Maverick Citizen


‘They treat us like animals’ – old age home residents spurn metro officials at public meeting over living conditions

‘They treat us like animals’ – old age home residents spurn metro officials at public meeting over living conditions
Nelson Mandela Bay metro Deputy Director for Safety and Security Shadrack Sibiya discusses the security situation with residents of an old age home. (Photo: Deon Ferreira)

The metro police had to intervene in a heated public meeting at a municipal old age home in Nelson Mandela Bay on Wednesday as residents refused to hear from Human Settlements officials who they say have been ignoring their concerns over their deteriorating living situation.

Elderly residents at two municipal old age homes in Nelson Mandela Bay have revealed shocking instances of neglect by security guards appointed by the City to guard them and their residences.

In a heated public meeting where the metro police ultimately had to intervene as residents would not allow officials from the Department of Human Settlements to speak, residents highlighted their issues with security guards at the two old age homes.

Shadrack Sibiya, Deputy Director for Safety and Security in the metro, called the meeting after residents chased away the security guards appointed by the metro to guard the old age homes on Monday. Residents are complaining that guards are often drunk, lock the elderly in at night and are difficult to rouse when an ambulance needs to enter through the gate. They added that they even have to go so far as to find stones to throw at the guardhouse to wake the guards.

The Elizabeth Stuurman Old Age Home and the Adcock Old Age Home are both managed by the Nelson Mandela Bay municipality, but both buildings are in a bad state of disrepair, targeted by vandals and cable thieves, and have become increasingly unsafe.

Community members refused to let officials from the municipality’s Human Settlements Department speak as tempers flared at a meeting about security at two old age homes in Nelson Mandela Bay, Eastern Cape. (Photo: Deon Ferreira)

Resident Danny Moss tells Deputy Director of Safety and Security in the Nelson Mandela Bay metro Shadrack Sibiya how he, at 71, must chase down robbers himself because the metro’s security guards refuse to do so. (Photo: Deon Ferreira)

Residents chase away street children who come into the Adcock Old Age Home to steal from residents. (Photo: Deon Ferreira)

Read more in Daily Maverick: Nelson Mandela Bay old age homes collapsing, but budget remains unspent

In the previous financial year, officials had left R561,000 that was meant for the maintenance of the old age homes unspent.

Residents pleaded with the municipality to find a workable security solution, saying they fear sleeping there at night. Sibiya said he would like each room to be fitted with an intercom as well.

“I want this to work,” he said. “We will listen and take action.”

Residents from Elizabeth Stuurman and Adcock Old Age Homes in Nelson Mandela Bay, Eastern Cape, arrive for a meeting with the municipality’s safety and security department. (Photo: Deon Ferreira)

Residents from the two municipal old age homes, Adcock Old Age Home and Elizabeth Stuurman Old Age Home in Nelson Mandela Bay, Eastern Cape, during a public meeting. (Photo: Deon Ferreira)

‘Clean up your mess’

Members of the community have created an action committee to assist the old age homes. 

Committee member Nathan Bonaparte said they wanted the municipality to appoint community members to guard the old age homes. 

“The security [guards] that the municipality appoints are always drunk,” he said.

“They lock themselves in the guard houses and, if there is a crisis, they don’t come out. We want to look after our own people. The people from the community are competent to do so,” he said.

“We don’t want your intercoms,” Bonaparte said. “We want you to clean up your mess.”

He said they were promised at the end of September by Gary van Niekerk, the metro’s mayor, whose position is currently being disputed, that Human Settlements would give them feedback.

“Those officials from Human Settlements call us squatters,” someone shouted. “They treat the elderly like animals.”

old age nelson mandela bay

A resident uses an old lanyard to keep their door shut. (Photo: Deon Ferreira)

old age nelson mandela bay

Parts of the Elizabeth Stuurman Old Age Home where a fire occurred 20 years ago have never been rebuilt. (Photo: Deon Ferreira)

Possessions of residents who have died are thrown outside. (Photo: Deon Ferreira)

Bonita Meintjies, a resident at Adcock Old Age Home, said the security guards often slept on the job or were drunk. 

“They are too busy with their own comfort to look after us,” she said. She said the guards were using a two-plate stove as a heater and that this was dangerous.

“If you ask them to open the gate, they get very angry.”

The gate opens with a remote. 

Other community activists who came out to help with the meeting said they did not even know if security guards were trained in first aid. “We used to have healthcare workers here on the premises,” one said. 

Elizabeth Stuurman resident Danny Moss said the security guards at that old age home would watch as thieves came in and stole pipes and cables. 

“We have a big problem with the security guards,” he said.

“The security guards would sit in their guardhouses and watch people break off taps. Thieves came with a bakkie and took all the baths from the old age home. The security guards watched them go out the gate. One night, we called an ambulance at 9.30pm. By 10.30pm, the ambulance was still at the gate waiting for the security guard to open. They leave the gate wide open and walk to the shops in the day. At night, people have to whistle and throw stones at the guardhouse to get their attention.”

Zubeida Kannemeyer said days after she moved in someone broke into her unit. “I was too scared to move and I had no way to call the security guards,” she said. “My life was in danger.”

Another resident, Oswald Prins, said the security guards did not wear uniforms or ID badges and they slept in the guardhouse.

Zubeida Kannemeyer recounts how she was attacked in her room at Adcock Old Age Home. (Photo: Deon Ferreira)

Metro police intervene

The meeting became very heated when Human Settlements officials tried to address the crowd. The metro police had to intervene and remove officials while the elderly shouted at them to “f**k off”. 

The units at the two old age homes are very old and poorly maintained. Residents have to collect water from taps outside as bathrooms have been vandalised and never fixed. Doors no longer open, windows are broken and security gates, door handles, pipes and lights have been stolen.

Part of Elizabeth Stuurman Old Age Home has burnt down and was left in that condition. Residents also worry that the asbestos roof that is collapsing poses a danger to their health. 

The Nelson Mandela Bay municipality has still not responded to Daily Maverick’s questions about the old age homes. DM


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