No going back

A pensioner inside a police van. Photo: Wandile Kasibe.

A group of almost 100 pensioners from the Eastern Cape picketed parliament. On the first two nights, they slept in front of the Parliament building
A group of pensioners from the Eastern Cape who have been picketing at Parliament in Cape Town have vowed to remain at the Parliament precinct until they get their moneys.

Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

The pensioners were arrested and released on the same day for blocking the entrance to Parliament. They were released on condition that they refrain from blocking or hindering access to the entry points of Parliament. This was after their representative Matshaya intervened.

Since 18 April, a group of almost 100 pensioners from the Eastern Cape have been picketing parliament. On the first two nights, they slept in front of the Parliament building. Later, the group moved to the Central Methodist Mission, where they have been ever since, and where well-wishers also provided them with food.

The arrival of the pensioners prompted a meeting with government officials, including the Director General of the Department of Labour, on 20 April.

It was resolved that the Department of Labour would process all applications for unemployment insurance benefits by 5 May, and once a process of verification is finalised, implement the outcome within two weeks.

Claim goes back 26 years

Pensioners clash with the police outside Parliament. Photos: Wandile Kasibe.

The matter arises out of a claim for wages, unemployment insurance benefits, dissolution funds and pensions involving Transnet and the former Ciskei Transport Corporation back in April 1990.

According to the pensioners, their grievance was brought to the attention of Parliament in 2008 and nothing materialised, despite meetings between the pensioners and government officials.

Then again in 2014, it was agreed that the pensioners’ concerns would be finalised by November 2014. They say nothing happened. This time the pensioners vowed not to go home until they see the money.

Michael Matshaya, representing the pensioners, said, “Government has failed to honour its promises. So now we are waiting for answers from the office of the President.”
Matshaya claims the pensioners are owed around R6-million each. [We are unable to verify this, and the amount does seem very large. – Editor]

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“We are now not sure whether anything will be paid into our accounts since we have not yet received any notifications on our cell phones as per government promise,” said a disappointed Isaac Ngcebetsha (65) as the deadline was reached on the 5th of May.

The Record of Understanding of the 20 April meeting states it will be two weeks after 5 May before any possible payments are made. The pensioners were under the impression that they would be paid on the 5th of May.

“We are not going anywhere before we get paid. We want to walk into Parliament and speak to the President. We are not sure whether he is aware of our presence here,” said a pensioner who preferred to remain anonymous.

In an email communication, the office of the ANC Chief Whip said that they are concerned about the role of Michael Matshaya. The email goes further and stated that
“Mr Matshaya, who interchangeably refers to himself as the pensioners’ ‘lawyer’ and ‘private investigator’, has been neither constructive nor helpful in the course of the engagement. Initially, he had belligerently refused our plea for these pensioners to sleep in an arranged accommodation and accept warm food. He has also not been a reliable negotiating partner as a representative, often reneging on critical solutions he himself agreed to.”

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About Bernard Chiguvare 56 Articles
Originally from Zimbabwe and since 2014 I been contributing to different publications in South Africa. My area of focus as a reporter is on the rights of vulnerable communities and foreign nationals in any country.