The Portfolio Committee on Social Development commenced its North -West Province leg of public hearings on the Older Persons Amendment in Mositoana Community Hall, in Lerome Village in Moses Kotana Local Municipality today. The next session would be held in Taung Local Municipality and JB Marks Local Municipality will  mark an end to this nation-wide consultation process.  

In essence, the Bill is aimed at amending the pieces of legislation of Older Persons Act of 2006 that inadvertently render the protection, safety and healthcare of older persons at their homes or centres of care untenable. These amendments seek to, among others, 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.

The Bill also agitates for the provision that advocates for the removal of older persons to temporary safe care without a court order.

Proclaiming the process that would be followed after the conclusion of these public hearings, the Chairperson of the committee, Ms Nonkosi Mvana, stated that all the views and submissions received during the course of public hearings will be collated, deliberated by the committee and a report will be written on the Bill that will be handed to the National Assembly for its deliberation.

Older persons who attended this public hearing had in principle supported the intent and the letter of the Bill but had recommendations that they wanted to be considered when the bill is amended. 

The Chairperson of Older Persons in Moses Kotana Municipality, Mr Zenzele Mdidimba, recommended that the Bill should include traditional authorities because they are critical stakeholders that have a significant role in upholding the rights and in alleviating the plight of elder persons in their respective districts.

He also recommended that the Bill should afford social workers a right to monitor older persons’ facilities and assess their standard of care and make recommendations they deem fit to improve their services as per the prescripts of the bill without any legal recourse. This would help to get rid of bogus facilities that are currently in operation that put the lives and well-beings of older persons at risk.    

Older persons’ rights to healthcare services remain one of the greatest concerns of older persons, claimed Ms Matsepo Stemmer. He complained that there are no ideal clinics in Madibeg municipality with adequate supply of chronic medication for older persons as well as ambulances to improve their access to health care services most of which are far away from where they stay.

To improve the quality of life of older persons, she further added that the Bill should recognize the significance of older persons’ recreational facilities to keep them preoccupied mentally and physically to improve and prolong their lives and well-being so that they can age gracefully.

There was a view that the Rights Charter of Older persons shouldn’t only be promoted or made readily available to older persons and in public institutions but should be enforced and there should be consequence management for its transgression.  

Speaking of which, Mr Oupa Sekwe further stated that police forums should be capacitated and to repurpose their services to, among others, be responsible for the prevention of abuse of older persons in their wards or respective communities.

Sadly, the dichotomy in services between the black and white older persons’ centres still exists, claimed Ms Mabosha More. In her view, the services of facilities of black older persons should be improved too so that black older persons do not feel discriminated against based on their race.

One of the interventions that can close the gap in services between black and white facilities is transparency in the allocation and appropriation of older persons’ budget by our municipalities, said Mr George Nzimane. Currently, older persons don’t participate in its appropriation and don’t know how much is allocated and who determine their priorities as older persons. If this budget can be made transparent and our views can be factored into it, services in black facilities could be better than is the case currently, he claimed.

By Abel Mputing

 24 November 2023