Damning allegations of abuse of the elderly at the Mohlakeng Old Age Home in Randfontein, west of Johannesburg, have surfaced after claims that a resident died recently after she was bitten by rats.
A staff member who’s been suspended from the home said elderly residents of the privately-owned facility stay in unhygienic conditions in filthy rooms, and they are often fed expired food.
“This has been going on for a while. I’ve been working at this old age home as a care worker for a few years and we’ve tried to raise this issue of poor care towards the elderly. Some are bitten by rats because they just don’t mow the lawn here. The food given to these people has expired and the mattresses they sleep on are not in the best condition,” said Phumla Matlala.
While the facility is allegedly owned by Monica Tekwane, it is believed that it receives funding from the Gauteng Department of Social Development.
A Sunday Independent team paid the home a visit and we were not allowed to go beyond the reception areas, but sneaked in nevertheless to get a glimpse of what was going on in the home. The grass in the yard is overgrown and the rooms where the elderly sleep were unkempt and not clean at all.
One elderly lady complained about the bad food, saying: “Just a few days ago, I couldn’t finish my bowl of porridge. It was off and it didn’t taste fresh.
"There needs to be a health inspection into this place. The food we eat needs to be checked and our mattresses need to be checked,” she added.
Gauteng Social Development MEC Morakane Mosupyoe said a team has been sent out to investigate the allegations of abuse of the elderly at the home, adding that this would not be tolerated.
Mosupyoe also confirmed there were allegations by some of the staff that an elderly person recently died after being bitten by rats, and that five staff members have been suspended for exposing the abuse to the media.
They also allege that the elderly are fed expired and rotten food, and that relatives of the owner of the home are using a minibus – which should be used to take the senior citizens to hospitals for medical check-ups – for personal trips.
“Drastic steps will be taken. So, obviously, we work within the law in South Africa. And if we have evidence, and I suspect there is, people can’t just make allegations for nothing. We are going to have to withdraw the support we give the NGO.
“They will be given an opportunity to give their story, but the investigation is going to be made. But what is important is the protection of the elderly. We will remove what causes them distress,” said Mosupyoe.
The Sunday Independent called Monica Tekwane on her cell phone a number of times, but she failed to answer.
Lawyers For Human Rights' land and housing programme head Louise du Plessis said that according to the Older Persons Act, no person may operate a residential facility unless the facility is registered under the provisions of the act.
If the old age home is duly registered, the minister may withdraw such registration and close it down if conditions are not adequate.
On what recourse the victims have in this instance, Du Plessis said firstly it is important to ascertain whether the allegations were true.
“And if they are, this behaviour is unlawful and would constitute a grave derogation of the older persons Constitutional right to dignity.
"The Older Persons Act goes to great lengths to ensure that there is due process and systems of accountability for those who wish to provide care for older people. This act also goes as far as to account for the possibility of abuse and places a burden on those who witness abuse to report it.”