Embattled home at crossroads

An armed Sizamile Old Age Home owner Letticia Vaphi, left toungues wagging in 2014, when she threatened protesting residents with a firearm during a housing protest in Langa.

The embattled Sizamile Old Age Home, in Langa, has been plunged into further misery after it emerged that another member of the home is fighting for her life at Tygerberg Hospital’s Intensive Care Unit, more than three weeks after the fire that claimed the life of Raymond Silulami, 60 (“Man dies in an old age home fire”, Vukani, November 10).

Buyiswa Vinah Matuka, 46, was rushed to the hospital on Saturday November 5, due to excessive smoke inhalation during the fire, and in a last ditch attempt to save her life last week, doctors carried out an operation to improve her ability to breathe.

No other residents were reported to have been injured.

In an interview with Vukani, Ms Matuka’s visibly emotional daughter and her former partner, Maurice Laho, accused the home of treating Ms Matuka as a “nobody” and of attempting to cover up “its mess”.

Instead of supporting the family and offering the necessary assistance, the family claims the owners of the facility are blaming Ms Matuka for her suffering.

Battling to control the tears, Ms Matuka’s daughter, who refused to be named for security concerns, explained how she found the facility in ruins when she visited her mother on Saturday morning.

“It was turned into a crime scene,” she said.

The 28-year-old said she had visited the home to give her mother some food and other essentials. It was then that she learnt that her mother was in hospital. “What upset me is the fact that when I asked about my mother, no one seemed to care,” she said, adding that it was only after she took the matter up with paramedics that she got an explanation.

The daughter said she was angered by the response she got from the owners of the home.

“Instead of taking responsibility, they blamed her for being in the wrong place,” she said.

She said all the attention had been around Mr Silulami but no mention had been made of her mother, something she believed was done deliberately to cover up the situation.

“Even when I got there they were talking about the dead person. No one talked about my mother who was taken to hospital,” she said, calling for an investigation into the matter.

She said she had hoped to take her mother out of the home as soon as she started working, but she is now worried that she could instead lose her. “She would always phone me when she needed something and I always bought her food and other things when I had money,” she said.

The visit on the day of the incident had also been in response to a call for assistance.

“I am very sad about this whole thing,” she said, adding that last Thursday she had been called by the doctors to give consent for her mother to undergo a throat operation. “The doctors say she is brain damaged due to excessive smoke inhalation.

“The owners have never visited her since she was admitted to hospital and expect me to update them.”

An angry Mr Laho accused the home of showing complete disregard for Ms Matuka’s life. He also said he had been given the runaround when he visited the home.

“They are asking what was she doing there? That is not the point, the fact is she is now in hospital and they should be concerned,” he said, describing her condition as very bad. “I am ready for anything and I am prepared to bury her.”

Mr Laho also raised concerns about conditions at the home.

“The environment is not good for elderly people. They are always complaining, but they have no-where to go,” he said. The home has for many years been embroiled in controversy.

The latest incident comes shortly after an alleged rape and a murder there.

A resident at the home was allegedly killed by a security guard, on Tuesday October 11, when a scuffle broke out between the pair. In a separate incident, a girl was allegedly raped inside the home, casting more doubts about safety at the facility.

Community leaders said they were waiting for a meeting with home management. They said they were aware of all the controversies surrounding the home, however, did not want to be seen as interfering.

Committee member Xolani Malazibuye said they had requested a meeting with home management as well as the councillor to discuss concerns around the home. “We are waiting on the councillor to come back to us,” he said.

Ward councillor Samkelo Johh said the home was a “mess” and that the situation there was “unbearable”.

He said they would like to intervene, but preferred to allow due process to be followed.

“We will take steps once we realise that action is not taken,” he said, adding that they had already raised their concerns with relevant parties.

Spokesperson for the Department of Social Development Esther Lewis said the facility was not registered and the provincial government had tried to intervene since 2010.

“In 2012/2013, the department offered to move residents to alternative accommodation in a registered facility. Only one resident took the offer,” she said.

Ms Lewis said for any such facility to operate optimally, it needed to have registered nurses and carers.

“It must also have a health and safety clearance certificate from the City of Cape Town before it can be registered. The facility must have a practice of good governance and financial management,” she said.

In cases where any of those were not adhered to, she said, the department would try to assist.

Acting mayoral committee member for finance, Johan van der Merwe, said when the City signed a 10-year-lease agreement with Sizamile, in May this year, it was informed that the facility was “lawfully registered and in compliance with all the requirements”.

He cautioned that if the provincial department of social development had identified factors that constituted a breach of the lease agreement “the City would follow due process and take necessary action”.

Asked how the unregistered home had been allowed to use the council land, Mr Van der Merwe said the facility had used the land for some time and the agreement was to “regularise” the occupation. Numerous attempts to get comment from the owners of the facility proved futile and calls to their cellphones went unanswered.

Langa police spokesperson Captain Nondumiso Paul confirmed the murder at the home, adding that a case was continuing.

She said the deceased, Mawethu Ndonyana, was allegedly attacked with a panga in the head, rushed to Groote Schuur Hospital, where he later died. “The suspect was arrested and is out on bail,” she said.

However, she could not confirm the rape case.