Pension and disability grants ‘not enough’

PHIRI CAWE

Senior citizens and people with disabilities have expressed concerns over Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan’s Budget speech delivered at the National Assembly on Wednesday February 24.

They have accused him of giving very little attention to them. In his speech Mr Gordhan made several announcements including an R80 increase in the old pension grant. The child support grant will rise by R20 to R350 in April and the foster care grant by R30 to R890.

Following the announcement, Vukani conducted a snap survey with pensioners and people with disabilities to hear their views. Most of them felt the increase was not enough, although the overall budget was positive.

Seniors at Sizamile Old Age Home, in Langa, said Mr Gordhan could have done better.They claimed to be living from hand to mouth. The seniors felt he should have gave them an extra R500 to push their pension money to R2 000. “It is too little,” said 85-year-old Nomvula Kupe.

Ms Kupe said she has to provide for her four grandchildren although she stayed at the old age home.

“The truth is this money cannot be enough for us. The government says the money should only cater for us, but the truth is this is a far-fetched dream. We have unemployment that forces us to provide for our children and grandchildren. The old age grant should be more than R2 000,” she said.

Ms Kupe said the government was not aware of challenges faced by pensioners who needed to pay for things such as funeral policies, transport and clothing.

Basil Hlongawana, 75, said seniors should be prioritised because they are dependant on the grant for everything.

“The cost of living is too high. Take a look at food prices alone. We are not talking about clothing, transport, medication and many other challenges we are faced with. This increment means nothing,” he said.

“This is like a fable to think that this money could look after seniors only. Not in this world where young people are roaming around the streets because of unemployment. Imagine you have a R500 and you go to the shop, what could you buy with it? It could be a few items. After getting their money you will find that most elderly people go home with nothing, because they are now on mashonisas (loan sharks),” he said.

Vukuhambe Self Help Association for the Disabled members also criticised the increment.

Thozi Mciki accused the government for not doing enough to accommodate disabled people. He said the disability grant was not enough. He said most people, including himself, had to pay somebody to help them do almost everything.

He said there is an additional R200 for the person who assist the disabled..

“How does one live with R200? These are things that the government needs to look at. The disability grant is not enough. As disabled people we have different levels. This is what they do not look at. We are also bread-winners. We provide in the form of the disability grant. It then becomes difficult to look at your own needs,” he said.

Nomonde Mtakati, a co-ordinator at Vukuhambe, said a lot needs to be considered for them. She said they have to travel using public transport.

“There is no accessibility to transport for us. One must then hire an expensive car to take him or her to the next destination. That leaves us with nothing. Our grant should be better than what we are getting,” she said.

Nonkuthazo Hiti said the government is wrong to say the grant is for them to maintain themselves. Ms Hiti said the government should also consider medication used by disabled people.

“That alone tells the story. It will tell you that we are not treated well. Some of us have expensive medication that we take. This is besides other things like transport, food, clothing and providing for your family. We need at least R5 000 to be closer to a better living standard,” she said.