‘With R30 what can a person do?’ – Pensioners fear surviving on tiny grant increase

The Association for the Aged (Tafta) in Durban believes the government has failed to help support households headed by pensioners after the announcement of a R30 increase in old age grants.
Image: Sowetan

The government’s modest R30 increase to the old age social grant has invoked fear in struggling pensioners, who are concerned they may not be able to make ends meet.

Durban pensioner Mogie Govender regards the increase as a “disgrace”.

“With R30 what can a person do? The costs of rent, electricity and water naturally go up. How far will the R30 go to help us to cover these costs of living?

“I cannot put into words how disgraceful this is. As older people, we cannot substantially live on the amount we are receiving from the government.”

Pensioner Amy Green told TimesLIVE: “The R30 increase is very disgusting because the elderly are battling.

“The cost of everything has gone up. With R30 we cannot even buy a loaf of bread and milk, which are essential basic food items we need. We will be on the streets one of these days because of a mingy R30.”

Finance minister Tito Mboweni said at a virtual post-budget press conference last week government had “no reason to be apologetic” after raising social grants by less than the prevailing inflation rate.

The inflation rate is 3.3%, the lowest it has been since 2004.

Social grants, including old age and disability grants, increased by only R30 from R1,860 to R1,890 a month.

Trade union federation Cosatu lambasted the increases as meagre, pointing out that this would diminish the buying power of grant recipients.

The Association for the Aged (Tafta) has accused the government of failing to adequately support pensioners. The organisation, which operates care homes throughout Durban and has about 5,500 pensioners in its fold, said it was calling out the government following the “dismal 1.16% increase”.

Tafta CEO Femada Shamam said: “Recent studies have found 87% of the country’s elderly are using their pension grants to support their adult children and grandchildren.

“This is, in part, due to the country’s high unemployment rate, exacerbated in recent months by the pandemic.

“These grants are supposed to be instrumental in government’s poverty alleviation strategy, but if these increases are not even inflation-linked, we’re looking at entire families impacted by a growing debt burden.”

Shamam said the organisation continued to struggle with a continued reduction in state funding and a growing debtor’s book of pensioners incapable of meeting their rental commitments, forcing the organisation to eat into its financial reserves built over its 62-year history.

She said Tafta’s “growing debtor’s book of R3m in the current financial year, together with decreased funding and the lower social grant increase” mean the organisation would be forced to zero-rate residential rental increases to prevent pensioners falling into further debt.

“Given that their pensions would not be inflation-linked, we couldn’t possibly look at increasing rentals at this time, and this forces the organisation to further dip into reserves to continue functioning,” said Shamam.

“If the current climate prevails, long-standing organisations like our own, who continue to carry the responsibility of the state to care for vulnerable elders, will be forced into making difficult sustainability decisions relating to services for vulnerable elders.

“Where will that leave the impoverished elder generation?”

by Suthentira Govender

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