‘Load more airtime’ call from the elderly

2011-02-26 10:37

Rosemarry Xinana (64) was hoping that Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan would increase the old-age grant to R1 500 a month from the R1 080 she has received this past year.

“I am trying to renovate my ­four-roomed house. But I cannot ­afford to buy building materials and pay for labour costs with my income,” says the grandmother of two, who ­collects her grant at a paystation in Orlando East, Soweto.

Gordhan increased the grant by R60 a month, to R1 140 a month, when he announced the budget this week.

Having qualified as a beneficiary when the grant stood at R700 a month, Xinana admits that the government has come a long way in ­looking after the financial interests of the old and unemployed.

Her grant also has to be used to take care of her grandchildren aged 15 and 18 years. They live with Xinana because her daughter survives on piece jobs.

Most of Xinana’s grant goes towards food. She spends an average of R650 a month buying the staples – mealie meal, fish oil, rice, sugar, beans, samp, tea, milk, potatoes, tomatoes and ­onions.

She sometimes buys a few tins of pilchards. A meat hamper, loaded with a few kilograms of mince, steak, chicken gizzards, liver and frozen chicken pieces, is another addition to the ­groceries that do not last the entire month.

Of the balance, R150 goes to her burial scheme and the rest is for bread and ­toiletries.

Another grant beneficiary is Anna Mabuza of Meadowlands. She travels 10km to collect a R250 child-support grant for her two-year-old daughter in Orlando.

She goes there because payday arrives a week earlier in that area than where she resides. By the time she gets home, the money is finished.

“I owe my two neighbours R100 and R10.

“And clearly, I will not be able to pay them. They will have to understand,” she says as she spends R100 on a night dress, leggings and a top for her daughter at a street vendor.

Another R30 goes to the taxi driver who transports her to the paypoint and back home. Four mangoes from a ­vendor outside the paypoint cost R10.

“I will buy butter, a bag of maize meal and bread,” she says as she leaves.

Her “headache” is how she will pay her municipal rates.

Good news for her – and for her neighbours – is Gordhan’s announcement that the child-support grant will increase from R250 to R260 in April, and to R270 in October.

For old friends Nomathemba Ndayi and Lydia Shai, payday means socialising. The elderly two ladies buy cigarettes on leaving the paypoint and take time off to enjoy a puff.

They are reluctant to share their ­experiences with City Press but are adamant that President Jacob Zuma should “load more airtime”.

“This means that the president should increase the social grants,” Ndayi explains.

Shai says many pensioners are subject to harassment by loan sharks. She points out a man hiding behind a wall at a house adjacent to the paypoint and suggests that we speak to him.

The loan shark refuses to identify himself but introduces us to another colleague.

The men say they lend money to beneficiaries of the social grants, but only to those who collect money at the paypoint.

For each R50 borrowed they demand R20 interest. The beneficiaries borrow between R50 and R300 every month and leave their collection cards as collateral.

“We arrive very early in the morning on payday and hand out the cards to the owners.

“When they come back, we take what is ours and leave them with the balance.

“We mainly deal with pensioners,” said one.

The colleague reiterates that pensioners are trustworthy, unlike the young mothers who receive R250.

They often disappear without making ­payments and report their cards as stolen.

“They change paypoints and leave us dry.

“This is a risky business because some people die without paying us back.

“At least we are also able to buy bread for our kids especially this time of the month,” says the mashonisa, as they are affectionately called in townships.

But not all the grant money is put to good use.

Driving out of the paypoint after a few hours there, we spot a few of the younger beneficiaries who collected their money earlier sitting in shebeens. Some appear to be drunk.

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