Woman, 80, ‘held captive for pension’
Cape Town - Parkwood residents fear for the life of an 80-year-old neighbour, who they claim is being kept locked in a room in her council flat against her will.
Maureen Johnson, whose mental state is said to be confused, is allegedly being kept locked up by a couple who, neighbours claim, “hijacked” her council flat three years ago. They have also been accused of fraudulently collecting Johnson’s monthly pension.
Colin Arendse, a community activist, said on Monday that Johnson was confined to a single room “under lock and key”. When police visited the Gerda Court flat after residents reported the matter, the couple “pushed Mrs Johnson to tell police everything was fine”.
“Access is controlled by (the couple),” Arendse said. “The room is padlocked, according to residents. They are too afraid to speak out about what is happening there.
“This couple are taking advantage of her because of her mental state and are living off her pension. They are not related. Police have been informed, but they are too scared to go there.
“The community fears that this woman will die of hunger and neglect.”
Parkwood ward councillor Melanie Arendse was first notified of the situation last June. “I went to the Grassy Park police, but they said they couldn’t do anything about it. When I first met Auntie Maureen, she was lying in a field near Ottery. She was confused and didn’t even know where she stayed. I drove around Parkwood. Luckily someone recognised her and directed me to her house.”
Arendse said the matter was “stuck at the Grassy Park police station”.
“I’ve been struggling to get police to get hold of Auntie Maureen’s pension card and ID for the past three months. The couple refused to give it.
“When police visited the flat last year, the woman said everything was okay. But she is senile and confused. Her only son is in Pollsmoor Prison.”
Arendse said residents told her and community leaders that Johnson had been “locked up” and was “sleeping in her own faeces”.
“I need help to get this poor lady out. I have secured a place for her at a nearby frail-care centre, but without her pension card and ID, we can’t do anything. The couple is holding on to her cards because if she’s out, they will be evicted.” Yesterday police, accompanied by Arendse and the Grassy Park community police forum’s Philip Bam, visited the flat.
After police questioned the man, Bam spoke to the Cape Argus.
“The couple have denied the claims by neighbours,” he said. “The man says he and his wife had an agreement with Mrs Johnson”, but could not provide any signed document detailing it.
“The couple claim they had permission… to collect her pension. This needs to be investigated.”
Melany Kuhn, spokeswoman for Social Development MEC Albert Fritz, said the department would send social workers to do an assessment on Tuesday.
City mayoral committee member JP Smith said Johnson needed to be moved to a frail-care centre.