A group of 300 elderly people from the former homelands of Transkei and Ciskei face an uncertain future and a miserable life on the streets of Cape Town.
With freezing temperatures and unpredictable Cape Town weather, the elderly people have vowed to remain on the steps of the National Assembly until their grievances have been addressed.
The elderly people, mainly former Railway and CTC Bus Company employees, arrived in Cape Town on April 18 to claim their wages, unemployment and pension funds. The group is in Cape Town for the fourth time.
They said not even sleeping on pavement outside Parliament and on benches at tSt George’s Cathedral, on Wale Street, would stop them. The group said their battle may look like a far-fetched dream, but it is one that will come true.
In an interview with Vukani, on Wednesday, May 18, the former workers expressed their disappointment with the country’s Parliament, the media and particularly the president for not showing them respect.
They are of the view that the media has been used against them and claim they have never heard or seen their story in the news. They said they viewed Parliament as a place of help, especially for seniors.
Pensioner Milton Maweni said their journey had not been an easy one.
Their quest to get the money owed to them had instead landed them in trouble. The group has also held similar protests in Port Elizabeth and Grahamstown.
“Some people that we have been with in this fight have lost their lives. It has been a tough ride,” he said.
But tough as it may be, he said the struggle for their money would continue. The group was recently manhandled by police but has vowed to fight on.
“It is satanic to mistreat old people like that. It is a pity that we are mistreated by the same people who we voted for,” he said.
Another pensioner, Gengile Marasi, was adamant that they would be rewarded for their troubles.
He also expressed his disappointment with police behaviour towards them as well as Parliament’s apparent lack of respect for elderly people.
“This battle is not easy. But we are not turning back. It is our money that we are talking about. It will be over once we received our monies,” he said.
Describing their living condition in Cape Town, he said it has been tough.
“We are grateful to the church for allowing us the space,” he said. He also praised Pastor Khaya Maseko of Khayelitsha for his support. “That man has been great to us. He feeds us and washes our clothes. There are many other good Samaritans like our lawyer, the (City’s) disaster management department and the Economic Freedom Fighters youths,” he said.
Mvuyo Siphunza made an impassioned plea to political leaders to assist them.
He said every time they came to Cape Town, politicians would act as though they had never seen them. “At some point we nearly fought here. But what has helped us is that if one of them does visit us we write down their name. All we need from them is help with these monies. We know that some benefit from these companies.
“That is an open secret that they have shares and tenders at these companies,” he said.