Remarks by President Jacob G Zuma on the occasion of the Christmas Party for older persons
28 Dec 2012
Minister of Social Development, Bathabile Dlamini
Minister of Energy, Dipuo Peters
MEC of Social Development in KwaZulu-Natal, Weziwe Thusi
We feel truly blessed to be able to celebrate this Christmas party with you as older persons.
This party enables us to celebrate the contribution of senior citizens to society. Older persons are important for many reasons in families and communities.
Older persons, mostly grandmothers, are the bedrock of many families.
When parents of young children go to the cities to look for work, they normally leave children in the care of grandmothers mainly until they can find work and accommodation.
We also appreciate the sterling contribution of grandmothers in particular, in caring for orphans and vulnerable children.
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.
With the terminal illness or death of parents, grandmothers became primary caregivers to many orphans.
Children who would otherwise be in orphanages are instead cared for by their loving grandparents.
This is a very important role in society, we do not take it for granted as government.
Grandmothers also look after their unemployed children, who are battling to find work.
Thus in many families the old age pension is the only source of income, and without it, there would be no food on the table.
We praise grandmothers and grandfathers for playing this selfless and pivotal role in holding families together and alleviating poverty and suffering.
Given this important role of older persons, the government social grants are a most effective support mechanism in many families.
To date, more than 16 million South Africans receive the social grants from government. In 1994, the grants were received only by 2,7 million people. The expansion has been phenomenal.
The grants have become the most effective poverty alleviation mechanism of the democratic state since 1994 supporting mainly the most vulnerable in society.
The social grants consist of the old age grant, child support grant, disability grant or the foster care grant.
As at the end of August this year, about three million senior citizens were receiving the old age grant or government pension, of more than a thousand rand per month.
This has made a big difference in the lives of many families.
Also important is the fact that men aged 60 can now also get the government old age pension.
In the past men qualified only at the age of 65.
Since the Constitution says all are equal, we had to comply as government and equalise the age of qualifying for men.
This we hope, makes a big difference in the lives of male senior citizens.
This is a caring government which continues to do everything in its power to improve the lives of the poor and vulnerable in society.
We are also proud of the fact that this democratic government has eliminated discrimination with regards to the delivery of these grants.
Before 1994, the black elderly persons, although being poor, received their pension every second month, while their white compatriots received theirs every month.
Since the democratic government was established in 1994, it abolished these disparities and ensured that all our people received the same grants, at the same time, regardless of their race or gender.
That social transformation has made a difference in the lives of thousands of black older persons.
Since 1994, government has also been implementing various other complementary programmes designed to address poverty and vulnerability among older persons.
In addition to social grants, older persons also qualify for free access to essential services such as water, health, housing, and energy in many municipalities and districts.
We trust that most of you know these services and access them.
Let me take this opportunity to thank all NGOs, community based organisations and many caregivers in communities for their commitment and contribution, often on a voluntary basis to support and care for older persons.
Ladies and gentlemen,
This year we have heard of some horror stories in our society where grandmothers at an advanced age such as their 80s, were raped.
Umuntu odlwengula ogogo uyinswelaboya engachazeki.
Umphakathi mawuhlangane ubikele amaphoyisa zibanjwe izinswelaboya ezinukubeza ogogo.
Mazibanjwe nezinukubeza zidlwengule abantu besifazane nezingane zamantombazane jikelele.
Masake imiphakathi ephephile, futhi enokuthula buphele ubulwane.
The South African Police Service is prioritising the safety of older persons.
I have been assured that visits are conducted to old age homes by police managers in order to determine that the elderly are still safe and not abused by their care givers or any other people entrusted to look after them. We rely on families and communities to work with us as well to protect older persons.
We also urge the youth in our communities to take the lead in looking after their grandparents and to protect them.
Older persons are our pride and joy. You are the anchors in many families and ensure stability in our communities. We honour and respect you for that contribution to society in general.
We wish you all a very happy New Year filled with joy and success.
I thank you.
Issued by: The Presidency
28 Dec 2012
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