Remarks by President Jacob G Zuma on the occasion of the celebration of the International Day of Older Persons, Sefako Makgatho Presidential Guest House, Pretoria
30 September 2012
Programme Director and Premier of Gauteng, Ms Nomvula Mokonyane,
Minister in the Presidency, Mr Collins Chabane
Minister for Social Development, Ms Bathabile Dlamini,
Minister of Police, Mr Nathi Mthethwa,
Deputy Minister of Social Development, Ms Maria Ntuli,
Deputy Minister of Health, Dr Gwen Ramokgopa,
Tshwane Executive Mayor, His Worship Councillor Ramokgopa,
Chairperson, Mr Tom Boya and members of the South African Older Persons Forum,
Our special guests - our Senior Citizens,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dumelang, Sanibonani, Abuxeni, Molweni,
It is a blessing and a privilege to share this special day with so many senior citizens of our country who have travelled from all over South Africa to be part of this important celebration.
I welcome all of you to Sefako Makgatho Presidential Guest House.
Kuyintokozo ukuba nginamukele kulendlu i- Sefako Makgatho Presidential Guest House.
The United Nations in its wisdom, designated the 1st of October each year as the International Day of Older Persons. We have chosen to celebrate this day today, on the 30th of September, ahead of the UN official day.
The International Day of Older Persons provides an opportunity to celebrate the contribution of senior citizens to society and to highlight issues that are of concern to them.
By hosting this celebration, we also wish to recognise, affirm and encourage senior citizens as important sources of wisdom in dealing with some of the issues confronting South Africa.
The 2012 International Day of Older Persons is made more special by the fact it is the year in which the ruling party and oldest liberation movement in Africa, the ANC, has turned 100 years old.
We are therefore also celebrating the contribution of all veterans of the struggle for freedom, who sacrificed their youth so that we could be free.
Today is also a special day because we are celebrating the lives of centenarians, those citizens who are 100 years old and beyond.
Sizizwa sibusisekile kakhulu ukuhlangana namhlanje nogogo nomkhulu asebehlanganise iminyake eyikhulu nangaphezulu.
It is a real honour and privilege to have the centenarians in our midst today.
Ladies and gentlemen,
On this special occasion, we would like to acknowledge the critical role played by older persons, especially grandmothers, in many families and communities.
The role of grandmothers became more pronounced as the HIV and AIDS began to take its toll on our communities a few years ago, before the improvement in government’s HIV and AIDS programme with improved access to treatment.
Grandmothers took on the selfless role of looking after many orphans and vulnerable children.
A study commissioned by the Department of Social Development in 2006 shows that in Mpumalanga alone, 75 percent of older persons were heads of households.
In addition, according to a report published by UNICEF (2007), 38.2 percent of young children were living in households headed by grandparents.
According to the study, the majority of grandparents who serve as primary caregivers are black women who reside predominantly in rural areas.
The study found that indeed the grandparents use their Old Age Pension to provide for their families. About three million older persons receive the old age pension from government which clearly plays a broader role than supporting senior citizens only.
In addition to orphans, older persons also support older children who are unemployed due to the economic situation in the country.
Imali yempesheni yondla abazukulu benu kanye namalungu omndeni aswele imisebenzi. Kuyasithinta kakhulu lokho njengohulumeni ngoba nibambe iqhaza elikhulu ekulweni nobubhwa.
Government has extended the reach of the old age pension, through enabling older men to obtain the grant at the age of 60 instead of 65.
We trust that this has contributed a great to alleviating need and poverty amongst older men. It also affirms equality between men and women as provided for in the Constitution.
In addition to social grants, older persons also qualify for free access to essential services such as water, health, housing, and energy.
We trust that most of you know these services and access them.
We also trust that you utilise the wonderful social services such as luncheon clubs and recreational facilities in many communities.
On this special occasion, we also wish to acknowledge all NGOs, community based organisations and many caregivers in communities for their commitment and contribution, often on a voluntary basis. They complement the work of government immensely in caring for older persons.
We also welcome the role of organisations such as the South African Older Persons Forum and Age in Action which serves as the voice of older persons in matters that concern their lives.
At the beginning of this month we sadly lost Reverend Dr Khoza Mgojo, a stalwart of the liberation struggle who was one of the founders of the KwaZulu-Natal Senior Citizens Forum and the South African Older Persons Forum.
We extend our deepest condolences to his family and to the Forum once again.
As we celebrate this day, we recommit ourselves to work towards the provision of services that enable our senior citizens to lead better and dignified lives.
It is in this spirit that we commit to work with and support civil society organisations to implement the Older Persons Act and the Charter on the Rights Older Persons, with specific focus on improving the lives of older persons in rural areas.
Improved access to basic services such as health care, electricity, water, adult basic education and training are critical for older persons.
Also importantly, we commit as government, to work with communities to protect older persons from criminality.
We have heard of horror stories of women as senior as 94 years or in their 80s, being sexually assaulted. Anyone who rapes senior citizens is not worth being called a human being.
Umphakathi mawuhlangane ubikele amaphoyisa zibanjwe izinswelaboya ezinukubeza ogogo kanye nabesifazane namantombazane jikelele.
The South African Police Service has instructed all police stations to ensure that victims with special needs such as the elderly have those needs taken into account when they are provided with services.
Should there be a problem with the services provided, the Station Commander and other station managers should be immediately notified so that they can provide the necessary assistance and immediate redress.
We also urge the youth to take the lead in looking after their grandparents and to protect them.
We must encourage the deepening of caring in our society and our youth are a starting point as they are the future of our country. There can be no better way of promoting inter-generational solidarity than encouraging the youth to actively support older persons, their grandparents.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Before concluding let me stress two critical points.
We want to emphasise that as older persons, you possess experience and wisdom that the country needs. We urge you to continue sharing your knowledge to support the development of the country.
Secondly, we urge older persons to join us in teaching our young people what it means to be good citizens, who are guided by the understanding of respect and ubuntu.
You spend a lot of time with grandchildren, and can contribute to inculcating these positive values at an early age, so that we can build a better society.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Let me remind you that Government has designated October for two key month-long campaigns each year. We mark Social Development Month and also Transport Month.
Both the Departments of Social Development and Transport will release programmes detailing activities for the whole month.
In marking Social Development Month in October, we want to see all sectors of society working together to promote the building of a caring society in our country, based on ubuntu and respect.
Once again, we thank you for the contribution you continue to make in your families and to society as a whole.
We wish you all a very happy International Day for Older Persons tomorrow.
I thank you.