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Elderly people are increasingly being robbed by family members to feed their drug habits and falling victim to abuse by loan sharks and accusations of witchcraft, often leading to brutal attacks, Parliament heard on Tuesday.
Roedolf Kay, national co-ordinator of the SA Older Persons Forum (SAOPF), told the police oversight committee that there were no concrete plans or programmes in place to curb these offences, and older people were fast losing faith in the police.
In a presentation titled “Older Persons in South Africa: The Forgotten Victims”, Kay said the safety and security of elderly people was not a priority for the police, many of whom were not familiar with the Older Persons Act of 2006.
The act was designed to address the unacceptable levels of abuse and neglect suffered by elderly people in residential care and in communities.
“The SAOPF is particularly alarmed by the countless reports of exploitation of older persons and people with disabilities at pension paypoints throughout the country.
“Money lenders often withhold pensioners’ IDs and pension cards for the purpose of extorting money. These loan sharks are charging interest rates of between 30 percent and 50 percent, which is well above the legal interest rate,” Kay said.
“Although SA Social Security Agency payment contractors try to enforce the 100 metres zone rule at paypoints, as stipulated in the Social Assistance Act, older persons and people with disabilities are exploited directly outside the zoned areas.”
Kay said the prevalence of human rights abuses under the pretext of culture had escalated alarmingly in relation to older people, with claims of witchcraft regularly being used against, primarily, older women.
Often, these targeted people were suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia and were seen as witches because of their “strange behaviour”.
He said belief in witchcraft was still strong and widespread, especially in rural areas.
“Those alleged to be witches and wizards become victims of extrajudicial killing, forced exile and disappearance.
“Burning, hanging, stoning and beatings are among the types of violence the accused are subjected to, and which often result in death,” Kay said.
“Claims of witchcraft and witch-hunts are primarily directed at women, although there have been reports of witch-hunts against men.”