyezwa kwabantu abadala. Umphakathi awunakekele abantu abadala nekungabo abathe basikhulisa basikhombisa indlela.
Kufuneka ngaso sonke isikhathi sibabhekelele abantu abadala kwiindawo esihlala kuzo, khon’ ukuze bahlale bephephile. Masikhumbule ukuthi kaloku nabo bayilwela lenkululeko kwaye bebehlukunyezwa nabo kwisikhathi sangaphambili. Isikhathi sifikile ke manje sokuthi nabo bathole inkululeko.
The elderly are an integral part of our society. As such, they enjoy the same rights that are enjoyed by all other South Africans. Over the decades, I would like to say without equivocation; the African National Congress has evolved to recognise the principle of consistent equality and thus progressively addressing the rights of various marginalised and disadvantaged groups. When we talk rights and equality in the ANC we mean rights and equality for everybody.
It is not correct that as society we expose our elderly to danger simply because they do not have the same energy as the rest of us to defend themselves or to petition authorities for better care. A caring society which we want to build must start by respecting the rights of South Africans irrespective of their age, social status or colour.
Researchers have always reminded us that the abuse of the elderly by family members dates back to ancient times. However, for too long the issue of abuse of the elderly had remained a private matter until measures to address it were introduced. That is why we talk about it now in public and we have special days for the prevention of abuse of the elderly. But we still have many incidences of abuse of the elderly even at the hands of care-givers (as recent as Sunday, we have witnessed the elderly being consumed by fire and smoke in places of safety, which begs the question of how safe are the places we use for looking after our elderly population).
Elderly people are affected by the policies and laws that are designed by government like everybody else. In some cases they are worst affected because of the socio-economic conditions that they are thrust into. So we must make sure, especially from the point of view of Parliament, that we represent their interests properly. We can do so only if we are able to talk to them from time to time and hear the challenges that they continue to face.
South Africa under democracy has paid particular attention to the need to fight the abuse of the elderly. Our Constitution states clearly that everyone has the right to the full and equal enjoyment of all rights and freedoms. And that in order to promote the achievement of equality, legislative and other measures designed to protect or advance persons, or categories of persons, disadvantaged by unfair discrimination may be taken.
It is in pursuance of this constitutional injunction that the national Parliament, working together with provincial legislatures that are located in the capitals of the nine provinces, considered and passed the Older Persons’ Act in 2006.
The Older Persons’ Act, okungumthetho oqingqelwe ukunakekela abantu abadala, is there to protect the elderly against physical, emotional and financial abuse. The main objective of the legislation is to among others, maintain and promote the status, well-being, safety and security of older persons, recognise their skills and wisdom and promote their participation in community activities. It also looks at issues to make it possible for older people to live in communities independently, functioning at their highest potential.
Lo mthetho ukhombisa ukuthi uhulumeni wethu ufuna abantu abadala bakwazi ukuziphilela kahle. Isikhathi esiningi abantu abadala sibathatha ngokungathi abakwazi ukuzenzela nto, kanti ke bayakwazi ukuziphilela benze nezinto ezingabenza bahlale isikhathi eside benempilo entle.
The things that are provided for in the Older Persons’ Act for purposes of ensuring that the elderly can function on their own, are to be done through programmes that would give effect to the right to have access to health care services, sufficient food and water which is enshrined in our Constitution and mirrored in the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights.
The Act came into being to address loopholes identified in the Aged Persons Act 81 of 1967. Masikhumbule ukuthi umthetho ka-1967 obukade ukhona wawubhalwe ngabelungu nababengayinanzanga indlela abantu abadala ebebehlala ngayo emakhaya nasemalokishini. One of the loopholes was that the 1967 Act (as amended) focused on institutional care which caters for only 2% of older persons (mainly whites and those in urban areas). It also did not make any provision for community-based care.
Umthetho esinawo ke manje nobizwa ukuthi yi-Older Persons’ Act ugxizelela ukuthi abantu abadala bayingxenye ye-communities zabo. Futhi banelungelo lokuhlala phakathi kwemindeni yabo, behlala nabazukulu babo.
Abuse of older persons is broadly defined in this Act to accommodate different types of abuse. According to Section 3, it is the responsibility of all the organs of state to implement the Act in an integrated, coordinated and uniform manner. Loku kusho ukuthi uhulumeni akafanele ukuthi uma kufika umntu omdala ezofuna usizo, atshelwe ukuthi makaye kuhulumeni wephondo noba nguhulumeni omkhulu. Cha. Uhulumeni noma yimuphi, kufanele akwazi ukusiza umntu omdala mayefuna usizo – angatshelwa ukuthi makaye ngale noma ngaleya.
It is also a joint responsibility of both government and non-government structures to ensure that the Act achieves its objectives and that all must take seriously the importance of a well planned, coordinated and integrated services to older persons. Uhulumeni ke kufanele asebenzisane nemibutho yasekuhlaleni efana ne-ILitha Labantu khon’ ukuze sikwazi ukusiza abantu abadala kwiindawo esihlala kuzo.
Programmes concerning HIV/Aids and the elderly, which were originally not part of the Act, were included in the Act after the public hearings conducted by parliamentary committees. Loku kubonisa ukuthi uhulumeni uyalalela ukuthi abantu abadala bafunani. Nabo bayambozwa yizifo ezikhoyo, yiyo lento usizo olubhekise kubo kufanele luquke zonke izinkinga ezibhekene nempilo.
Any person found guilty of not adhering to this Act is liable to a fine or imprisonment not exceeding five years or both. Ngiyacela ukuthi sikhulume ngalomthetho, futhi sifundise abantu ngawo khon’ ukuze bazi ukuthi ingaba yiziphi izinto ekufanele sizibheke uma sinakekela noma sibonelela abantu abadala ngeenkonzo, ngakumbi iinkonzo ezilethwa nguhulumeni.
I hope that today’s gathering will assist us collectively to improve the conditions under which our elderly population leave. I hope that it will heighten the importance of ensuring that we look after the elderly, not because we like, but because there is an Act of Parliament that protects them.
Parliament, whether at national or provincial level, is there to ensure that all the laws that it passes are implemented and observed. So our communities must ensure that they work together with Parliament, and vice versa, to ensure that the laws and policies we have do have the desired impact and benefit the people they are intended to benefit.