Senior citizen function at Stanmore hall in Phoenix. Picture: NQOBILE MBONAMBI/ AFRICAN NEWS AGENCY (ANA)
As eThekwini Municipality plans to roll-out its annual senior citizen Christmas parties across the city, opposition parties have called for transparency to ensure the smooth running of the programme.

Since 2011, the city has held various programmes for the elderly during the festive season.

As part of the festivities, senior citizens are treated to lunch, entertainment and food hampers to enjoy during the holidays.

The Christmas parties also provide a platform for senior citizens, seen as a vulnerable group, to engage on issues impacting their lives.

However, over the years, the programme has had various challenges, including allegations of fraud and corruption. In some instances, the parties were delayed until after Christmas, leaving thousands of senior citizens dumbfounded.

This year, the full council approved a budget of R27 million to accommodate about 66 000 senior citizens from across 110 eThekwini wards.

The budget would cover catering services, sound and entertainment, marquees and decorations, security and hampers.

Dates and venues are yet to be confirmed.

Opposition parties were concerned that the speaker’s office had not revealed the plans on how the programme would be rolled out and the festive season was fast-approaching.

Samier Singh, the DA’s governance and human resources committee member, said there was no confirmation as to when the programme would start.

“In previous years, it was a disaster, and it turned out to be a political battle. We have just been told that PR (proportional representation) councillors will not be given tickets. This means minority groups might not be able to attend the events.

“We have been pleading with the mayor to make ward councillors custodians of the programme because we believe they have a better understanding of their wards and people.

“We are sceptical it will be a success given the fact that there is no concrete information about the programme as yet,” he said.

Mdu Nkosi, IFP caucus leader, said there had been many complaints in previous years where some people had been sidelined because of their political associations.

“There are a lot of issues around this programme, and we are concerned because we approved it, hoping it will benefit the senior citizens.

“The food is not up to standard. We have asked the municipality to establish a committee that will ensure qualified service providers are given a chance, because this has turned out to be a money-making scheme for certain individuals.

“It must be uniformed and benefit the intended people. We are worried that the service rendered does not reflect the budget being set aside for this programme,” Nkosi said.

Mluleki Mntungwa, mayoral spokesperson, said the new leadership was aware of the previous challenges about the programme and there were plans in place to avoid repetition.

“We have made arrangements which will be made public in due course. We would like to ensure every senior citizen that this year’s programme will be rolled out smoothly.

Dates and venues will be confirmed soon,” said Mntungwa.

Sunday Tribune