Desperate pensioners petition Gordhan as support dries up

2013-03-18 00:00

ALLISON Homes resident Molly Roussouw (86) has written to Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and the Human Rights Commission about Msunduzi Municipality’s indigent policy.

Roussouw received responses to both letters, with Gordhan’s personal assistant informing her that the minister would get back to her.

The government gives municipalities money to assist the poor. This means that money for the municipality’s indigent policy comes from the national government, and not from municipal coffers.

Pensioners like Roussouw want to know what has happened to that money, and why they are not being given a lifeline.

Roussouw survives on a government pension of R1 200. She pays rent of R400 and her electricity bill has increased from R40 to between R354 and R413 a month. Most of the bill consists of fixed charges.

This leaves her with R400 for food, transport (R60 per month) and medical expenses. She buys fruit and vegetables for R30 per month and three sachets of milk per week. She only buys chicken when the supermarket has a special, and this is carefully rationed. Most other meals consist of noodles and cups of soup.

“I run my flat like a business and only watch TV for an hour a day,” said Roussouw

Fellow resident Mumsa Freddy (68) said sometimes there was not even R10 for bread at the end of the month.

She said her electricity bill sometimes went up to R450. “At first I cut down on my cooking. Then I saw that many of my neighbours were not eating, so I decided to cook and share what I had,” Freddy said.

She complained of shoddy treatment when querying the indigent policy at municipal offices.

“The staff have no respect for the elderly and no compassion. We paid our price to society, so all we want now is to live in dignity. I want to ask the municipality why it took this lifeline away from us,” Freddy said.

Jean Weitsz (75) has forgotten the taste of coffee because she can no longer afford it. Weitsz keeps her electricity costs down by boiling her kettle twice a day — for two cups of tea — one in the morning and another in the late afternoon with re-used teabag.

Weitsz said they were lucky to be living at Allison Homes because the residents survived by helping one another.

She said she had been toying with the idea of organising a march. “We should go out there with our walkers and walking sticks and shame this municipality.

“This is no way to treat the poor and the elderly. We pensioners worked and helped build this country and now we are discarded. The council is supposed to look after all its citizens. We don't want much — just a lifeline so that electricity can be affordable,” Weitsz said.

• nalini@witness.co.za

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