Older Persons Amendment Bill: SAPS & DoH response to public submissions (with Ministry); CET programmes for the elderly

Social Development

08 March 2024
Chairperson: Ms N Mvana (ANC)
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Meeting Summary


The Portfolio Committee on Social Development (the Committee) convened virtually to engage the Department of Police (SAPS) and the National Department of Health (NDoH) on their responses to public submissions on the Older Persons Amendment Bill [B11 – 2022]. The Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) briefed the Committee on programmes offered at community colleges for adults. The Minister of Social Development and the Deputy Minister of Police were in attendance.

The key concern that emanated from public hearings across the country, was the long queues that older people are subjected to, in their efforts to obtain services at public clinics, hospitals and SASSA offices. Older people often feel disrespected and have reported incidents of ill-treatment by officials at public facilities. To address the quality of services at healthcare facilities, the NDoH in collaboration with provinces, has been implementing the Ideal Clinic/Ideal Health Facility Framework. A complaints mechanism was instituted at facilities and a national toll-free call number had been activated. The SAPS advised that police officers would be sensitised to older person abuse. Existing instructions and guidelines provide for ethical and professional conduct to respect and preserve the dignity of older persons. Queue management instructions provide for the elderly to be assisted out of the queue.

The Committee welcomed the initiative by the DHET to introduce training programmes on the use of technology for the elderly at residential facilities. Government services and grants provided by SASSA are becoming more technological. The training would benefit older persons to access services online, thereby reducing the long queues at SASSA offices and other public facilities. It would offer a more dignified way to access services and increase safety for older people. The Committee advised the DHET to also share the presentation with Members of the 7th Parliament.


Meeting report

The Chairperson apologised for joining late and opened the meeting with a moment of silent prayer. She acknowledged that Members might want to attend other activities and events, given the significance of celebrating International Women’s Day. The day is critical and provides a platform to advocate for the economic empowerment of women in rural areas and villages. The situation seemed to be worse than in previous years given the daily media reports of abuse and gender-based violence (GBV). Women need to hold hands and continue the fight for women’s rights. She apologised for overlooking the date because, on this day, women should be reaching out to other women and not be sitting in meetings or board rooms.

Ms Lindiwe Ntsabo, Committee Secretary, mentioned the apologies from the Minister of Police and the Minister of Health who both had prior commitments. The Minister of Social Development and senior officials of the Department had joined the meeting as observers.

The Chairperson acknowledged the presence of the Deputy Minister of Police and the Minister of Social Development. She granted an opportunity for a political overview by the ministers.

Opening remarks
Ms Lindiwe Zulu, Minister of Social Development, thanked the officials of the departments for continuing to do their work under difficult circumstances. The Department of Social Development was doing well despite the challenges. She wished all women well on International Women’s Day. She encouraged women to keep uniting around women’s issues and join the global movement in driving the agenda from an African perspective. A conducive environment must be created for women to thrive. She hoped that the public hearings would enrich the legislative process. Most people who spoke at the Imbizo in Mpumalanga which she attended the previous day were the elderly, particularly older women. They raised concerns about younger people not taking care of older people. Their grant money is spent on taking care of children and grandchildren. The government would be improving the environment so that older people could live well in their golden years.

The Chairperson thanked the Minister for the motivating words.

Mr Cassel Mathale, Deputy Minister of Police, apologised on behalf of the Minister and National Commissioner of Police who were both on assignment in KwaZulu-Natal. He welcomed the approach of the Committee to engage more than one department at the same time. Other pieces of legislation, in which the SAPS plays a role, were passed without consultation with the SAPS. For example, the police are expected to take a person with mental health issues to a hospital but if a bed is unavailable, the person is taken to a holding cell at a police station. The law does not stipulate how the matter should be handled. Cases involving older persons should similarly not become a police problem. The Department of Social Development should get involved. Lawmakers should not create unintended consequences that become problems for other departments.
SAPS presentation
Lt Gen K Senthumule, Acting Deputy National Commissioner for Policing, SAPS, thanked the Committee for the opportunity to participate in the meeting. She called on Gen Mathonsi to lead the presentation.

Ms K Bilankulu (ANC) said Members did not know the officials and requested them to open their videos for a while and present themselves to the Committee.

Gen Thokozani Mathonsi, Head of Visible Policing and Operations, SAPS, said the presentation contained a response to the letter received from the Department of Policing to address the concerns raised in public hearings and to comment on the Older Persons Amendment Bill.

Comments on Older Persons Amendment Bill

Clause 15 – Removal of older person to temporary safe care:

Section 25A(1) provides the removal of an older person with the consent of an authorised person if the older person is incapable of consenting. The definition of an ‘authorised person’ is not provided.

Section 25A(3) stipulates that the police official must inform the family of the older person referred to in subsection (1). It is unclear how information may be obtained if the authorised person does not have information. The practical implication of the proposed amendment is concerning. The Bill is silent on where the older person should be taken once removed. The Department of Social Development should be leading the process and not the SAPS.

Section 25A(7) provides that the misuse of power contemplated in subsection (1) constitutes grounds for disciplinary proceedings against a police official. It is unclear what is meant by ‘misuse’. It is recommended that 25A(7) be removed from the Bill as the SAPS legislative framework already provides for disciplinary steps against police officials.

Clause 18 – Prohibition of abuse of older persons and special measures to combat abuse of older persons:

The proposed amendment of subsection (3)(a) expands the definition of physical abuse to include neglect or exploitation of an older person in any manner. The following wording is proposed in the introduction of subsection (3): ‘For the purpose of subsection (2), abuse includes physical, sexual, psychological and economical abuse or the neglect or exploitation of an older person in any manner and …’

Responses to key concerns raised in public hearings

Police officers fail to prioritise or adequately investigate cases when the perpetrator is a family member:
SAPS National Instruction 1/2014 on the protection of older persons provides for ethical principles in the treatment of older persons. SAPS Guidelines for policing of crime against older persons (2017) were developed in consultation with stakeholders to sensitise members to older person abuse. Compliance with instructions and guidelines can be enforced.

Older persons feel disrespected and marginalised when interacting with police personnel:
Applicable instructions and guidelines provide for ethical and professional conduct to respect and preserve the dignity of older persons. Queue management instructions ensure that the elderly may be assisted out of the queue. Forums for older persons facilitate feedback mechanisms to address concerns about poor treatment at police stations.

Older persons with hearing impairments face communication barriers at police stations:
The SAPS MOU with DeafSA facilitates the provision of sign language interpretation services to ensure accessibility for older persons with hearing impairments. The SAPS is exploring technological solutions such as Video Relay Communication and Microsoft Teams to enhance sign language interpretation services at police stations.

(See Presentation)

NDoH presentation
Dr Sandile Buthelezi, Director-General (DG), NDoH, was accompanied by other officials. He called on Ms Hunter to deliver the presentation.

Ms Jeanette Hunter, DDG: Primary Healthcare, NDoH, presented the responses to issues raised during public hearings, and recommendations made by the Committee on the Older Persons Amendment Bill.

Issues raised during public hearings

Poor service delivery at local healthcare facilities, including long queues with no shelter, chairs, and access to water and ablution facilities:
The NDoH, in collaboration with provinces, is implementing the Ideal Clinic / Ideal Health Facility Framework to address the quality of service delivery in general. A complaints mechanism had been instituted at facilities and a national toll-free call number had been activated.

Shortage of medication at healthcare facilities:
A stock visibility system (SVS) is in place to monitor the availability of medication on a weekly basis.

Older persons travel long distances to access healthcare facilities:
Community healthcare workers regularly deliver chronic medication, thereby reducing clinic visits to once every six months. Mobile clinics are available to communities located within five kilometres from a fixed clinic.

Healthcare professionals lack training to deal with older persons:
Healthcare professionals receive additional post-basic training on adult primary care (APC) which include conditions affecting older persons.

Healthcare professionals do not visit residential care facilities resulting in services not being rendered:
This area should be strengthened in collaboration with the Department of Social Development and NGO partners.

Lack of understanding and knowledge by older persons and communities about communicable and non-communicable diseases:
The education of older persons affected by Dementia and their families on ways to support them remains an area of improvement. Awareness campaigns are conducted in the provinces to protect affected persons who are being accused of practising witchcraft.

Recommendations from the Committee

More mobile facilities should be made available in rural areas and on farms:
Mobile facilities do exist but the routes need to be communicated to communities.

Families and communities should be trained to stop violence against older persons affected by Dementia and Alzheimer:
The education of older persons affected by Dementia and Alzheimer, and their families on ways to support them remains an area of improvement.

Older persons should be exonerated from queuing in public healthcare facilities:
It is a policy of the Department that older persons should not queue at public facilities. The Department would run a community education and media campaign on this matter.

Sign language interpreters should be delivering services at healthcare facilities:
The Department would require additional resources and would be motivated for funding.

Ms Hunter thanked the Committee for making the Department aware of how the public feels about the services. The information would help to strengthen the system.

(See Presentation)

Ms P Marais (EFF) noted that SAPS did not provide feedback on the issue of financial abuse, e.g. when children take grant money from older persons. She suggested that a special help desk should be made available at police stations where older persons could lodge complaints. From the comments made at public hearings, it appeared that police officers are not listening to the plight of the elderly who feel that they are being abused even when protection orders are in place. She relayed her personal experience of her 75-year-old mother who is being abused by her brother. The police want her to present evidence of abuse before she is assisted. She recommended that police officers should receive training on how to assist the elderly. She encouraged the NDoH to improve healthcare because it was unacceptable that older persons had to stand in long queues for medication. She proposed the setup of a special medicine delivery system to accommodate older persons.

Ms B Masondo (DA) asked if it was possible to consult the affected departments at the drafting stage of a Bill. This would take care of situations where the Department of Police was asking valid questions about the meaning of a ‘responsible person’. The content of the Bill should be known to the Department. She asked if the relevant departments could be part of the teams when public hearings are held in the provinces. She was satisfied that the SAPS legislative framework covered most of the aspects mentioned during the public hearings but had observed that the implementation in practice was lacking. The examples cited in public hearings were an indication that abuse of older people was happening too often. She wanted to know if it was allowed for police officers to send people home to sort out the problem when they wanted to lay charges against a family member. Judging from the public hearings, this appears to be a regular occurrence. She wanted to know if the SAPS had advice for the NDoH when older people, who are labelled as witches, are being attacked. This was adding to the abuse of the elderly. Awareness programmes should be developed to inform communities about diseases affecting older people. She commended the SAPS for introducing sign language technology because it is delivering a critical service. The need to improve healthcare featured prominently in the public hearings. The availability of medicines was a particular concern. It was often mentioned that patients are given Panados after travelling long hours for medical care. A review of the mobile clinic routes was needed. There was a huge outcry in rural communities about the need for mobile clinics. She wanted to understand if the lack of human resources was having an impact on how people are being treated. She asked if staff are too busy to treat people with respect and dignity.

Ms J Manganye (ANC) wanted to know if it was acceptable for police officers to negotiate on behalf of a grandson who has beaten his grandmother. She relayed an incident of an elderly lady in her area whom she had accompanied to the police station to lay charges against her grandson. However, the police officers intervened on behalf of her grandson and did not assist her. She was also advised by the council of the tribal authority to not go to the police. Ms Manganye recommended that the SAPS should not negotiate when elderly people are abused. The procedures on paper differ from what is being practised. She urged the SAPS to act differently so that people could have hope. She recommended that the country should be educated on the issue of Dementia similar to the campaign during the Covid-19 pandemic. She had learnt about the disease on a trip to Canada and was able to recognise the symptoms in her mother when she arrived home. She became aware of a village in Limpopo where the Chief had taken older women to a safe place because they were accused of witchcraft but it is assumed that they might be suffering from Dementia. She pleaded with the NDoH to make medication available in rural areas in the same way as in the towns and cities. People in rural areas have limited access to chronic medication while it is available in the metros. The provinces should be able to know where to get stock from. Some people have been dying in queues while waiting for medicines. The presentation showed an ideal situation but it differs in practice where access to mobile clinics is impacted by the poor roads in rural areas. The elderly, who now have a longer lifespan, should be treated with respect. She appreciated hearing from both the SAPS and NDoH.

Ms Bilankulu said the feedback from the SAPS and NDoH was straightforward but the implementation was lacking. The attitudes of officials at public institutions need to improve. She commended the departments for responding well to the issues raised at the public hearings.

SAPS Responses
Lt Gen Senthumule stated that the SAPS is legally obligated to protect the rights of older persons in collaboration with other departments. She noted the issues affecting older persons and identified the gaps which the SAPS was committed to improving by emphasising empathy in dealing with the elderly. She noted the personal issue of Ms Marais and requested her to exchange details with Brigadier Mitchell to facilitate personal intervention. The issue of older women being accused of witchcraft is a societal problem which requires an integrated solution to protect the elderly. She proposed the establishment of a multi-dimensional working group that would focus on developing intervention mechanisms with pillars that include issues of awareness, protection and a reporting mechanism.

Gen Mathonsi replied to Ms Marais about her request for a desk for older persons. He would be exploring the integration of services for older persons with the existing GBV desk because creating a special desk would be a challenge. The Department had several projects for new police stations. Mobile units are available in some rural areas where the SAPS has been working with the Chiefs. He explained that the court is the first stop for a protection order. Once issued, the police must execute. He agreed that the framework is good but the practice might be different. He would be raising awareness about the concerns of older people among police officers. The shortage of staff should not be used as an excuse to treat people poorly. Negotiating with a suspect is not allowed in case of a crime that was committed. Victim-friendly rooms are available at police stations for private interviews. A directive would be issued to re-emphasise the point of treating all people with dignity and to provide a safe space for older persons.

Lt Gen Senthumule said negotiation in the criminal justice system is only allowed in the alternative dispute resolution (ADR) process. This is the only legal instrument to negotiate and resolve crimes. The police can get involved through the court to help the disputing parties in dealing with a criminal matter. Cases of informal negotiations should be reported to the National Police Commissioner where the matter would be dealt with in accordance with disciplinary regulations.

Lt Gen B Zulu, Divisional Commissioner: Human Resources, SAPS, said the SAPS was continuing to provide training to ensure members act professionally when they are in contact with the community. The victim empowerment learning programme had been reviewed to include aspects of dealing with the elderly and people suffering from mental health issues. She acknowledged the NDoH presentation, specifically on the best practices that were highlighted. She would be engaging the Department on their framework and mechanisms to deal with the elderly.

Maj Gen M Van Rooyen, Section Head: Legislation, SAPS, replied to Ms Masondo on cooperation concerning legislative amendments. She confirmed that government departments are working closely together on proposed amendments to legislation. However, some stakeholders would on occasion leave it to the Department to decide on what needs to be incorporated. The comments are meant to strengthen certain aspects of the legislation. Insofar as economic abuse is concerned, she replied that existing legislation already includes the deprivation of financial resources to which an older person is entitled or which is required out of necessity. She remarked that awareness amongst communities should be raised to address the scourge of drug abuse in our society and the impact thereof on older people. Government should ensure effective treatment of drug abuse to minimise the risk of elder abuse.

Deputy Minister Mathale thanked the Department for the input. The concerns raised by the public were noted. He acknowledged that the attitude of the police was not always perfect. Historically, the police were trained to act in a particular manner. In 1994, the government resolved to have a police service instead of a police force which meant that persons from the previous administration had to conform with the norms of a democratic society. Changing the attitude of people was not easy and needed the determination of both the political and administrative heads to ensure a professional service. The SAPS would continue working on improving the situation where the public had experienced instances of inappropriate behaviour by the police. The Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) exist to guide police officers to conduct themselves in a professional manner. IPID investigates any wrongdoing and police officers are arrested where crime is detected. However, the SAPS got acknowledgement from communities that appreciate the work of committed officers. He cited as an example of a police unit in Limpopo who was recognised for their good work by a member of the community. She felt that the officers who had helped her in a case of abuse deserved to be awarded and communicated her story to the Minister of Police. This was just one of many such stories. The presentation was an example of the women and men who understood their responsibility. It is only a minority that was behaving badly. The SAPS could learn from the best practices of the NDoH and would be reaching out and working together with them. Appearing before the Committee was a learning experience for the Department. The concerns raised would not fall on deaf ears. The SAPS would be working on improving attitudes within its ranks because it has a great bearing on working with communities. No success of the police had been without the participation of the communities.

The Chairperson remarked that the SAPS understood its role but some officials have been undermining the police. Transformation is important although some would prefer the country to remain as before. The outcry in all provinces was about the police not listening to the problems of communities. She would appreciate it if the SAPS could reach out to rural communities.

NDoH Responses
Ms Hunter acknowledged the areas of poor performance in health facilities. Although policies and procedures are in place, implementation thereof is a problem. Efforts are made to correct poor performance where it is identified. The problem is not pervasive. The Department has also received many compliments for good services. The shortage of staff should not lead to the ill-treatment of patients. The DG had visited a facility which had been receiving complaints of poor performance. He found that the facility was overstaffed. The Department would act in case of understaffing but it might be an issue of wilful neglect when a facility is overstaffed. She acknowledged the staff was doing excellent work. She welcomed the input from Lt Gen Zulu and acknowledged that the SAPS was leading in the use of sign language which the NDoH could learn from.

The Chairperson appreciated the responses and encouraged the Department to improve on the issue of older persons having to wait in long queues at clinics and hospitals. The prioritisation of the elderly should be fast-tracked. She requested Ms Bilankulu to hold the fort for the remaining part of the meeting.

DHET presentation
Ms Thembisa Futshane, Deputy Director-General (DDG): CET, DHET, apologised on behalf of the Minister and Deputy Minister who were unable to join the meeting. The mandate of the community colleges is meant to cater to out-of-school youth and adults who have never been to school and those seeking a second chance to study to improve their livelihoods. There are nine community education and training (CET) colleges, i.e. one located in each province. Each CET has multiple community learning centres (CLCs) and satellite centres (SCs). The community college sector consists of 200 CLCs and 1 591 SCs throughout the country.

The CET Act 16 of 2006 and the National Policy on Curriculum Development and Implementation in CET colleges outline the following programmes that CET colleges should offer:

Formal academic programmes
General Education and Training Certificate: Adult Basic Education and Training at NQF 1. Caters for youth and adults with education levels below Grade 9 and is offered by all CLCs and SCs.

Senior Certificate at NQF 4. Offers a second chance to students who want to obtain a matric certificate or improve their matric results. CLCs and SCs are accredited by the Department of Basic Education as examination centres for this qualification.

National Senior Certificate (NSC) at NQF4. Offers rewrite opportunities to students who want to improve their NSC subjects. Tuition and examination are offered at some CLCs.

Informal Programmes
CET colleges offer the following non-credit-bearing programmes:
Driving licence
Knitting and crocheting

Occupational skills programmes
SETA-accredited occupational skills programmes offered at CET colleges include:
End user computing
Clothing manufacturing and sewing
New venture creation services
Entrepreneurship training

Public inputs and requests
The Department was requested to re-introduce CET at residential care facilities for older persons.

Training programmes to empower older persons should include the use of technology, e.g. ATMs, smartphones and computers, and financial management.

(See Presentation)


Ms L Arries (EFF) apologised for being late. She enquired about the accreditation level of training for residential care workers. She wanted to know if credits are awarded for such training and if the training is conducted on a part-time or after-hours basis.

Ms Masondo was extremely excited about the amazing initiative to introduce training on the use of technology at residential facilities. Through the work of the Committee and briefings from departments, Members became aware that accessing the services and grants provided by SASSA are becoming more technological. Older persons would need to be trained to use the services. It would reduce the long queues at SASSA offices if all beneficiaries were able to access services online by using their gadgets. People were complaining in public hearings about not getting help at SASSA offices. She asked if the future funding model would include the ability to access grants online. The training would help older people to use the technology platform through which government services are being provided. She welcomed the valuable and informative presentation.

Ms Marais asked if the Department were offering a programme where people could train other people to do their work. She enquired about studies for persons older than 60 years without matric certificates.

Ms Manganye was excited about the technology programme. In public hearings, older persons would indicate that they might be old but their minds are still fully functional. This programme would address the feeling of older people of not being useful. She wished for the 7th Parliament to also be briefed on this presentation. The Department of Social Development should ensure that older people become active by sharing their knowledge and skills and relieve them from loneliness. She raised her hat to the programme and was hoping it would benefit the elderly.

Ms Bilankulu found it pleasing to hear Ms Manganye’s excitement about the presentation because it meant that, at her age, she would be assisting other older people. The people in the North-West province would be needing her wisdom and knowledge of serving as a Member of Parliament.

Ms Futshane appreciated the comments from Members. The feedback would help in further enhancing the work of community colleges. She was looking forward to meeting Ms Manganye and to taking Members to the colleges. She replied to Ms Allies that awarding credits would depend on the status of a programme. All formal programmes are accredited. Accreditation levels are at entry level for most programmes. The DHET is mandated to provide training to those who cannot access any other institutional type. The modus operandi for training caregivers would have to be negotiated because it might not always be possible for older people to travel to college. For example, the partnership with the Department of Correctional Services allows lecturers to go to correctional facilities to provide training. Similar arrangements could be made for caregivers. The Department was offering an exciting civic education programme which covers issues of GBV, drug and alcohol abuse. She explained that online banking training could be customised based on the needs of older people. It was important to create awareness of the risks associated with online banking because older people are vulnerable. She agreed that the use of technology could reduce the long queues at SASSA offices. It offers a more dignified way to access services and would increase safety for older people. She replied to Ms Marais that community colleges offer a launch pad for people who dropped out of school. She would share success stories at another time. Some older persons want to obtain matric certificates because it might be a bucket list wish or an issue of dignity while others only want to acquire a skill. She relayed the example of the musician, Sipho Hotstix Mabuse who obtained his matric certificate in 2012 at the age of 60 after attending a community college in Soweto. Although he did not need the certificate to practice his craft, for him it was a personal achievement. There were many more such stories to report.

Ms Bilankulu thanked all who had participated in the meeting and commended the Department for doing great work. The information from all the presentations would assist the Committee in improving the Older Persons Amendment Bill.

The meeting was adjourned.


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