The Committee was briefed by the Spokesperson for Concerned Pensioners on behalf of over 2800 pensioners. The presentation focused on a petition on the services offered by the Department of Social Development to older persons. The Committee was told that pensioners were disappointed with both national and local government who failed to improve their living conditions. Some of the issues raised by the petition included insufficient value of the Old Age Pension, access to residential facilities for older persons, isolation from family members, abused means test in the old age pension, family disintegration, and poor access to health services.
According the Concerned Pensioners, pensioners also argued that the South African Social Services Agency (SASSA) card system had caused more problems, as pensioners had to stand in long queues waiting for their money and most of them no longer remembered their pin numbers. Gangsters and criminals also saw this as an opportunity to rob pensioners. Older persons were requesting an increase of R2000 in the old age pension amount.
The Deputy Minister for Social Development assured pensioners that the issues of healthcare were being addressed by the introduction of the National Health Insurance. The Department was also working at removing the means test by 2015. All older persons were encouraged to join the Older Persons Forum where solutions to issues would be discussed. The Department was working closely with other departments such as the Department of Health and the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform.
Members of the Committee thanked the representatives from Concerned Pensioners for their dedication to improving lives of older persons throughout the country.
Opening Remarks by the Chairperson
The Chairperson welcomed the Deputy Minister of Social Development, Ms Bongi Maria Ntuli, to the meeting together with the representatives from the Concerned Pensioners who were going to present their submission to the Committee.
Deputy Minister Ntuli relayed an apology from the Minister, who was unable to attend the meeting. She acknowledged that the Department had received the letter of invitation to brief the Committee on services for older persons. In response to the issues raised in the petition submitted by older persons to Parliament, all issues raised had been considered. She explained that the issues raised by the petition included:
- Insufficient value of the Old Age Pension. The pension amount of R1200 was not enough to cover for living expenses, especially rent, clothing, medication and food. Increases in food prices had made it exceptionally difficult for pensioners to afford even the most basic items thus increasing the likelihood of malnutrition;
- Access to residential facilities for older persons;
- Isolation from family members;
- Abused means test in the old age pension. The means test deprived some older persons from being eligible for the old age pension. Couples relied on one source of income from private pensions; which were also being taxed. The private pension was therefore not sufficient to cover the basic needs of older persons;
- Reliance on children for their daily needs.
Deputy Minister Ntuli said some of the issues raised by the petition were similar to those raised by older persons at the Older Persons Parliament in Gauteng in October 2013. The issues of healthcare were being addressed by the introduction of the National Health Insurance. The Department of Social Development was also working at removing the means test by 2015. All older persons were encouraged to join the Older Persons Forum where solutions to issues could be discussed. She said the Department was working closely with other departments such as the Department of Health and the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform. The Department had only received the invitation to brief the Committee a week ago so the Department therefore requested that the briefing be postponed so that the department could be given more time to deliver a concise briefing to the Committee.
The Chairperson thanked the Deputy Minister for the presentation.
Presentation by Concerned Pensioners
Mr Derek Kloppers, Spokesperson: Concerned Pensioners, thanked Parliament for the invitation and asked that all pensioners who were with him to introduce themselves. After the introduction, he said pensioners were badly treated by government in that most pensioners were forced to pay tax. Pensioners were disappointed in National and Local Government for not trying to improve the living conditions of pensioners. There was a petition of 2800 pensioners that were supporting “The Concerned Pensioners”. He said 2014 was the year where political parties were canvassing for the upcoming election and giving food parcels to women and children who were receiving a government grant. However, most pensioners would not be voting if they did not receive an increase of R2 000 in the next budget year.
The South African Social Services Agency (SASSA) card system had caused more problems. Pensioners had to stand in long queues’ waiting for their money and most of them no longer remembered their pin numbers. Gangsters and criminals also saw this as an opportunity to rob pensioners. Day hospitals were another sore point as pensioners sat for hours waiting for medication. The government needed to look after pensioners. A pension of between R 3000 to R 4000 would alleviate poverty. Corruption at old age homes also needed to be eradicated. More homes and retirement homes needed to be built, with reasonable rentals and subsidized electricity. He proposed that food vouchers should also be subsidised.
The Chairperson thanked Mr Kloppers for the presentation. The issues of family and children’s responsibility to parents and childcare and support in old age were a serious concern.
Ms N Gcume (COPE) thanked the older persons for understanding that whenever they faced challenges, they could approach their Parliament.
Ms H Makhuba (IFP) said most Members of Parliament had parents who were pensioners. The Committee was responsible for oversight work and they thanked the members of the Concerned Pensioners for all the issues that were raised in the petition. She acknowledged that there were still challenges of service delivery faced by SASSA, because some older persons were unable to stand in queues and collect medication for example. The Committee and government still had a lot of work to do.
Ms F Khumalo (ANC) thanked the Concerned Pensioners for raising all the issues to Parliament. Most pensioners would have not been able to appear before Parliament and the issues raised in the petition were therefore broadly representative of issues faced by older persons countrywide.
Ms M Mafolo (ANC) thanked the Concerned Pensioners for the presentation.
Mr M Waters (DA) said the issues raised showed the level of dedication and commitment older persons had towards improving the lives of pensioner’s countrywide.
The Chairperson said a representative from SASSA would brief the Committee on the progress made on some of the issues raised in the petition. She said the concerns about the SASSA office in Athlone were still not resolved. The Chairperson of the Committee had paid a visit to the office.
Ms Dianne Dunkerley, Executive Manager: SASSA, said there were reviews being done on the SASSA work and the means test.
The Chairperson said the review process of the means test was there to ensure that pensioners who qualified for the pension were receiving it.
Deputy Minister Ntuli said all issues raised would be taken to the Minister. The government was improving SASSA administration and all issues of older persons were being addressed. The older person’s forum was a platform for collective engagement. Families were under a lot of pressure and there was a lot of disintegration within families. This resulted in older persons being left alone with no proper care. The White Paper on Families was on the table and would be discussed with the public. The Department was also partnering with sister departments such as the Department of Health. The department was busy with resolutions, which would satisfy all stakeholders concerned.
Mr Kloppers said the old age forum was just for talk and the Department was not taking any real action.
The Chairperson said there was no Indigent Policy for older persons, especially for reduced rates for water and lights. All the issues raised needed to be investigated. Active aging through participation in activities such as the “Golden Games” needed to be encouraged among older persons. The Chairperson thanked Mr Kloppers for the presentation and the dedication showed for the well-being of pensioners in the country.
The meeting was adjourned.
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