Today they released an open letter to Minister Mboweni, urging him to see pensions not as a burden on state resources but as a social and economic investment in jobs, increased productivity and economic growth.
The pensioners are calling for the Finance Minister to increase the monthly old-age grant to R2 500, as a start towards equalising the pension with the National Minimum Wage and towards a living wage. They are also calling for a 13th cheque equal to the monthly pension to be paid annually in December.
The Forum is arguing that
“pegging the pension at a poverty level removes the economic value pensions could provide by enabling us to spend beyond consumption. Increasing the pension beyond consumption would allow us to demand goods and services which would encourage the start of new businesses or where businesses already exist to increase supply to meet this demand and employ people”.
Their letter notes that last year, the Standing Committee on Finance, having considered the 2018 Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement for the revised fiscal framework of 24 October 2018, and having listened to a submission from the Pietermaritzburg Pensioners Forum recommended that “…National Treasury considers a higher increase in grants than is usually the case by reprioritising expenditure …”. The letter urges this recommendation to be taken on board in the 2019 Budget.
Last week, in an open letter to President Ramaphosa, the pensioners reminded him that:
We are of the age group that when we worked, we were paid the lowest wages, we suffered the worst racial oppression and exploitation in the workplace and did the most horrible types of jobs. We are domestic workers, factory workers, farm workers and supermarket workers. We did not earn enough when we worked to support our families and to save for our retirement. When we retired our only option was to apply for the state old-age Grant. The old-age grant is not a gift from government. We contributed and sacrificed so much for South Africa. The R1 700 a month pension takes us nowhere except to lock us into terrible poverty.
The call to Minister Mboweni follows the Forum’s effort to hand their letter, alongside 30 000 supporting signatures, in person to the President in Cape Town last week. While they were unable to hand over the letter to the president, they used the opportunity to appeal to all South Africans to support their call.
Listen to Julie Smith, from PMB Economic Justice & Dignity, argue the case on Channel Africa: