Address by the Deputy Minister of Social Development, Ms Maria Ntuli, on the occasion of the opening of the Golden Games at Olympia Park stadium in Rustenburg, North-West
11 Oct 2012
MEC for Social Development, Women, Children and People with Disabilities, Ms Mosetsanagape Mokomele Mothibi;
Executive Mayor of Rustenburg Municipality, Mr Mpho Khunou;
Chairperson of South African Older Persons Forum, Mr Tom Boya,
Our beloved parents and grandparents.
It is my pleasure to welcome you all to this year’s Golden Games, which is taking place during Social Development Month. During this time we take stock of our service delivery programmes, in engagement with communities, and together chart a way forward on the continuing struggle for a better life for all our people.
Although a time of festivity, the golden games must remind us of our collective responsibility to create an environment which accommodates the needs of our elderly as the most valuable assets our country possesses.
It would be unfair to open these games without mentioning the resilience and character shown by our elders during the most difficult years in our country’s history. Their struggle against colonialism and apartheid will forever be engraved in our minds.
You grew up in a deeply divided and oppressive society where injustice was entrenched and opportunities for progress were reserved for the few; but you did not surrender and continually fought in the interest of building a new and better South Africa which belongs to all who live in it.
You used the little resources that were available to you wisely to educate your children. Many of our country’s productive professionals today – teachers, lawyers, doctors, engineers and many other – work because of your blood, sweat and tears.
We remain eternally indebted to you for everything you have done for the emancipation of our beloved country.
Our government is aware that older people today are fighting a different struggle. We are conscious of the socio-economic challenges which derive from our past and we will continue working for your protection and dignity.
It is for this reason that we condemn with the greatest contempt the physical and sexual abuse of older persons in our communities by cowards who target the vulnerable! We want to issue a warning to these criminals that this government will not stand by and let you strip our elderly of their dignity! We will do everything in our power to apprehend these criminals and ensure that they are dealt with to the fullest extent of the law!
Our elderly are an asset to all of us; I want to encourage our community members not to turn a blind eye when they see the abuse of elderly people by cowards. Contact the police and report these offenders, so that we make our communities safer for all us.
The Department of Social Development will continue engaging the South African Police Service (SAPS) to ensure that a dedicated desk for elder persons is set up in every police station in the country.
Our beloved senior citizens,
The theme for these games is “Celebrating Creative Ageing”. With this theme we salute your dedication that has enabled you to take up the golden games with such enthusiasm.
This theme emphasises the need to encourage our senior citizens to live healthy lifestyles by participating in sport and other social activities. It also calls upon all of us to provide the necessary support to older persons in helping them achieve healthier and dignified lives.
Creative ageing also calls upon older persons to form their own social clubs in their communities to help more of our senior citizens become active citizens in our society by taking up various community activities and imparting their knowledge to the generations that follow them.
The manifested dedication of senior citizens in our lives, communities and the country as a whole highlights the importance of selflessness. Their sacrifices are a living example which must be followed by the current and future generations of this country.
Such commitment makes the rights of senior citizens even more critical. These rights include amongst others, the rights to Independence, Participation, Care, Respect and Dignity as well as freedom from Discrimination as reaffirmed in the United Nations resolution 46/91. The rights of older persons are also endorsed in the Madrid Plan of Action which outlines a plan by the international community to respond to the challenges facing our ageing populations in the twenty first century as we create a "society for all ages.”
Like other governments of the world, South Africa committed itself to ensuring that the lives of older persons are fulfilling and healthy, while at the same time providing opportunities for them to participate in the social, economic and political life.
The South African government enacted Older Person Act 18 of 2006, a law that represents a new developmental approach to ageing. The Act seeks to keep older persons in their families and communities as long as possible as it recognises ageing as a normal stage of life. It also gives senior citizens a true meaning of life with the possibility of contributing to the wellbeing of those around them.
The Department of Social Development is lobbying for support from Premier’s offices across the country to have front desks which represent the interests of older persons. We are doing this to create more interventions that target and embrace the rights of older persons at the highest level of provincial government.
Old age must not prevent senior citizens from expressing their views or opinions because they enjoy the same rights as all of us, enshrined in the Constitution. South Africans have the role to create a caring society which takes care of its citizens, mainly, older persons.
The valuable role of the elders reminds us to discourage ill- treatment of older persons. There is no space in our society for any form of abuse of our elderly.
A democratic dispensation which upholds the value and quality of life is the result of the struggle experiences. They lived and endured the brutality of the past regime so that we enjoy democratic freedoms.
You will recall that there are some areas in our communities which do not have Early Childhood Development (ECD) centres. In such areas, most children are taken care of by their grandparents. Other households survive mainly through social assistance and it also makes it difficult for children to attend ECD centres.
Older persons must not be treated as a burden because they provide solutions to our social challenges. Some of them are taking care of orphaned and vulnerable children who live in poverty.
In recognition of their valuable contribution to society and the need to keep older persons amongst us as long as possible, government has organised the Golden Games to encourage wellness among our elders. We are proud of all the older persons who will be participating in these games and our wish is that they enjoy them to the fullest.
In conclusion, the African National Congress led government declared in its 2009 manifesto its commitment of building cohesive and sustainable communities. We said that “There shall be houses, security and comfort for all! Through our programmes for housing, social security, sport and recreation, we aim to continue to build a better life for all.”
To our elderly sports stars, enjoy the games and don’t forget to play according to the rules.
Please join me as I declare the 2012 Golden games officially opened.
Issued by: Department of Social Development
11 Oct 2012
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