Welkom Elders Express Support for Amendment Bill to Bolster Police and Health Services

WELKOM – In the Lejweleputswa District Municipality, elderly residents are advocating for the passage of the Older Persons Amendment Bill [11-2022], aiming to enhance the services they receive from the South African Police Service (SAPS) and the Department of Health.

According to Parliament of South Africa, the gathering of senior citizens at Toronto Hall in Welkom yesterday was the second in a series of three hearings. The elders voiced unanimous support for the Bill, highlighting the need for improvements in response to the unsatisfactory service they have experienced, particularly from law enforcement and healthcare providers.

A number of elders reported neglect in the handling of their complaints at local police stations, a factor contributing to their vulnerability and hesitance to report abuses. Criticism was also directed toward the Department of Health for the lengthy wait times at clinics and alleged disrespect from health officials.

The participants’ support for the Bill was closely tied to clause 4, which mandates that state organs and their officials uphold the rights of older persons as stipulated in the Act. Despite widespread approval, some expressed concerns about the risks involved in reporting abuses to social workers or healthcare providers, emphasizing that fear for personal safety often leads to silence, thus allowing the perpetuation of abuse.

The public hearings serve to gather input on the Bill as part of the constitutional process outlined in Section 59 (1), which calls for citizen participation in legislative matters. The aim of the Older Persons Amendment Bill is to enhance the care, protection, and respect for the elderly, including measures to prevent abuse, eliminate harmful practices like witchcraft accusations, and recognize the role of elders in imparting knowledge and wisdom across generations. Notably, the Bill proposes allowing for the removal of older individuals to temporary safe care without requiring a court order.

The committee is set to conclude its public hearings in the Free State with the final session scheduled for today in Botshabelo. A call has been extended to all stakeholders to attend and contribute their perspectives on the proposed amendments.