Senior citizens plead for protection against verbal, emotional, physical and sexual abuse

elderly person abuse

Elderly people have proposed that in addition to the objectives of the Older Persons Amendment Bill to protect older people from physical and sexual abuse, the legislation should also include protection against verbal and emotional abuse. Picture: Karin Retief

Published Jun 5, 2023


Senior citizens came out in numbers to voice their support and make inputs on the Older Persons Amendment Bill, which is currently the subject of national public consultation processes by the Portfolio Committee on Social Development.

The Bill seeks to introduce changes to the Older Persons Act of 2006 in order to strengthen the safety and protection of older people, which includes the protection and prevention of abuse, elimination of harmful traditional practices such as witchcraft accusations against older persons.

However, while many believe the proposed changes were long overdue, they also proposed that in addition to the Bill’s objectives to protect older people from physical and sexual abuse, the legislation should also include protection against verbal and emotional abuse.

In the Vhembe District Municipality of Limpopo, elderly people told the committee that the Bill’s objectives spoke exactly to their lived realities, such as emotional and physical abuse from family members and accusations of witchcraft by their communities.

In support of one of the Bill’s proposals of relocating older persons to a place of safety, the elders said they welcomed this as it would save most of them from acts of abuse by relatives who often misused their social grants and left them to suffer on their own.

The intent of the Bill to discourage accusations of witchcraft received the loudest applause during the public hearings in Limpopo, and the committee heard this was one of the most common forms of abuse against older persons, especially in rural areas.

One of the elders told the committee that it was common for older persons of a darker skin complexion to be labelled as witches by fellow villagers, or in some instances, by family members.

In the Mopani District Municipality in Limpopo, hundreds gathered at the Nkowankowa Community Hall in Tzaneen to make their inputs yesterday.

Most welcomed and supported the Bill, saying they expected it to have a positive impact on their lives, if properly implemented.

However, some expressed reservations about a chapter in the draft Bill which proposed a means test.

They argued that this would disqualify an older person from getting a government social grant in a case where their spouse was a former civil servant and receiving a civil pension.

This was regarded as discrimination against married couples, and they requested that it must be changed or removed to have every elderly person receive a social grant irrespective of the financial status of their spouse.

Committee Chairperson Nonkosi Mvana commended the senior citizens for “speaking their minds” about the draft legislation during these public consultations.

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