Pensioners appeal for a better grant deal as lockdown worsens their plight
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Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice and Dignity lead researcher Julie Smith said her organisation had recently been inundated with voice notes from pensioners expressing their financial and health fears as a result of the delayed May 4 date for withdrawing their social grants.
Smith said many pensioners, mostly women, were supporting children and grandchildren who were now at home during lockdown and totally reliant on their R1860 a month pension to buy food and pay their living costs.
“Pensioners are starting to recognise that if the government delays the pension day it is going to be a catastrophe in terms of health because they are normally paid on the 30th and families are already hungry.
“By May 4 people will be desperate and then all 4 million pensioners will come out at the same time and there won’t be any physical distancing,” she said.
In an open letter sent to the president on Tuesday, the Pietermaritzburg Pensioners Forum pleaded for him to immediately change the pension pay-out date to April 28 so there can be staggered visits to pay-out points, to increase the old-age grant to R2500 a month from the next month and to work on a plan, in case the elderly get sick, to help their grandchildren and children.
“Mr President, please help us. We have been trying to tell you for years that we use our old-age grant to look after our families. It is not only for us. Our pensions help our families to survive. Our pensions help the economy to survive.
“things are going to get very bad for us. Our pensions are too little. Hunger will kill us before the coronavirus does. Our pensions are a buffer in normal times. They are even more important now in times of crisis. More of our sons and daughters will lose their jobs now,” the pensioners pleaded.
“We need help to protect ourselves against the virus. We have to be able to spend money to protect ourselves.
“We need to buy more things; at the same time food prices have increased in the supermarkets and there are food shortages on the supermarket shelves which means we have to spend more money. Increasing the pension to R2500 will help us to protect ourselves from coronavirus.”
The pensioners argued that increasing their grant would also help the government to “get money quickly into 3.55 million homes” which they would spend to help their families, friends and neighbours.
“By increasing our pension, you can reach probably seven people with each old-age grant. This is around 24million people. All this money will go directly into the economy and help keep it moving in every part of the country. We will use the extra money to make sure our grandchildren eat and be able to buy more things where we live so that we can start building a different type of economy that is more resilient to future crises,” they wrote.
“Our grandchildren look to us when they are hungry. And we are now looking to you. We have been carrying the terrible burden of the economic crisis for years, but we can’t also now carry the consequences of the lockdown, all the additional job losses and all the people that are also now going to get sick. The burden is too heavy for us now.”