#KZNEsidimeni: DA oversight inspection reveals shocking conditions at Elonwabeni Old Age Home

Democratic Alliance media statement by Sharon Hoosen, MPL

DA KZN Spokesperson on Social Development


#KZNEsidimeni: DA oversight inspection reveals shocking conditions at Elonwabeni Old Age Home


Note to Editors: Please find attached a soundbite in English.

The Democratic Alliance has written to the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) (view here) following an oversight inspection to the Elonwabeni Old Age Home in Kokstad yesterday which has revealed a facility in severe crisis.

The DA’s oversight inspection comes after media reports and numerous concerns raised by relatives of the elderly, as well as community members.

The Elonwabeni Old Age Home is funded by the KZN Social Development Department, with the facility receiving R2.27 million in 2016/17. The question is – where is this money being spent?

During the inspection, it was found that the facility’s 67 elderly residents are currently reliant on local farmers and businesses for food donations. Their last meal supplied by the Home was breakfast on Friday last week. Since then they have been completely reliant on the kindness of others.

Residents, one of whom is 100 years old, also have to bath in cold water when the Home doesn’t buy electricity. There is currently no hot water and it is the middle of winter. Meanwhile, the facility’s 41 staff, who have not been paid since mid-July, are doing their best under extremely trying circumstances and try to heat water in urns.

In terms of infrastructure, there has been no maintenance and none of the toilets have seats, while several do not flush. See photos here, here and here.

The DA is horrified by these findings. The problems at Elonwabeni are not new. In January this year, local media reported that the concerned community members had tried to intervene by calling for meetings to seek resolutions. At one of the meetings the Department was called on to intervene and appoint a new Board and manager. Yet the problems at this facility persist.

Equally alarming is the fact that KZN Social Development MEC, Weziwe Thusi, first visited the Home in January which means she has been aware of these problems for some time yet did nothing to alleviate the situation. She was back again last week too. Surely she saw that food supplies were almost depleted? Surely she was told that there was no hot water? Surely she should have done something immediately to rectify the situation?

Following the inspection, the MEC instructed that residents be relocated to a facility near Nkandla, allegedly without their relatives being informed. Fortunately this didn’t take place after residents earlier this week refused to simply be moved away from their families who live in the area.

The DA’s findings come amid further claims of financial and other irregularities at the home which include;

• The Home only has three board members instead of the regulatory nine;
• The alleged non-payment of some resident’s funeral policies by the Home’s management;
• Claims of vehicles and petrol cards belonging to the facility being misused by Board members and management with evidence to support the fact that five other private vehicles used the Home’s petrol cards (view here); and
• Claims that Board members used residents’ SASSA grant fund cards in December, withdrawing money at the Wild Coast Sun and in Johannesburg (view here).

One would think that after a tragedy on the scale of Esidimeni, MEC Thusi would take immediate action to resolve the numerous problems at this facility. Instead, she has failed to prioritise the wellbeing of residents and has turned her back on their suffering. Social Development needs an MEC who is caring and puts their needs first. Clearly MEC Thusi is not that person.

The situation at Elonwabeni Old Age Home is proof that MEC Thusi has failed in terms of her mandate. The DA has today written to Premier Mchunu (view here) to request that he institute disciplinary action against her with immediate effect and to intervene on behalf of these very vulnerable residents.

The DA is committed to ensuring that this facility is not closed down and that the provincial government corrects its mistakes and starts to prioritise the wellbeing of our poor senior citizens. It’s unfair that they have to suffer under an uncaring ANC government, when they deserve so much more.

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