Older people at risk as Eastern Cape Social Development Department cuts funding

Jerry Ketelo and Luthando July at the Imbumba center in Dimbaza in the Eastern Cape. Photo: Loyiso Dyongman

  • Funding cuts by the Eastern Cape Department of Social Development have put the well-being of older people at risk, according to the Imbumba Association for the Elderly, an association with 50 member organizations that provide food, social care , laundry and cleaning, and deliver medicines to the elderly. people.
  • The department announced the reduction of 56 million rand last year.
  • An attempt at mediation between Imbumba and the department late last year failed.

Following failed mediation, the Imbumba Association for the Elderly seeks legal advice on the R56 million spending cuts from the Eastern Cape Department of Social Development which Imbumba says will endanger the good -being of hundreds of elderly people, mostly women.

The department said in a statement on December 6, 2021 that the spending cuts had been made “in all programs to account for a reduced budget share, due to the government’s response to the unpredictable demands of the Covid pandemic. 19 ”.

Imbumba, an association of 50 member organizations, provides food, social care, laundry and cleaning, and delivers medicine to the elderly. The association said last year that the 56 million rand reduction in social assistance would deprive at least 60% of its beneficiaries of services offered by community centers. In a statement, Vice President Melumzi Sauka said the cuts were being made to settle wage arrears, which the ministry had known it had to pay since 2009.

Imbumba treasurer Nosiphiwo Tetana then said that due to the cuts, more than half of the 2,580 people supported by the centers would be left without any assistance.

Sauka told GroundUp on Tuesday that an attempt at mediation on Dec. 14 failed and the department did not make “a real attempt” to resolve the matter.

The department’s media liaison officer, Lufefe Mkutu, said, “The department’s position remains the same, the case is still ongoing.”

But Sauka said the department did not respond to Imbumba’s requests.

Imbumba’s public relations manager Noluntu Mlakalaka said the beneficiaries had had a bleak Christmas and New Year. “We organized Christmas parties for the elderly in each center before closing on December 15 and buying gifts and food parcels for our beneficiaries, sometimes we would go to the beach or to hotels for an outing. Not all of these things could happen in 2021. Mlakalaka said staff also suffered.

“We know that at the end of the fiscal year, a lot of money will remain unused by the ministry while people need help on the ground. In this province, no one appreciates the good work we do for the elderly, ”Mlakalaka said.

“We hope that when the President delivers the State of the Nation Address next month, he will take into account the needs of the elderly in service centers in the Eastern Cape.”

“These cuts are outrageous and associated with a persistent and unexplained underuse of social and welfare services, endanger the lives and livelihoods of thousands of people. The failure of the government to pay its staff properly and on time now means that thousands of older people, especially older women, who survive in rural areas, who rely on our services, will not be able to access healthcare and services. support they need and deserve, ”said Sauka.

The association said the ministry had not consulted it properly about the cut. The association also said the reasons for the reduction – to make the late payment of wages, which should already have been in progress – were in violation of the Public Financial Administration Law.

In 2020, Imbumba won a legal victory when the Eastern Cape High Court ordered the provincial Department of Social Development to repay at least R 1.5 million owed to Imbumba, with interest. This follows a departmental decision to stop funding Imbumba during the lockdown.

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Joel C. Hicks