25 March 2019


OPINION  Value the elderly.. they’re an important part of our lives 

by: Petrus Siko    date: 11 May 2018

Merciless killings of elderly women are becoming more and more common and something needs to be done to stop this hineous crime, be it within the parameters of the law or in a divine way. 

Who on earth can afford to lose a loving grandmother at the hands of ill-mannered perpetrators who indulge in strong substances before they execute their evil plans? Why are they terrorising the elderly women? They rape them, strangle them, insult them and call them witches.  They rob them, do all sorts of evil things to them and often get away with it.

The recent killing of a granny in Gopane village in the Ramotshere Moiloa Local Municipality is a case in point. It has stirred the community to take the law into their own hands. The raging reaction of communities is sparked by perceived “tedious processes of the law enforcement agencies to apprehend perpetrators”. More often than not, communities see suspects roaming the streets when family members of the deceased are grappling with the loss of their loved ones.

Communities then resort to an ‘eye for an eye’ approach by taking the law into their own hands. This approach brings a temporary relief and not a permanent solution to problems at stake. 

At times innocent people are being killed to avenge the death of an elderly person. Call it ‘street justice’ or the ‘people’s justice’ – it should not happen in a maturing democracy like ours. It should not happen in a country where the rule of law reigns supreme. The Setswana saying seems to be true in this instance: “Ga se kwa ga Mmapereko, Pereko a tlile go tswa moepong.” There is order in our country. 

Let us talk about permanent solutions to brutal killings of elderly women in the province and the country at large. It is a known fact that grannies raise children until they reach the stage of maturity and become independent. Once they are independent, they leave their grannies for job opportunities in big cities without thinking about the safety and security of their grandmothers. Of course, we have all at one point left our own grannies alone in our homes. It is not sinful to do that. It is a way of life.

In an instance where one leaves a granny alone, an arrangement has to be made with some relatives to stay with her and take care of her. On second thought, a granny and a helper, be it a person chosen by the family, may apply for grant-in-aid amounting to R400 at the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA). The grant-in-aid is payable to the granny as an additional amount to her monthly pension. The granny will then use the additional amount to pay the services of the helper. This applies to frail and vulnerable elderly people.
Removing an elderly person who is vulnerable to an alternative place is also ideal. Social workers facilitate intake and registration of elderly persons at old age homes, most of which are funded by the Department of Social Development to the tune R2 200 per person per month. 

Government has over the years established Sonop Old Age Complex with a bed capacity of 206. The complex is situated in Sonop, in the Madibeng Local Municipality. Another new state-run old age home had been constructed at Pudumoe, Greater Taung Local Municipality, and will start to operate in the current financial year.

These are measures to protect our elderlies and take them out of the hands of perpetrators. It remains the responsibility of all of us to rebuild the broken moral fibre of our society so that our elderlies should not be strangers and fugitives in their own land.

If we really value the role our elderlies have played and continue to play in our respective families, we should respect them, love them, embrace them, allow them the necessary space to age with dignity - free from harm or any form of discrimination - and protect them from all forms of violence.

If we lose them we lose the hub of wisdom and guidance. So, stop the senseless killings of our elderly people. 

Petrus Siko is Director for Media and Communications at the Department of Social Development in Bokone Bophirima