98-year-old can’t find room in an old age home

Man born in the same year as Nelson Mandela can’t afford the fee

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Photo of old man
Xhobani Nkongwana is struggling to find a place in an old age home. Photo: Siphokazi Vuso

Xhobani Nkongwana was born in the same year as Nelson Mandela. He is 98, and he has been waiting for a place in an old age home in East London for two years.

Nosibulele Ngakanani, a caregiver at the Gompo Welfare Society for the aged, said Gompo did not have room for Nkongwana and he could not afford the admission fee to secure a place in another home.

Admission fees range between R1,800 and R2,000 depending on the home, says Ngakanani.

Nkongwana receives a social grant of R1 500 a month.

Nkongwana lives with his two daughters and grandchildren in a four-roomed house in Toilet City, Duncan Village. He is in pain, is unable to walk long distances and easily forgets things. He says he wants to be put in an old age home so he will no longer be a burden to his family. His daughters work and the children are at school during the day.

His daughter, Nokhaya Mgqalelo, moved him in with her in early 2015. He had been living alone in a leaky shack in Kuni Village on the outskirts of East London.

She has applied several times at Gompo and she is always told to wait as it is full.

When GroundUp visited the Nkongwana home, there was a smell of urine as he sat helplessly on his single bed. He said he once fell on the way to the shops and he had to call people to help him get up. He says, ever since that day, it has been difficult to walk.

He was born in Ncentane, in the rural village of Ngcizela outside Butterworth. He has outlived two of his five children; one passed away in 2000, the other in 2014.

He lost his wife in 2009 after 30 years of marriage. He has six grandchildren.

Eunice Treasurer, Nkongwana’s eldest grandchild, says she does not understand why an old person has to wait for two years for a room in a place where he can receive professional care.

“All we want is to know our grandfather is in safe hands. We do not have the necessary medication here in an emergency,” she says.

Bomvana Mtsho, Nkongwana’s cousin, says he has also tried an old age home in nearby Buffalo Flats but he was told it was full and there was no place for his cousin.

“It’s like they are saying there is nothing they can do for him because he will die soon. We can’t give up just like that, we have to try, because no one knows when someone will actually die,” he says.

TOPICS:  Human Rights

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