We are all failing our elderly citizens

2013-05-12 10:00

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Sipho Mantula

Human rights activist and defender

Orange Grove

The heartbreaking investigative article covered by your photojournalist Lungelo Mbulwana, “This is a disgrace” (City Press, May 5 2013), left many of us with more questions than possible legitimate answers.

Indeed, it was a shame to read about such gross human rights violations against the senior citizens of our country. As a human rights activist and defender living in South

Africa, I immediately shared this article with a retired public servant.

We felt the article should have conveyed the urgency of the matter to the relevant provincial government departments – such as social development, health, the police service, women, children and people with disability, senior local traditional councils and, in principle, the office of the premier (who is a woman) and the office of the state president – so as to respond and act in solidarity against this barbaric, cruel and inhuman insult against senior citizens.

The lack of moral and technical support at such marginalised Eastern Cape villages, like Lusikisiki, undermines the hard-won freedom secured by the struggle against apartheid, the emancipation of women and the human dignity of senior citizens, in the words of one retired elderly grandmother.

My conversation with the elderly senior citizen raised issues around a vigorous need for all young adult males to undergo cultural re-education on manhood and respect of elderly womanhood and human integrity in both rural and urban areas. The conversation became heated when we considered the role of the traditional leadership council, which was absent and clearly failed Mama Qintselwa Vundle (57) during the difficult moments. The police authorities failed her and the other women too.

The horrific stories and images in the article left us with major questions about who is responsible for protecting our elderly citizens.

As a human rights defender, I would like to remind the South African government during this Africa Month that it is under a moral and legal obligation, in terms of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, adopted in 2003, to protect elderly women and take specific measures equal to their physical, economic and social needs to protect their right to be treated with dignity and ensure the right of elderly women to freedom from violence, including sexual abuse, and discrimination based on age.

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