Remarks by Honourable Premier R.M. Mtshweni on the occasion of the Older Persons Indaba, Khulusile Palace, Thembisile Hani
16 February 2019Honourable Members of the Executive Council;
Executive Mayor of Nkangala District Municipality Cllr TS Masilela;
Executive Mayor of our host Municipality, Cllr N. Mtsweni;
Senior Government Officials from all spheres of Government, led by the Acting Director General, Mr Mathew Mohlasedi;
Our special guests - our Senior Citizens,
- It is a blessing and a privilege to share this special day with so many senior citizens of our Province who have travelled from all over Mpumalanga to be part of this important Indaba.
- Across the world, senior citizens have a very revered role in their various communities. This is why the United Nations (UN), in its wisdom, designated a day for the specifically focusing on the rights of older people. This is because vested within our senior citizens is wisdom that can only be accumulated by the passage of time. We as the Province of Mpumalanga wish to go further than the United Nations and dedicate everyday to honouring and preserving the dignity of our senior citizens.
- Today, we have come to hear your plight and most importantly, to learn from you. Through this dialogue we also wish to recognise, affirm and encourage senior citizens as important sources of wisdom in dealing with some of the issues confronting our Province.
- On this special occasion, we would like to acknowledge the critical role played by abogogo nabomkhulu, especially grandmothers, in many families and communities.
- The role of grandmothers has become more pronounced with the high prevalence of orphaned children as a result of the high prevalence of HIV and AIDS before the improved access to treatment.
- Grandmothers took on the selfless role of looking after many orphans and vulnerable children.
- A study commissioned by the Department of Social Development in 2016 shows that in Mpumalanga alone, approximately 75 percent of older persons were heads of households.
- In addition, according to a report published by United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF ) in 2017, 38.2 percent of young children were living in households headed by grandparents.
- According to the study, the majority of grandparents who serve as primary caregivers are black women who reside predominantly in rural areas.
- The study found that grandparents use their Old Age Pension to provide for their families. Nationally, about three million older persons receive the old age pension from government which plays a broader role than supporting senior citizens only.
- In addition to orphans, older persons also support older children who are unemployed due to the challenging economic situation in the Province.
- Knowing that this burden is too onerous for our senior citizens to bear, we, as Government, have ensured that this burden is alleviated to a certain extent. In addition to social grants, senior citizens also qualify for free access to essential services such as water, health, housing, and free basic electricity.
- We trust that most of you know these services and have access to them.
- We also trust that you utilise the wonderful recreational facilities in many communities in an effort to ensure that elderly people lead, health, purpose driven lives despite age.
- On this special occasion, we also wish to acknowledge all non-governmental organisations (NGOs), community based organisations and many caregivers in communities for their commitment and contribution, often on a voluntary basis in caring for older persons. Indeed a community that looks after its elders, is a blessed community.
- We also welcome the role of organisations such as the South African Older Persons Forum as well as the Mpumalanga Older Persons Forum for serving selflessly as the voice of older persons in matters that concern their lives.
- Our participation in this dialogue must serve as evidence of the never-ending commitment of the ANC led government to work tirelessly towards the provision of services that enable our senior citizens to lead better and dignified lives.
- Furthermore, we commit to work with communities to protect older persons from criminality.
- We have all read horror stories of women as senior as 94 years or in their 80s, being sexually assaulted. Anyone who rapes senior citizens is not worth being called a human being.
- The Department of Community Safety, Security and Liaison and SAPS Mpumalanga have instructed all police stations to ensure that victims with special needs such as the elderly have those needs taken into account whenever they require assistance.
- Should there be a problem with the quality of services provided to the elderly, the Station Commander and other station managers should be notified immediately so that they can provide the necessary assistance and immediate redress.
- We also urge the youth to take the lead in looking after their grandparents and to protect 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 Province. There can be no better way of promoting inter-generational solidarity than encouraging the youth to actively support older persons, their grandparents.
- Programme Director, as I conclude, I’d like to emphasise two points, viz;
We want to emphasise that as older persons, you possess experience and wisdom that the country needs. We urge you to continue sharing your knowledge to support the development of the country.
Secondly, 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.
- You spend a lot of time with grandchildren, and can contribute to inculcating these positive values at an early age, so that we can build a better society in our effort towards the moral regeneration of the country.
- Once again, we thank abogogo nabomkhulu for the contribution you continue to make in your families and to society as a whole.
- I thank you