Eighty-year-old Gilbert Daniels and his wife Elsie paid an expensive R40 to travel to parliament for the fourth time to join a pensioners’ protest for a wage increase.
Daniels was one of the approximate 100 pensioners who made their way, many on crutches and some with walkers, to the legislative seat of government to plead for help today.
The pensioners are asking for R5 000 living wage a month. This compared the R1 420 grant they currently receive.
“I didn’t stress the way I was stressing [during apartheid] than with this government,” said Daniels.
Carrying a heavily laden bag branded by the department of rural development and land reform and containing his working life’s achievements, Daniels said he had worked in land claims for 20 years before he retired.
Standing next to him Ethel Berry said: “I had a better life, 100% during the apartheid. Apartheid didn’t worry us, we got our money. Now, they [the ANC government] don’t see us.”
Berry was quickly joined by a chorus of elderly bystanders who shouted in agreement.
She had little hope that the letter handed over to ANC MP Peter Lebeko would have any effect. The department of social development or finance had not come out to receive the document which was addressed to the portfolio committee on social development.
“They are taking us for a bloody joyride,” she said.
Daniels remained cautiously optimistic.
Lebeko earlier told the gathering that he accepted the memorandum on behalf of parliament and the department of social development.
“I will ensure that the memorandum is handed over the relevant departments. We were waiting to see whether they [the department] were coming and then we realised that they were not showing up… that’s why we are here to receive you,” he said adding that it had not been clear by the protesters who they wanted to receive the letter.
David le Roux penned the letter to parliament.
“We have watched developments recently of the student protests and sympathise with the plight of our grandchildren… many of the elderly support their grandchildren on this meagre social grant.
“We specifically directed our concerns to parliament as the oversight authority over the executive… but the continued failure to respond leads us to believe that they have failed the elderly of this country. Our plea for a decent living wage of of R5 000 per month remains.
“We have worked for this country and paid our taxes so surely we deserve it. We will appreciate it if our demand can be considered,” said Le Roux.
Georgina Brown said she would even be happy with R3 000 a month.
Brown paid R700 rent a month and rates for electricity and water syphoned about R300 from the grant. This meant she had R420 to live on.
Gamaealie van der Poel agreed.
“Must we just go and die?” he asked adding that out of the R1 420 he still had to pay for burial cover.