Older Persons Amendment Bill: DSD Briefing with Ministry

Social Development

26 October 2022
Chairperson: Ms N Mvana (ANC)
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Meeting Summary


In a virtual meeting, the Department of Social Development briefed the Portfolio Committee on the Older Persons Amendment Bill, 2022.

Members were told that there had been challenges in implementing the Older Persons Act which came into operation in 2010. Chief amongst these were the institutional, coordination and compliance measures. The Amendment Bill sought to insert new definitions and provisions relating to the monitoring and evaluation of all social services rendered to older persons. It further sought to insert measures for removing an older person to a temporary safe care facility without a court order and to tighten the existing implementation and compliance measures.

Issues raised by Members included protecting older people against loan sharks and against displacement by their families. They also asked how implementation of the new measures would be monitored. 

Meeting report

Overview by the Minister

Ms Lindiwe Zulu, Minister of Social Development, thanked the Chairperson and the Committee for their support. She acknowledged the efforts of provinces and communities in fighting gender-based violence. Grassroots and house-to-house involvement was key in dealing with violence in communities.

The Minister said that at the beginning of the month, the Department of Social Development (DSD) joined the world in celebrating the lives of older people. Communities owed them protection. There should be greater awareness of the violence, trauma, mental health, hunger, and malnutrition they experienced. The number of older people was growing rapidly. Average life expectancy had improved from 61.7 years in 2021 to 62.8 years in 2022. Due to differences in social demographics, it was 62.5 years for men and 68.5 years for women.

Society agreed that there was a need to enact legislation for the provision of quality services to older people. They ought to be afforded the necessary protection by everyone and they must be provided with the best possible care through community-based and residential facilities.

Most old people have never had the opportunity to prepare for their retirement to enable them to take care of themselves. Many of them used the money from the social grant to bear the burden of caring for their children and grandchildren rather than enjoying it themselves.

The Bill would give effect to crucial definitions, textual clarity and legislative alignment across the system. It would also simplify the removal of older people to temporary safe facilities when the need arose. It would tighten existing implementation and compliance measures. It would ensure that society provided older people with quality services and protection, Strengthening the monitoring and evaluation of the services received by older people. There would be strict measures and penalties for non-compliance in order to enhance the dignity of older people. The fortification of chapter five of the Act would promote the rights of the older person and ensure their protection against violence and abuse.

The Minister stated that caring for the elderly must be a shared responsibility of all government departments, not only the DSD. Hospitals, clinics and proper homes were important resources outside the ambit of the DSD. There was a need to pull in other departments to assist in creating a conducive environment for older people.

The Chairperson thanked the Minister for the overview and emphasised the need to reduce cases of gender-based violence. She also commended her dedication to the cause of the DSD.

Older Persons Amendment Bill Briefing

The Committee received a presentation by the DSD on the Older Persons Amendment Bill, 2022.

Members were told that the Older Persons Act, No 13 of 2006, came into operation in 2010 and had experienced implementation challenges. Chief amongst these were the institutional, coordination and compliance measures.

The Amendment Bill sought to insert new definitions and provisions relating to the monitoring and evaluation of all social services rendered to older persons. It further sought to insert measures for removing an older person to a temporary safe care facility without a court order and to tighten the existing implementation and compliance measures. It would provide greater textual clarity and respond to identified legislative gaps in the principal Act to address implementation challenges hampering the protection of older persons.

Matters of poor coordination and inter-sectoral collaboration negatively impacted the provision of services to older persons. The amendments would ensure that quality services and valuable protection were provided to older persons by society. The amendments would strengthen the monitoring and evaluation of services to older people. They would provide proper enforcement measures by imposing regulated penalties for non-compliance. The amendments would strengthen Chapter Five of the Act by introducing strict measures and penalties to enhance the dignity of older persons and ensure their protection against violence, violation and abuse.

The Department recommended that the Portfolio Committee note and process the Older Persons Amendment Bill.

Ms Isabella Sekwana, Acting Deputy Director-General, DSD, noted that a major concern was the misalignment between the Older Persons Act and the Social Assistance Act. The definition of age variations between males and females was deemed discriminatory. Section three indicated that all agents of the state ought to implement the Act, although the roles and responsibilities did not apply. Due to budget restraints, other departments were finding it difficult to collaborate with the DSD.

She said the key to reviewing this framework was ensuring synergy with international, national and local agreements. The DSD had created systems to respond to the abuse of older persons. It had identified a rise in cases in provinces. In the Eastern Cape, for instance, there was a joint initiative to engage with the SA Police Service, various departments and other key stakeholders to identify the causes and target extensive engagements with youth and traditional elders for a collaborative approach. This collaborative approach proved successful, and the strategy would be brought into the national picture to provide provinces with the resources to respond to key areas.

The DSD was keeping a register of abuse, and had commenced with a wide initiative of training of key stakeholders in proper understanding of the register. She said that the justice system adequately resolved the cases reported to the DSD and there was an agreement with the Ministry of Justice about the use of intermediaries.

See attached for full presentation


Ms G Opperman (DA) sought clarification about protecting older persons against loan sharks and asked how older persons could be protected against being forced to give power of attorney. Abuse claims were based on what the older persons said, but what about cases where they could no longer voice their concerns? Why were their partners disallowed from caring for older persons? Why were only juristic persons and trusts allowed to be registered to provide community-based care? Why did the amendment not allow anyone registered and qualified to care for older persons? She asked about the definition of a private residential facility and wanted to understand if it included or excluded family residences. What steps were taken when a de-registered facility refused to cooperate? She questioned whether it would result in prosecution. Given court backlogs and shortage of judges, would it be possible to obtain a court order in 48 hours, especially in non-accessible courts in rural areas?

Ms J Manganye (ANC) raised questions about how implementation of the provisions would be monitored and whether the Office of the President would be involved, because they were involved in monitoring gender-based violence. She also asked about the role of the Department of Health in implementing the provisions in section 25 (B) for the care of older persons with disabilities or chronic illnesses.

Ms M Mfikoe (ANC) raised the issue of elderly persons’ homes being rented out by their families. She asked how the protection of the elders could be reinforced. She requested further clarification and a breakdown of section 7(B) on property protection. She suggested that the Minister needed to work together with the Minister of Human Settlements on the corruption in municipal housing records and needed to engage with the Ministry of Justice on protecting the rights of old people. For property-related issues, a special tribunal could be created to assist in the safety of the rights of old people. She questioned how the Department would ensure adequate monitoring and implementation of seniors’ property rights. 

Ms A Abrahams (DA) indicated that the post of director of care and services for older persons had been vacant for years. When would the moratorium on filling this post be lifted? She asked how the Bill addressed the standardisation of subsidies to homes for the elderly throughout the country. What actions would the Department take on salary payments and facilities for staff? She asked about the role of the office of the premier, as was mentioned in section 3(D)5 and about the need for timeframes for service providers dealt with in section 8(C). What happened to seniors when operations were closed? Who bore the responsibility for ensuring sufficient accommodation or relocation for older persons? The removal of the elderly from their homes and familiar environment to temporary safety could affect their mental stability. Could the temporary facilities provide for older persons to attend the social events that they attended while at their homes? Families sometimes orchestrated removal of older persons to take full ownership of their homes. She inquired why health professionals had not been included in section 26 (16A) and asked for more clarity about physical abuse in section 18(A). Could the Department provide a list of safety facilities across the country and contacts? She concluded by sharing her concerns about the increased cost of living not being met by the amount of R1 990 being paid to older persons and recommended that this be revised.

Ms L Arries (EFF) shared the sentiments of other members and said that the elderly should be prioritised in all aspects. Discrimination was a challenge faced by the elderly, who needed to gain the full benefits of their pensions. She also asked why the Bill was not before the Portfolio Committee on the Presidency.

Ms P Marais (EFF) said some NGOs did a good job, while some social workers still discriminated against old people. How could the Department provide more assistance to these NGOs? What provisions were in place for older persons with mental challenges? She proposed that older persons must be provided with an extension on payments for their utilities. She mentioned how some nurses treated older persons. She said the Bill must be driven at the grassroots level.

The Chairperson also questioned how the monitoring would be achieved and requested that the abuse registers be made available to constituencies.


The Committee was given assurances about the implementation of the Bill. Members were told that legislation on old people was the sole responsibility of the DSD. The Department was the custodian of policy on older people, while other departments had roles to play to ensure their well-being, safety and security through various legislative frameworks. The Department would monitor this as well. The amendments aimed to strengthen the monitoring, redefine some definitions of older persons, and standardise some aspects like age categorisations.

Dr Maureen Mogotsi, Director: Children and Family Benefits, DSD, said the Department was aware of loan sharks and was driving awareness about the illegality of holding cards of grant beneficiaries. The Department had developed a basic finance book to address the issue of loan sharks and was conducting visits across the country to educate pensioners about their rights. The aim was to make the book accessible on the Department’s website.

She commented on the means tests for older people. The Department had considered the joint income of spouses, with the awareness that sometimes spouses were opposed to the idea of disclosing their incomes. This led them to review their legislation on the basis of individual assessment rather than collective assessment.

A DSD official stated that it was important to note that the DSD covered all the rights of the elderly. Cases of removing elderly people from their homes were not reported sometimes. The major focus was to sensitise older persons about their rights, as well as to empower them. If families were unable to assist their older persons, the government acted to provide the needed assistance.

The Department had noted the concerns of the Committee. Some special facilities were available to cater to older persons with Alzheimer's and dementia, even though these diseases were also found in young people. The privatisation challenge was being assessed. The Department worked with the South African Older Persons Forum at the national level and funded the forum to serve as the voice and ears for older persons. The Department also supported the provincial older persons forums. These forums were active, but faced some challenges due to the need for them to be constituted of older persons. The Department worked with provinces to ensure adequate monitoring of facilities. It was important to ensure concurrent national and provincial monitoring exercises. Some parts of the abuse register could be released, but the privacy of people had to be respected. The DSD was working with the Department of Justice. 

Ms Sekwana said that funding was a critical concern. There were talks with National Treasury. Funding NGOs with the current budget was very challenging. She emphasised that the deadline of 48 hours did not apply to court proceedings, but to investigations into whether older persons should be removed from their residences because they were helpless or whether other interventions should be made. 

Adv Luyanda Mtshotshisa, Legislative Drafting and Review Specialist, DSD, thanked the Committee for their questions and reminded them that this meeting was at the initial level of the development of the Bill. In many instances, funding for the provision of services was given to juristic persons like non-profit organisations. The Department was considering legislation to prohibit discrimination against age. There would be penalties for institutions that refused to cease operations. Regarding protecting elders against the deprivation of property, he said the Bill needed to relate to provisions in the Constitution. In some cases, older persons could be wrongfully occupying a property due to generational problems in the family. It would be complicated to have a provision for such cases, although general law on discrimination was available. 

Mr Linton Mchunu, acting Director-General, DSD, commented that the Department was responsible for monitoring the implementation of specific aspects of the Act, while the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation monitored the implementation of the targets of the Medium Term Strategic Framework. The DSD played a crosscutting role to ensure collaboration between other departments like health, human settlements, and justice to ensure the legislation's aims were fully achieved. He said the DSD condemned abuse of older persons and required law enforcement agencies to combat this. He urged communities to report cases of abuse so that there could be an immediate response.

The Chairperson thanked the Department for their comments and urged them to address the challenges faced by the elderly in communities. 

The meeting was adjourned.

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