Senior citizens relocate as killings rise in Cacadu, EC

Friday, September 17, 2021
Social Development Deputy Minister, Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu, at the World Alzheimer's Day dialogues in the Eastern Cape.

Senior citizens are relocating to other areas in the Eastern Cape out of fear of being accused of witchcraft and being killed, the Department of Social Development heard during dialogues with the community of Cacadu.

The department is in the areas of Cacadu, Engcobo and Cofivamba in the Eastern Cape to educate these communities about Alzheimer’s and dementia. This is part of the build-up to World Alzheimer’s Day, which is commemorated annually on 21 September.  

A community member, who asked not to be named, revealed during the dialogue that about 45 older persons in the area decided to relocate from the village of Ezingqolweni, as they are living in fear of being killed by community members.

A common misconception which fuels the killing of elderly people by misinformed persons is that the elderly are practising witchcraft when they exhibit symptoms associated with Alzheimer's and dementia. Some of these symptoms include confusion, cognitive impairment, and changes to mood and personality. 

“Some older persons are living in fear and others are no longer sleeping in their houses. They sleep in groups under one roof so they may protect one another. But I think some of these killings are linked to criminal acts, and we need the South African Police Service to also play their part by protecting our community,” the community member said.

The residents of Ezingqolweni said they are extremely concerned about the killings of older persons in the area due to a lack of understanding of Alzheimer’s disease.

Sharing his story at the dialogues, Mr Baleni Lwandle, a senior citizen from Ezingqolweni, said it was difficult to be old and a resident of Ezingqolweni.

“I am not happy with the manner in which we are being treated by some community members. I have been living here for many years and some fellow older persons were murdered in their homes after being accused of witchcraft. If there are differences and concerns, they must be resolved without people losing their lives,” Lwandle said.

The department said it chose the area in the Eastern Cape to embark on this education and awareness programme, as it is leading in the reported cases of brutal killings of older persons.

Alzheimer’s is a chronic neurodegenerative disease, which worsens gradually as senior citizens advance in years. It is the most common cause of dementia.

Dementia is the loss of cognitive functioning, thinking, remembering, reasoning and behavioural abilities to such an extent that it interferes with a person’s normal daily life and activities.

Support to improve quality of life

Although there is currently no treatment available to cure Alzheimer’s, the World Health Organisation (WHO) suggests that in terms of treatment and care, much can be offered to support and improve the lives of people with the disease, their caregivers and families. 

WHO further advises on the importance of paying attention to the following in persons with Alzheimer’s:

  • Early diagnosis in order to promote early and optimal management;
  • Optimising physical health, cognition, activity and well-being;
  • Identifying and treating accompanying physical illness;
  • Understanding and managing behaviour changes; and
  • Providing information and long-term support to caregivers of persons with dementia.

To prevent these old age-related illnesses, the Social Development Department has called on all South Africans to protect, care for and support persons with Alzheimer’s and dementia.

“Raising awareness is a fundamental prevention strategy that involves not only sharing of information but helping to change attitudes, perceptions and behaviour,” the department said.

The dialogues continue today in the areas of Mgcawezulu JSS, Chamana Village and Cofimvaba.

The Deputy Minister of Social Development, Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu, will conclude the campaign on 21 September. 

WATCH | World Alzheimer's Day dialogues in the Eastern Cape   

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