Cape Town - Prostitution, drinking binges and other debauched activities are not usually associated with old age homes. But some residents of Langa’s Sizamile Old Age Home are fed up with these alleged shenanigans.
Frequent power struggles between one of the oldest residents in the home, Nomvula “Magaba” Kupe, 84, and volunteer, Leticia Vaphi, who has reportedly muscled her way in, has split the old age home into two camps.
Both women will appear in court this week as Kupe has taken out a protection order against Vaphi to try to keep her away from the home.
Kupe, who uses a battery-operated wheelchair, believes Vaphi is running the home into the ground by turning it into a free-for-all by inviting prostitution and allowing drinking binges.
Kupe told the Cape Argus that under her leadership over the past decade she made sure the residents were fed nutritious meals, the place had 24-hour security, and they received donations from NGOs and corporates.
“People are drinking and fighting here. Some of the men are sleeping with women, and sleepovers are not allowed,” she said.
The day before pension grants are paid out is allegedly abuzz with young women offering old men sex for money, said Kupe.
“There is no security, we sleep in fear at night, and the place is not safe. Everybody is in and out having a drink, anyone who is passing by can come in and have a dop.
“Fridays are the worst; you won’t sleep with all the noise. People talking, drinking and taking some of our food from the fridge,” she said.
But Vaphi said things at the home had improved in the past four years under her supervision.
She registered the home last year and is waiting for the Department of Social Development to approve an application for funding.
Social Development MEC Albert Fritz’s spokesman, Sihle Ngobese, said Kupe had “declared herself as the manager of the place”.
He said the home was not under their management, although they had supported it financially in 2011 and 2012 through a service provider.
“The service provider that was appointed managed all the funds and services because Sizamile constantly had in-house conflict and did not have effective financial and governance systems in place to manage their own finances. Government does not manage and operate old-age homes.”
After several meetings the service provider had been forced to withdraw its services due to that conflict.
“Opportunities were also provided to the older persons to relocate – some accepted and the majority declined.”
The home is registered as a non-profit organisation and does not comply with the regulations of the Older Persons Act no 13 of 2006 to be registered as an old age home, said Ngobese.
“They cannot qualify for funding since they do not meet the requirements of an old-age home in accordance with the act. The department is, however, in the process of trying to register the facility as an assisted-living facility and once again will try to get a service provider to manage the funds and the governance,” he said
When the Cape Argus visited the home, Kupe and Vaphi were in a heated confrontation.
Vaphi told the Cape Argus there were 25 pensioners living at the home. She cooks for 16 of them and the rest like Kupe are in charge of their own groceries and cooking.
She takes R450 a month from each pensioner which goes towards paying the cook, cleaner, and groceries. The pensioners receive a R1 350 grant each a month from the government.
Vaphi acknowledged that some visitors did bring alcohol on to the premises and she did not have any control over who went in and out.
“This is not Pollsmoor Prison, I don’t check visitors’ bags,” she said
One of the residents, Bazil Hlongwane, 78, said he bought his own groceries and cooked his own food to “avoid problems” because he suffered a heart condition and couldn’t afford to be involved in squabbles.
“When the sun is out, it’s happy days here. People come from outside to drink here at the garden party. I understand, it’s not a jail and they can’t lock the gate,” said Hlongwane
“There are women coming in and out, even couples from outside sleep over. You don’t know what is what.”
Another pensioner Raymond Silulama, 62, said the treatment they receive at the home was “appalling”. Silulama gets a veteran’s grant of R1 350 and pays Vaphi R450.
“At this age, I can’t stop drinking. I like my wine. We need someone with experience to take care of our needs and leave our personal business alone.”
Member of the South African National Civic Organisation Michael Dumo said the home had been the centre of power struggles for several years and they had tried to intervene.
“We would like to see this home as not a place for crime and drinking. Kupe wants to live here as if she owns the place since she is one of the oldest people here,” said Dumo