'Pensioner is not a prisoner'

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frail pensioner CAPE ARGUS Western Cape Social Development MEC Albert Fritz visits Maureen Johnson in Parkwood. Picture: Henk Kruger

Cape Town - Neighbours’ claims that a Parkwood pensioner is being kept in her council flat against her will are false, says Social Development MEC Albert Fritz.

Fritz visited 66-year-old Maureen Johnson’s Gerda Court flat on Thursday, where he found a “well looked-after woman” in a “neatly kept room” with no padlocks on the room door.

Fritz’s visit came after neighbours, who initially said Johnson was 80, claimed the pensioner was being kept locked up by a couple. Neighbours also said the couple were allegedly fraudulently collecting Johnson’s monthly pension.

But on Thursday Fritz said this was “simply not true”. He said the couple, Carlo and Zilqada October, were legally allowed to collect Johnson’s pension and that they were doing “nothing other than looking after Johnson”, whose only son is in jail.

“Our social workers have been working on this case since July last year after the allegations first surfaced. The couple are the legal proxies and are allowed to collect Mrs Johnson’s pension. They also have an agreement with her that they will look after her and care for her in her flat.”

Fritz said he supported the couple and would ensure that Johnson received home-based frail care.

During the visit on Thursday, Carlo October spoke freely about how Johnson was “like a mother” to him.

“These are all false accusations,” October said. “We know (Johnson) through our mother-in-law and have an agreement that we will stay here and look after her. This place looked like a disaster and smelt of sh*t when we moved in three years ago. We’ve changed things around.”

Farhana Parker, the social worker who has been following the case, said authorities were first made aware of the allegations last July.

She said an investigation was launched immediately, but no substantial evidence was found to prove that Johnson was indeed being locked in a room against her will.

Adele Steynberg, a social worker from Dementia SA, said that based on her observations, Johnson was very confused and “not intact with reality”.

“I’m a bit concerned about the home-based care proposal because it is very expensive,” Steynberg said. “Mrs Johnson will have to go for a full assessment and possibly be placed in a frail care facility. She is very vulnerable at the moment.”

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Cape Argus

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