Elders refuse to move

Nomsa Gxotiwe, co-founder of Ithemba old age home, pictured with Pasile Tsikana.

The only old age home in Khayelitsha, Ithemba community home, in Makhaza, is battling to keep its doors open after the City instructed it to close because it failed to meet safety requirements.

When City officials visited the home towards the end of last year, they found it was overcrowded and did not meet crucial safety standards.

According to Nomsa Gxotiwe, co-founder of Ithemba, the officials gave them strict instructions that before the end of November last year they should be closed and move the elderly residents elsewhere.

At that time there were about 35 seniors living at the home while others came during the day and in the afternoons.

But now there are only five seniors living at the home who have refused to leave because they have nowhere else to go and do not want to be moved to another home.

Despite receiving a donation of three fire extinguishers from a good Samaritan who heard about their plight, the home is still facing closure.

A visibly emotional Ms Gxotiwe told Vukani that it was only a matter of time before they were forced to shut down completely.

“After we received the donation, we were excited and we breathed a sigh of relief, but our joy was short lived as the inspectors visited us again and told us that we need to move the elders who are still here, out.

“We don’t really know what to do. Our main concern is that those who are still here had been abandoned by their relatives and this is their only home,” she said.

Ms Gxotiwe said the officials also demanded to see a house plan for the centre, and whether they had obtained an approval from the community before establishing the home.

She stressed that they had obtained approval “from the community” and that they had documents signed by 20 people from the area.

Ms Gxotiwe mentioned that a social worker had visited them a week ago and said that those who were still living at the centre needed to move out until the centre met the required safety standards. Ms Gxotiwe said she started the centre with her husband some years ago after they realised that many elderly people in the community had been neglected.

They then converted their home into an old age home. Initially, she said, they accommodated only a few seniors, but as time went by, the numbers grew.

As a result, Ms Gxotiwe said, they then decided to leave their home and rent a house in the neighbourhood which had more space for the elderly. She added that for years her husband did not work, but they made a plan to pay the monthly rental of R2 000.

Pasile Tsikana, 70, who is among the five elderly who have refused to leave the home, said after he suffered a stroke many years ago, his wife left him to live with some relatives.

“But the relatives could not properly look after me because they are working. I don’t want to leave this place because there will be no one to look after me at home,” he said.

Mayoral committee member for safety and security, and social services, JP Smith, said the City’s Fire Life Safety section, along with the Environmental Health Department, conducted an inspection of the premises in October last year. They found that the facility was overcrowded, and there were problems with the actual structure, while there was inadequate fire safety equipment and measures.

He said the owner was found to be in contravention of the Environmental Health and Community Fire Safety By-laws and was informed in writing of everything that needed to be done to ensure compliance with health and fire safety requirements. “The fire escape is required to be a minimum of 1,5 metres wide and fire escape doors must be provided with a panic bolt device. Fire fighting equipment (fire extinguishers, hose reels, and hydrants) are required relative to the size in square metres of the premises and the external walls of the building must have a fire rating of 60, adding that the design population is 1 person per 10 m2,” he said.