Pretoria: President Jacob Zuma has on Sunday called on communities to report people who abuse the elderly, saying such behaviour cannot be tolerated.
“We commit as government to work with communities to protect older persons from criminality,” he said, speaking at a lunch held for elderly citizens at the Sefako M Makgatho Presidential Guest House in Pretoria.
Zuma said the country had heard “horror stories” of elderly women being sexually assaulted. “Anyone who rapes senior citizens is not worth being called a human being,” he said.
All police stations had been instructed to ensure that victims with special needs such as the elderly have those needs taken into account when they are provided with services.
“Should there be a problem with the services provided, the Station Commander and other station managers should be immediately notified so that they can provide the necessary assistance and immediate redress,” he said.
The lunch, which took place on the eve of the International Day of Older Persons, which is annually commemorated on the 1 October, brought together older persons from all nine provinces to discuss issues relating to them as well as serve as an opportunity to recognise and acknowledge that older persons are and have always been incredible assets to the nation.
The President also acknowledged those citizens who were older than 100 by giving them gifts.
He called on the youth to take the lead in looking after their grandparents and protecting them.
“We must encourage the deepening of caring in our society and our youth are a starting point as they are the future of our country. There can be no better way of promoting inter-generational solidarity than encouraging the youth to actively support older persons, their grandparents,” he said.
Zuma also urged the elderly to teach young people about good behaviour. “We urge older persons to join us in teaching our young people what it means to be good citizens, who are guided by the understanding of respect and Ubuntu,” he said
Also speaking at the event, Chairperson of the South African Older Persons Forum Tom Boya called on the President to consider establishing an Office of Older Persons within the Presidency as well as government to fully implement the Older Persons Act.
Many of the elderly people at the event applauded government for recognising International Day of the Older Persons, saying it made them feel important.
Gogo Ntombikaise Magwazwa, 92, from KwaZulu-Natal told SAnews that she could not believe it when she received the invitation to have lunch with the President.
“I just could not believe it,” she said with excitement.
The event was also attended by cabinet ministers and senior government officials.
International Day of Older Persons is celebrated annually to recognise the contributions of older persons and to examine issues that affect their lives.