DEBATE BY HON LES GOVENDER MPL, KZN LEGISLATURE
Hon Speaker, I will commence my debate on the premise that all of us in this hallowed chamber acknowledge and appreciate the significant role that our senior citizens play in our day to day lives. We must also be mindful of the contributions made by senior citizens to the history of our country. The Inkatha Freedom Party salutes all senior citizens and gives assurance to this sector of our citizenry that the IFP is always committed to championing their cause.
Having said this and acknowledging that Senior Citizens are facing a crisis, the IFP proposes that just as all Government Departments have a policy regarding the HIV/AIDS crisis, there should also be a policy on the well-being of Senior citizens.
Hon Speaker, it is good that our senior citizens are provided a platform to raise their concerns and highlight issues that are of concern to them. Through public participation sessions we get to know what are the areas of concern and how to structure the budgets of various government departments in order to address those concerns.
While I say this, I must hasten to add that it is disappointing that most often resolutions taken at public interactive sessions such as the Senior Citizens Parliament and Taking Legislature to the People, remain ink on paper. Senior citizens come to these sessions full of hope and expecting there will some positive outcomes that will ensure that their lives are enhanced in some way.
Hon Speaker, when we interact with senior citizens some of the concerns that they raise centre around Safety, Health Care, Cost of Living and Housing.
In addressing the safety concerns of senior citizens, the IFP is of the view that there has to be a fundamental change in how communities are policed. Visible policing will go a long way towards deterring crime and growing public confidence in the police. Senior citizens tell us that they see police officers sitting in police vehicles with the windows closed, engines running and air conditioners on instead of walking the streets and interacting with communities. The progress report on the issue of visible policing states “SAPS in the province have stepped up intelligence driven crime prevention operations”. Whilst this might be the case, Hon Speaker our elders are still easy targets and are victims of crime on a daily basis. So the question is how effective are these intelligence driven operations? We are also told that our elders are treated badly when they go to a police station to report a crime and they are often not taken seriously. This needs to be addressed urgently and the Hon Premier must give direction. Having said that the IFP welcomes the arrest of police officers who are involved in crime especially against the elderly.
Hon Speaker, senior citizens are extremely concerned about health care issues and this is understandable. Being frail and prone to health risks, they are crying out for better medical care. Even though the Department of Heath receives the second largest share of the KZN budget, our citizens are not seeing the benefits. When we interrogate department budgets, we look into aspects such as input and outcomes. I would like to see that the budget of the Department of Health provides the desired outcomes to the benefit of our elders.
Just last week we were conducting oversight visits to health care facilities. I was with the team in the Umzinyathi District and found that medical practitioners and hospital staff are doing their best under often difficult conditions. We found that shortage of staff is a major challenge in the district. At Greytown Hospital there are eleven vacant funded posts for medical doctors. Hon Speaker, we have medical students who qualify here in KZN but are sent to other provinces to do their com service. There were four vacant funded posts at Prince Mpshyeni Hospital. The interns who were assigned to those posts did not take them up. There is an intern from KZN who was posted to Mpumalanga Province and was willing to take up one of the posts at Prince Mpshyeni. I gave the MEC for Health a written request from that intern a long time ago but have not received even the courtesy of a reply. It is not going to cost the department additional money so why can’t our own citizens be deployed to serve the people in KZN, especially the elderly?
At the Senior Citizen’s Parliament, senior citizens raised the issue of delayed response times by EMRS. We heard the same concern from people in Umzinyathi and in some cases it cost people their lives while waiting for EMRS to arrive. I note that in response to these concerns the Department allocated an amount of R70million to EMS to purchase ambulances in the 2019/2020 financial year. I hope this allocation will be well managed and will be successful in alleviating the problem.
Hon Speaker, war rooms are supposed to be established and functional in all wards but we find that this is not the case in many areas. In Umvoti it was reported that half of the war rooms are not functioning due to poor attendance by government departments. These war rooms are at the coal face of service delivery and can go a long way in assisting senior citizens. It is unacceptable that government departments are letting our people down by not providing support to the war rooms.
Senior citizens also complained about long queues at pension pay points especially at post offices. If our government is really serious about giving dignity to our elderly citizens, then every effort must be made to provide seating, toilet facilities and shelter at pay points.
We were told that community care centres are established by COGTA but sector departments do not occupy them and provide the necessary support services.
Hon Speaker, I must acknowledge the efforts being made to assist our senior citizens. Programmes aimed at unpacking the Protocol for the Management of Elder Abuse and explaining the Senior Citizens Act will certainly help to empower elders and community care workers. Many of our elders are very talented individuals who are grateful for the Intergenerational Games that are organized for their benefit.
Acknowledging that our senior citizens have a vast pool of indigenous knowledge and skills in craft making, it would be appropriate for the Department of Arts and Culture to allocate funding to tap into these talents. This will give our elders a sense of value while they pass on their knowledge to future generations.
Hon Speaker, none of us would be here today where it not for the efforts of our senior citizens. We must acknowledge that senior citizens make up one of the most vulnerable sectors of our community. With this in mind, as government we must ensure that their well-being is prioritized. We must ensure that the vast sums of money spent on erecting huge marquees in different parts of our province does not end up being fruitless expenditure. Those public participation programmes must result in improving the lives of our senior citizens. In the later years of their lives, it is incumbent upon us to ensure that they live their lives with dignity and in an environment of peace. We would be doing our senior citizens a great disservice should we not cater for their well-being especially after as government we call them to tell us what their concerns are. Having heard those concerns we need to respond positively and use resources at our disposal to benefit our senior citizens.
I thank you