Durban - After listening to Finance Minister Tito Mboweni’s medium-term budget speech, seven women felt they were being ignored by government as pensioners and travelled to Cape Town to address Parliament and ask for a bonus and increase in their state stipend.
The pensioners, who are part of the Pietermaritzburg Pensioners Forum, travelled for hours by bus and finally reached Cape Town on Wednesday morning.
Having only received a R10 increase earlier this month, pensioner Doreen Taylor said the group decided to go to Parliament after they had written a letter and received a negative response.
“We decided to go to Parliament ourselves when they told us there was no money. We spoke and they welcomed us even though a solution wasn't reached immediately, our complaints were heard,” said Taylor.
Julie Smith, a researcher for the Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice and Dignity Group, who accompanied the ladies said what is important is that the pensioners spoke to the Standing Committee on Finance directly and put their argument across.
“We hope they listened and will explore and consider their options,” she said.
The pensioners receive R1 700 monthly and are asking for a bonus in December of an additional R1 700 which will make the total sum R3 400.
“We start out every year in terrible debt and this year is going to be much worse. We stand in the queue to collect the old age grant and then go and stand in the line to borrow money,” said forum member Thina Ogogo.
As pensioners, we rely on our grant said Ogogo to care for our families.
“The extra money will be used to buy food, school uniforms, shoes, stationery, electricity, scholar transport, burial insurance and debt repayment,” she said.
The group has also asked the committee to increase their pension to a living wage of R8 000 in 2019.
“We cannot survive on R1700. It is far too low. We cannot live healthy lives on it, it just keeps us in poverty. This year is even worse because this year has been so hard. Everything has gone up,” said Ogogo.
She said their only option when they retired was to go on a government grant.
“We did not earn enough when we worked to live and to save for our retirement. We worked our whole lives and have now ended up in terrible poverty,” said Ogogo.
A statement issued by the forum said for all 3.4 million pensioners to receive a bonus in December it will cost 5.8 billion.
“This is a lot of money but it is relatively equivalent to the R5,57 billion reprioritised to e-tolls. It seems to us that government does have the money to provide all pensioners with a bonus,” the statement read.