Eastern Cape pensioners, fearing accusations of witchcraft and being killed, go into hiding

By Jonisayi Maromo Time of article published Sep 17, 2021

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Pretoria - The Department of Social Development says older persons are relocating to other areas in the Eastern Cape province, fearing accusations of witchcraft and the subsequent punishment of being brutally killed.

According to spokesperson Lumka Oliphant, the department heard the claims during its ongoing dialogues with the community of Cacadu in the Eastern Cape.

The dialogues being held in the areas of Cacadu, Engcobo and Cofivamba seek to highlight and educate these communities about Alzheimer’s and dementia as a build-up to World Alzheimer’s day on 21 September.

A community member, who asked not to be named, said during the dialogue that about 45 older persons in the area decided to relocate from the village of Ezingqolweni as they were living in fear of being killed by community members.

“Some older persons are living in fear and others are no longer sleeping in their houses. They sleep in groups under one roof so they may protect one another. But I think some of these killings are linked to criminal acts and we need the South African Police Service to also play their part by protecting our community,” the community member was quoted by the department of social development.

The residents of Ezingqolweni also said they were extremely concerned about the killings of older persons in the area because of a lack of understanding of Alzheimer’s disease.

Baleni Lwandle, an elderly citizen from Ezingqolweni told the gathering that it was difficult “to be old and a resident of Ezingqolweni”.

“I am not happy about the manner in which we are being treated by some community members. I have been living here for many years and some fellow older persons were murdered in their homes after being accused of witchcraft. If there are differences and concerns, they must be resolved without people losing their lives,” said Lwandle.

Oliphant said the department of social development chose the Chris Hani District to do the education and awareness programme as the area is leading in the reported cases of brutal killings of older persons.

Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia, especially among older persons. Dementia is the loss of cognitive functioning, thinking, remembering, reasoning and behavioural abilities to such an extent that it interferes with a person’s normal daily life and activities.

This condition ranges in severity from the mildest stage, when it is just beginning to affect a person’s functioning, to the most severe stage, when the person must depend completely on others for help with basic activities of daily living.

Although there is currently no treatment available to cure Alzheimer’s, the World Health Organization suggests that in terms of treatment and care, much can be offered to support and improve the lives of people with the disease, their caregivers and families.

The department of social development has called on South Africans to protect and support people afflicted with Alzheimer’s and dementia.

“To prevent these old age-related illnesses, the department of social development which has a role to create legislative awareness on issues impacting on the lives of older persons, calls upon all South Africans to protect, care and support persons with Alzheimer’s and dementia,” said Oliphant.

“Raising awareness is a fundamental prevention strategy that involves not only sharing of information but helping to change attitudes, perceptions and behaviour.”

Deputy Minister of Social Development Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu will conclude the awareness campaign on September 21, World Alzheimer’s Day.


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