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Pensioners blockade parliament

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A group of senior citizens from the Eastern Cape say they won’t stop their actions until they get the money owed to them

Photo of pensioners outside parliament
The pensioners from the Eastern Cape who have been picketing parliament since 18 April. Photo: Bernard Chiguvare
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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 provide them with food.

At 7:30 am yesterday, about 50 pensioners were already singing and dancing outside the parliamentary buildings as they have done every day for more than two weeks.

By 9:30 am, the pensioners divided themselves into three groups to block the entrances to Parliament and bar any vehicles from entering the precinct. GroundUp witnessed workers and cars being turned away.

The arrival of the pensioners prompted a meeting with government officials, including the Director General of Department the 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 to 26 years

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 vow 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]

“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 5 May deadline was reached. 

However, 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 they would be paid on Thursday.

“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 response to request for comment, Parliament’s communication officials informed GroundUp that a press release would be published yesterday. But no statement had been published by the time of publication.

Photo of pensioners sitting in the roadPensioners block the entrance to parliament. Photo: Bernard Chiguvare

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