Ekuphumleni home in Zwide, Port Elizabeth, has to beg for donations after department funding fails to go through.
Just one cup of porridge – that was all that was left at the Ekuphumleni Old Age Home on Wednesday to feed the 60 elderly people living there.
The centre in Zwide – where one frail resident shed tears as she told of their plight this week – is now relying on donations for those living there to have something to eat.
The home, which is fully subsidised by the Eastern Cape Department of Social Development, has laid the blame squarely at the feet of the department, saying it has not received payment since February – whereas it should receive it every two months.
Ekuphumleni manager Mike Tfietso, 43, said yesterday the situation was a disaster that required immediate intervention.
Tfietso conceded that part of the problem was an unsigned service level agreement between the home and the department, but he said it was not Ekuphumleni’s fault.
Time and again when trying to access the service delivery documents from the department’s Port Elizabeth office, he had been turned away as staff protested outside, he said.
Social Development spokesman Mzukisi Solani, however, blamed the situation on poor management at Ekuphumleni – which Tfietso said was preposterous.
Yesterday, Tfietso had to go cap in hand to the Daku SPAR in Kwazakhele to ask for a donation. “After not having any food to offer our patients, I had to go and beg businesses to donate,” he said.
“The SPAR gave us samp, mealie meal and sugar to just get by.”
Tfietso’s biggest fear is that should the situation not be resolved, patients will have to be sent home – where no one is equipped to care for them.
Health concerns are paramount as diabetic patients have not been able to take their medication because they have not eaten.
Caitlyn Gxoyiya, 61, who is wheelchair-bound, was in tears as she explained that her diabetes meant she had to follow a consistent diet.
“Most of the patients here have diabetes and we can’t even take our medicine because we have not eaten proper food. “This morning [Wednesday], the only thing we had to eat was porridge.
It’s the afternoon now and we have still not eaten,” she said, crying. An upset Sizakele Nopote, 71, who has been living at the home for 18 years, said there was also no soap available.
“We are being subjected to harsh conditions and not being able to wash with soap feels like the worst punishment,” Nopote said.
Nombuyiselo Mbane, 63, said she feared they might be sent home, where they might not get the care
they needed. Many of them had no families to go to.
“We all depend on this place. Some of us have no one to take care of us,” she said.
On the service level agreement, which must be in place for the department to make payment, Tfietso said he was at his wits’ end.
“This month, I have gone to the Social Development offices three times,” he said. “Each time, there have been protests. This made it difficult for us to fix our issues.
“Last month, when we inquired about payment, we were told to wait for May – and this month is ending without any payment.
“[Yesterday], after much hassle, the department gave us the documents but they have errors and we had to send them back. “This means another delay in getting money and food.”
Solani said: “When we issue money, it must be accounted for to make sure there’s compliance.”
He said centres used to be given money on a six-monthly basis, and would have to put in a new claim each time. “But now we issue money after a period of two months.
“There must be paperwork from the institutions to see how this money is accounted for. “In that process, there’s always a delay, ” Solani said. “Part of management at these institutions requires that they see such issues.
If Ekuphumleni saw that in two months they were going to run out of cash, they could make an SOS call.” He said people should not hide behind the protest.
“The department is still working. That issue cannot be used as an excuse. They never phoned the district office or the MEC.”
However, his statement yesterday contradicted one he sent out on Wednesday in which he conceded that the office had not been operational.
He said then that strike action had started last week when a small number of Nehawu workers pepper- sprayed their working colleagues.
“This illegal action has been characterised by vulgarism and sabotage,” Solani said. “The strikers have today thrown faeces in the premises, making [it] impossible for the offices to be operational.”
Ekuphumleni is the latest in a string of non-government organisations complaining about nonpayment or slashed budgets by the department.
Earlier this month, Sanca, the largest substance-abuse rehabilitation service in the province, said it was on the brink of collapse.
Sanca’s Eastern Cape director, Roger Weimann, said the department had slashed the organisation’s subsidy by 15%, which meant certain programmes would have to be cut.
Childline Eastern Cape, which offers counselling to about 10 000 survivors of abuse and rape every year, has also been forced to restrict its services.
Last week, Childline Eastern Cape director Aisha Abrahams said they had not been issued with paperwork to carry on working in the province nor had they been told whether they would receive any subsidy.
Director Limeez Arends said this meant social workers would have to be retrenched.
–Tiso Black Star Group