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Brutal Abuse of Elderly On the Rise

By Sue Segar, IOL News

August 8, 2012

South Africa

Image Credit: IOL News

Elderly people are increasingly being robbed by family members to feed their drug habits and falling victim to abuse by loan sharks and accusations of witchcraft, often leading to brutal attacks, Parliament heard on Tuesday.

Roedolf Kay, national co-ordinator of the SA Older Persons Forum (SAOPF), told the police oversight committee that there were no concrete plans or programmes in place to curb these offences, and older people were fast losing faith in the police.

In a presentation titled “Older Persons in South Africa: The Forgotten Victims”, Kay said the safety and security of elderly people was not a priority for the police, many of whom were not familiar with the Older Persons Act of 2006.

The act was designed to address the unacceptable levels of abuse and neglect suffered by elderly people in residential care and in communities.

“The SAOPF is particularly alarmed by the countless reports of exploitation of older persons and people with disabilities at pension paypoints throughout the country.

“Money lenders often withhold pensioners’ IDs and pension cards for the purpose of extorting money. These ‘loan sharks’ are charging interest rates of between 30 percent and 50 percent, which is well above the legal interest rate,” Kay said.

He said the prevalence of human rights abuses under the pretext of culture had escalated alarmingly in relation to older people, with claims of witchcraft regularly being used against, primarily, older women.

Often, these targeted people were suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia and were seen as witches because of their “strange behaviour”.

Kay said belief in witchcraft was still strong and widespread, especially in rural areas. Those alleged to be witches and wizards became victims of extrajudicial killing, forced exile and disappearance.

Many of the attacks against older people were “horrific, brutal and downright evil”, he added.

“Stakeholders in the aged sector and older persons are of the impression that SAPS members are often unwilling to investigate reported cases of abuse. They have lost faith in the SAPS.

“When older persons call the SAPS for assistance, they either take an exceptionally long time to respond or do not respond at all.” - The Star

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