South Africa might be regressing some in the human rights department. Ria van Straaten, a partially blind 87-year-old woman, was apparently forced to sing over a P.A. system by an official who refused to turn over her pension check.
Van Straaten initially thought that the official was joking, until he passed her the office’s microphone. She decided on “Happy Birthday” after the official again threatened to withhold her pension card. The incident left her so humiliated that she would not give comment to local media.
Her 63-year-old son Braam was angered by the situation, and lodged an official complaint with the Social Development Minister.
“Her humiliating performance was on the big screens in the building and staff members found it funny and no one tried to help her,” he said, adding that the officials bullied her because she went to the office by herself.
“I am enraged that officials can act this way. To make matters worse, this was a female official who did this to her.”
Braam said that the family didn’t report the incident initially, because Ria was too embarrassed and dreading her next trip to the pension office.
“Many elderly citizens often brave the scorching heat and adverse weather conditions to collect the funds. Many are also breadwinners and have to put food on the table and I hope to bring this to the attention of the minister so that she can rehabilitate her staff at the Newcastle branch,” he said.
The van Straatens will be expected to give the name of the official who harassed Ria, as well as the name of another official who was present during the incident. After that, an official investigation will be launched.
A similar incident last year saw a woman who went to a Newcastle office to collect a foster grant. She was reportedly called a “whore” by an employee after pointing out his negative attitude. The official in that incident later apologized.
[Image via: Alexey Laputin, Shutterstock.com]