Marching for more

Plumstead pensioners, from left, Pat Adams, Lyn Gibb, Joan Mangion, Audrey Cotezee and Hazel Best joined scores of other pensioners who marched to Parliament this week.

About 200 pensioners marched in solidarity to Parliament on Tuesday, January 24, to hand over a memorandum of their concerns about pension grants.

The group chanted “We want more” and “viva pensioners” as they made their way to Parliament with placards asking for an increase in their pension, which is now R1 510.
The march was organised by the United Senior Citizens, a movement dealing with the issues of elderly people.

This is, however, not the first time pensioners have marched to ask for an increase.

In September 2015, hundreds of senior citizens also made their way down Plein Street and since then the South Africa Social Security Agency (SASSA) grant has increased from R1410 to R1510 – increasing by R10 last year.

March convenor David le Roux said the group is marching on behalf of all elderly people in the province.

“The money we get from government is not enough to feed ourselves for the month, it’s impossible,” said Mr Le Roux.

Mr Le Roux read their memorandum to a parliamentary official asking that their plight be heard.

The memorandum was accepted and signed by SASSA general manager Henry de Grass, watched by Nazeema Rasool of the Social Development Ministry.

In it the United Senior Citizens asked for a R5 000 a month pension grant.

“With almost a year that has passed since we’ve had communication from social development, the plight of the elderly has not improved. Contrary to the high cost of living that seems to be increasing at a steady rate, our circumstances have worsened,” said Mr Le Roux.

He said the measly R10 increase towards the pension grant last year was an insult to the dignity of elder people.

“In November last year labourers’ minimum wage increased to R3 500 – many said this was still not enough – so how is a pensioner supposed to survive with R1510?

“We are being neglected. We paid our dues and worked for this country, now we deserve to live a comfortable life and it’s their duty to now look after us,”said Mr Le Roux.

Asked to say a few words, Mr De Grass said he received the last memorandum on September 29 2015 and submitted it to the Minister of Social Development, Bathabile Dlamini. “I assure you, one thing she has close to her heart is the older person. But she cannot decide alone, she has to liaise with the department of finance,” he said.

Mr Van Grass asked everyone to listen to the budget speech (next month). “Because when she comes to the Western Cape she will hold meetings and your representatives can come,” he said.

Mr Van Grass said in the last memorandum, pensioners had asked for R1 400. He said they have increased it a little. It has improved the lives of many and is better than nothing in terms of what the government can do, he said. This brought jeers from the crowd and comments that the price of rice and electricity has gone up.

Ursula Schenker from the Associated Seniors Club was at the march and lamented the fact that the minimun wage is R3 500 but pensioners are forced to get by with R1 510.

“That is inequality and discrimination. There is not enough senior centres so they need the money to live and pay rent, etc. Government is not affording the pensioners any consideration.

Farieda Lukie of Heathfield said they have kept quiet for long enough. There are kids walking around with more pocket money than we get. “It’s us senior citizens who built this country, especially people of colour. We lived through apartheid but we’re no better off now and have to watch parliamentarians living in plush conditions,” she said.

Moyra Davids from Bishop Lavis said pensioners were the backbone of the economy in the past.

“We started on a very low wage, peanuts really, we never had the money to save, unlike people who start work today, who start off jobs on a much higher bracket. Now we are suffering and we desperately need help from government. If we can get at least the the minimum wage that would help tremendously,” said Ms Davids.