Grannies in holiday ordeal
"We are grateful to God for giving us leaders who really care about us"
A DREAM holiday turned into a nightmare for a group of elderly Western Cape tourists in Durban when they could not raise the money for their return fare.
The 10 pensioners had banked on low-cost airline flight specials, which they realised on the day they were to go home had long expired.
They were left stranded at the King Shaka International Airport on Wednesday.
The grannies are members of a Gugulethu-based organisation for the elderly, Nombasa.
The ladies, on realising that they would sleep on the benches at the airport, called the office of Minister for Women, Children and People with Disabilities Lulu Xingwana. The minister's office contacted the MEC's office.
This was when provincial social development MEC Weziwe Thusi stepped in.
After learning of their plight she dispatched officials to the airport.
The grannies were taken to a hotel in Ballito, where they spent the night while tickets to fly back home were being organised.
Vuyelwa Sipiti, 85, said their trip to KwaZulu-Natal was supposed to relieve them from elderly stresses and sicknesses but it turned into a nightmare.
"We are grateful to God for giving us leaders who really care about us," she said.
"We are on our way back home after spending hours on the airport benches.
"That alone was a disaster because some of the women became sick and worried that we would sleep on the road or airport benches."
Doris Samson said they had saved over R20 000 for their trip to Durban, including money for the flights and accommodation.
"The trip was organised with money from our savings and we had based our calculations on the airline's pricing special ," she said.
Samson, 76, said they spent four days in a Durban hotel near the beach.
Sipiti said their group last visited Durban in 2009 and had not experienced any problems .
Yesterday Thusi spent the morning having breakfast with the group and had a short meeting to try to ascertain how they really got stranded.
She called on elderly people to make sure they had made proper travel arrangements when embarking on long distance trips.
"We have warned our elderly not to rely on specials that expose them to danger," she said. "With the price changes at the airlines people need to book return tickets. These elderly women come from a club and all they wanted was a holiday.
"We had to book overnight accommodation for them and buy them air tickets to go back to Western Cape.
As government we were very worried because such incidents expose old people to dangers. There are many unscrupulous people out there who are always waiting to prey on vulnerable people."