Picture: The Star

A middle-aged firefighter revealed at the memorial service for his three fallen colleagues, who died while putting out a blaze in the Joburg CBD, that while doing one of the most dangerous jobs we know, he still can’t afford to buy himself a house and lives in a shack.

His statement brought home the plight of emergency workers and the low salaries and benefits that they receive in relation to the work that they do.
This also applies to police, some of whom get killed in the line of duty to leave their children destitute.

On page 4, we look at the danger allowance that firefighters are entitled to but seemingly are not getting. Because they lack a danger allowance which should be an insurance in case of death or disability, almost 50 female firefighters from Ekurhuleni downed tools recently.

While underpaid firefighters and police die while in the service of the country, one reads that the Government Employees Pension Fund, which looks after R2trillion of public servants' retirement funds, is contemplating investing billions overseas.

Then another story pops up that the financial sector is still out of bounds for many black asset managers. The report says that out of the more than R8trillion assets under management in South Africa, about R5trillion is available for management by the private sector. Of that amount, only R490billion is managed by black firms.

Apart from asset fund managers such as the PIC, nobody is supporting black asset managers.
These figures come from a report published by 27four whose managing director and founder, Fatima Vawda, lashed at black firms “for not pulling their weight behind developmental funds to benefit 70% of public servants whose pension fund savings make up a big portion of assets under management but cannot even afford to own their homes”.

It is disheartening when asset managers ignore the developmental agenda which aims to improve the lives of the poor. What stops asset managers from creating a financial institution that provides home loans to government employees at a favourable rate, where interest is ploughed back into their pensions?

The Sunday Independent