The older people of the North West Province’s Dr Kenneth Kaunda District Municipality welcomed the Older Persons Amendment Bill during public hearings on the Bill hosted by the Portfolio Committee on Social Development in Potchefstroom town hall yesterday. The participants in the public hearings highlighted similar issues to people in previous hearings on the Bill, saying that their district lacks community centres for the elderly.

The Chairperson of Tsitsibogang Older Persons’ Club in Ikageng Village, Ms Lizzy Koena, highlighted the role such centres could play in educating the elderly about their rights and their legal recourse. She also said the centres could help them manage their health by giving them advice on which foods to eat to alleviate their various health complaints.

The executive member of the Older Persons Forum in Dr Kenneth Kaunda District Municipality, Mr Samuel Molefe, suggest that a post be set up in municipalities dedicated to the issues of elderly people. This post should ideally be manned by a capable older person who understands the challenges that older people face to ensure that their health care and social concerns become part of municipalities’ integrated development plans. The amendment Bill should include this proposition, he said.

The Chairperson of Emellang Rethusaneng Older Persons Club, Ms Thabiso Maaroganye, said that at the moment, the issues of older people are not considered. For instance, she said, we applied for land and funds several times to build centres for the elderly but to no avail. Her club would like the Bill to obligate municipalities to identify land for centres for the elderly that would provide the necessary health care services and activities promoting healthy aging practices.

One resident, Mr Johannes Lekgeto, mentioned the community’s desire for the chairpersons of centres for the elderly to receive skills training. “We want the Bill to consider the capacitation of representatives who run older persons’ clubs,” he said, “to empower them with knowledge and information on how best to serve the needs and expectations of the elderly.”

 He himself is one such representatives who needs capacitation. “I am a chairperson of elder persons’ club in my ward, but I don’t know what my responsibilities are and how I can help the elderly in accessing their rights and recourse,” he said. “We need training to be capacitated and to be well informed about how to assist the elderly with necessary health care and social services.”

Another issue highlighted by participants in the public hearings was that of older people who are cared for at home. Some of them are not registered by their municipalities and local health care centres and, as a result, they do not get the care they need. Many were of the view that the Bill should reconsider the management and administration of home-based care and ensure that it becomes the responsibility of local municipalities and health care centres. The Bill should also obligate the municipality and health care centres to issue reports on how they manage the elderly and the interventions made to improve their services. 

In her concluding remarks, the Chairperson of the committee, Ms Nonkosi Mvana, noted the overwhelming support that the amendment Bill received and all the inputs made by the Dr Kenneth Kaunda District Municipality community. She said that all these inputs will be tabled and debated in the National Assembly. Thereafter, the Bill will be referred to the National Council of Provinces to ensure that provincial concerns and inputs are included in the Bill before it is sent to the President for consent.

Abel Mputing

27 November 2023