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‘Authorities must act swiftly on elderly abuse’

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A video depicting an elderly Strandfontein woman being harassed for money by her drug-addicted grandson has caused outrage on social media, highlighting the often-unspoken scourge of elderly abuse. The video shows a frail woman known as Mrs Koelman in a state of fear and distress as the young man begs her for R10.

While the video was taken a while ago, community members say the Western Cape Department of Social Development has been slow to respond to the case. Provincial Social Development spokesperson Esther Lewis confirmed that the department is now investigating the matter and that drug abuse interventions are being sought for the boy in the video.

The elderly woman from Dinghie Circle has since passed away due to natural causes, with many saying intervening now is too little too late. Community members are now demanding that authorities do more to act on such cases.

On social media, angry locals condemned the behaviour of the woman’s grandson, but also criticised the person who filmed the incident for failing to intervene.

Speaking to VOC on Thursday, the chairperson of the Strandfontein Community Policing Forum (CPF) Sandy Schutter, explained that the video was filmed by her other grandson with the intention of approaching Mitchell’s Plain court to apply for an interdict on behalf of his grandmother, which was declined.

“The young man (who filmed the video) was too afraid to do anything physical to his brother because he always threatened to lay a charge of assault. He could not afford to be put behind bars as he will be out of work, which will affect them all financially. He was the only breadwinner in the home,” she explained.

“The video was taken as proof of the persistent abuse in the home. On several occasions, the family had reached to Strandfontein SAPS, but when they attended to the complaint, the alleged offender would run away from the house.”

Mrs Koelman, who had been sick and frail for some time, had been in the care of her three grandchildren.

“When the one grandson wasn’t on a high, he would look after her. But when he needed that hit in the morning, he used to terrorise her. When she wasn’t there then he would terrorise his brother and sister,” said Schutter, adding that the grandson was confronted at her janaza for his erratic behaviour.

The police made several attempts to contact officials from the Department of Social Development in Mitchell’s Plain, however they never followed up.

“There was always excuses by the social workers on stand-by. Abuse happens at any time of the night, behind closed doors when people don’t see and hear.”

“As a volunteer trying to assist Mrs Schoeman and her family, we believe our agencies failed her. They made us as volunteers look incompetent, but we have limited resources.”

It was important for people to see the video as it opens a discussion about the spate of elderly abuse in the community, said Shutter.

“I once received a call about an elderly man being tied up in his yard. Social workers and the constable asked the victims in the presence of his perpetrators whether he is being abused, he said no. Obviously he would say no,” she recalled.

“Our vulnerable elderly or minors may not feel strong enough to open a case against their perpetrators as they depend on them financially. But it is our responsibility to be the voice of the voiceless.”

Schutter said she received a call by MEC for Social Development Sharna Fernandez this week and was given reassurance the department would assist in the cases of the other elderly people being abused in the community.

“There is a heavy caseload at Mitchell’s Plain due to substance abuse and crime. But the department needs to make provisions. We need to look at the social ills in our community and social development must step in.”

Schutter called out the police for their perceived failure to act with urgency,

“SAPS can enforce the Children’s Act, but why is no one enforcing the Older Person’s Act and arresting these perpetrators?”


RIP MRS Koelman from dinghie circle StrandfonteinMany many many many times have we been at your aid, then this ABUSER runs away before we arrive, we called social development 100's of times to step in and use the OLDER Persons Act to handle this matter, listening to you cry when we stood there. Many times when Strandfontein SAPS arrived, he would run away,How many times have strandfontein saps called Social Development to help and nobody From mitchells plain social development came.This video was taken a week ago and only surfaced this morning.SAPS detective went to the Senior Prosecutor to find out what can be done now, unfortunately nothing can be done.I'm going to name another elderly lady in dinghi circle that's being abused by her grandchild and once again MITCHELLS PLAIN Social Development hasn't even bothered to Come.There is another elder abuse situation in Steamboat where residents made contact with the CPF, we contacted social development and a social worker came out and once again NOTHING happened.This is upsetting and this needs to stopPiemp your neighbours if they abusing the elderly in the home.May your beautiful soul rest in peace Mrs Koelman

Posted by Strandfontein CPF on Tuesday, 11 February 2020

What the law states
According to the Older Person’s Act (No 13 of 2006). an elderly person is defined as someone over the age of 60. Elderly abuse can be defined as the “deliberate and unintentional maltreatment, physical, emotional, social and financial abuse of an elderly person.” Any suffering caused to an elderly person is a violation of human rights.

Terri Casper, a social worker supervisor at Age-in-Action, an NGO that protects and promotes the interests and well-being of elderly persons, says abuse is widespread.

Economic or financial abuse seems to be prevalent in the Western Cape given the high rate of substance addiction. Often elderly people’s homes are targeted for valuables, SASSA grants or bank card are misused or they are manipulated into giving food to others.

“Older persons need to be vigilant. We are finding that with the cases reported, the perpetrator is usually a son, daughter, grandchild, neighbour or care-giver – someone that is close to the person,” said Casper.

“It’s happening all the time and in all spheres of society. However, it is underreported. We receive many cases on a daily basis, but we believe there are many more going unreported, as elderly are embarrassed, especially when its their own family [perpetrating the abuse].

An elderly person experiencing abuse can apply for a protection order from the court. If the alleged perpetrator is living on the property of the elderly person, an eviction order can be applied for, however, this is a long process. Legal counsel is required and Legal Aid can be contacted.

The abuse can be reported anonymously to Age in Action. The NGO will send out a social worker to ascertain the situation.

Contact 021 423 0204 or toll-free 0800 333 231. Email wcape@age-in-action


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