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South Africa Government

10/04/2019 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 10/04/2019 01:21

Premier Zamani Saul: Older Persons Parliament

Address by the Premier of the Northern Cape, Dr Zamani Saul, on the occasion of the Older Persons Parliament, Frances Baard District Municipality

Programme Director;
Honourable Speaker;
Members of the Provincial Legislature;
Members of the Executive Council;
Executive Mayors and Councillors;
Government officials;
Distinguished guests;
Ladies and gentlemen;

It is always a humbling experience when I meet with my elders and have the opportunity to not only speak to you, but to learn and gain invaluable knowledge not contained in any book. I greet you with respect and trust that your deliberations will be fruitful and look forward to the report emanating from this gathering.

Government has since the establishment of a free democratic South Africa, taken a number of pro-active steps to safeguard the interest of the rights of older persons. These amongst others include ensuring that every elderly person receives the same 'state old-age pension' irrespective of race. Government has also significantly changed the lives of older persons for the better through the provision of free essential services such as water, health, housing and energy in various municipalities and districts. We have also put in place mechanisms to make sure those services and facilities which promote the respect and dignity of older persons are easily accessible.

The enactment of the Older Persons Act (Act No 13 of 2006) has also been a very positive step in the right direction. The Act aims to maintain and protect the status, wellbeing, safety and rights of older persons. It also aims to promote their integration in the community by creating an enabling environment and promoting participation in activities with people of other ages and cultures.

Despite the progress that we have made since the dawn of democracy to improve the quality of life of older persons, they continue to face a number of social challenges in today's life. These include physical and emotional abuse, neglect, financial abuse by loan sharks and insurance companies that sell them insurance policies they do not need.

As the Northern Cape Provincial Government I give you the assurance that we remain committed to the welfare and the rights of the older persons that you represent. We will continue to do everything within our capacity to deal with the daily challenges you face as our revered elders.

Unemployment and poverty remains a challenge directly impacting on our elderly. With the limited jobs available, coupled with the many needs of the family, older persons find themselves still being breadwinners at a very ripe old age. Other challenges are limited access to information and education, abuse at homes and care centres as well as failing health. We will deal with these challenges in partnership with the Older Persons representatives and forums.

My dear elders, I want to assure you that you have a very crucial role to play in society. I see older persons as being part and parcel of our vision of a Modern, Growing and Successful Province and wish to encourage you to continue to impart knowledge, traditions, customs, religion and languages on the younger tradition.

Honourable Speaker, older persons are becoming an ever-greater proportion of the total population, with the proportion of the very old (80 years and above) growing the most rapidly. At the same time, those reaching retirement age are healthier and fitter than ever before. Increasing life expectancy and better health in old age are a major success and represent a potential in terms of working power, qualification and experience that societies need to use productively. Experience with 'active ageing' shows that the older persons who are integrated into society have a higher quality of life and longer and healthier lives. We need to capitalize on the strides made and we need to consider more actively how to integrate older persons and ensure their participation in a cohesive society of all ages.

Our elders can be integrated into society in many ways. They are part of social networks of friends and family, are active in clubs and associations, work as volunteers and are economically active. Despite this, older persons may be vulnerable to exclusion. Potential obstacles to equal social participation of older persons include some of the challenges I have already alluded to such as poverty, poor health, low educational levels but also lack of transportation, access to services and age discrimination.

Honourable Speaker we need to foster greater social integration of our elderly. Social integration is a process of building values, relations and institutions for a society where all individuals, regardless of race, sex, age, ethnicity, language or religion, can fully exercise their rights and responsibilities on an equal basis with others. Every person should be allowed to age in security and with dignity and be in a position to contribute to society in the most meaningful way. Such an environment is at the root of stable, safe and just societies where all members, including vulnerable ones, enjoy equality of opportunities.

Integration and participation are therefore closely linked to the notion of social cohesion, a vital element of a healthy society. It denotes the capacity of a society to ensure the welfare of its members, minimizing disparities and avoiding polarization and conflict, and it requires fostering solidarity and reciprocity between generations.

Honourable Speaker, care responsibilities often have an intergenerational character, with older persons caring for grandchildren and younger adults providing care for older persons. There is much older and younger persons can learn from each other. Such processes ultimately help realize the goal of achieving a Society for All Ages.

Ladies and gentlemen, some older persons may choose to be active in the political realm. At a time when policies are made to prepare countries for the challenges of ageing societies, it is crucial to integrate those actually affected into the political process. Both young and old generations should be equally empowered to express their needs and interests. Organizations of older persons provide an important means of enabling participation through advocacy. A strong means of representation is in political parties, where older persons may directly influence the political agenda, in particular when represented in Parliament. This sitting today bears witness to this. It is a gathering of wise men and women debating issues of concern not only to them- but to society at large.

Honorable Speaker, I would like to emphasize those older men and women enjoy the same rights as anyone else in South Africa. The Constitution establishes a society based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights and seeks to improve the quality of life of all. The Older Persons Act supplements the constitutional rights as it contains provisions to improve the lives of older South Africans.

I need to mention that there is a growing concern about the abuse, neglect and ill treatment of older persons in residential facilities and the community. But there is a veil of silence which compounds this problem because the members of the public and the elderly are very reluctant to report abuse. It is about time that we all speak out against abuse and violation of the elderly so that we can rid society of the bad elements. Society must unite and eradicate the scourge of abuse against women and children, particularly our elderly women. Together, we can and must do more to prevent violence against women and children, in particular elderly women; provide services to survivors of abuse and ensure that perpetrators are punished.

As I stand here today, I want to commit ourselves, as Government, to assist every older person to live a life free of abuse and violence. We are determined to protect you from various forms of discrimination in all areas of life. We undertake to help you access all services that government is making available to you. We pledge the Government's commitment to promote the welfare of older persons across the province.

We further wish to encourage older persons to also take responsibility to follow a healthy lifestyle by becoming physically active such as have regular exercises and refraining from alcohol and substance abuse and smoking. You must take regular walks to improve your fitness,

We encourage our elderly to also participate and display their talents in sport, indigenous games, and show case traditional or cultural activities .Our Government has created platforms for our senior citizens to receive recognition as they partake in this activities. Some of you would be aware of the Golden Games for Older Persons programme of government. The annual Golden Games are a platform for older persons to display their talents in sport, indigenous games, and show case traditional or cultural activities.

Over the years, through the selfless contribution and sacrifice of our elderly during the liberation struggle, we achieved our freedom and have made significant progress as a nation. We thank you therefore for keeping the flames of our liberation struggle burning during the apartheid years.
As I conclude I want to recall the wise words of one of our late first President and world icon Tata Nelson Mandela and I quote, 'A society that does not value its older people denies its roots and endangers its future. Let us strive to enhance their capacity to support themselves for as long as possible and, when they cannot do so anymore, to care for them'.

These are wise words which must continue to guide our actions as we serve and support our elderly.
I therefore urge all of us to work and strive for a life of dignity for our elderly because 'Older Persons Rights are Human Rights too'.

I thank you