ANC ‘trying to find amicable solution’ to pension protests

2016-05-07 16:00
Pensioners protesting outside Parliament. (Thulani Gqirana, News24)

Pensioners protesting outside Parliament. (Thulani Gqirana, News24)

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Cape Town - The ANC's parliamentary team is working closely alongside the labour department to ensure that the UIF application process for pensioners who worked for the apartheid-era Ciskei Transport Corporation and SA Railways is concluded without delay, it said on Saturday.

The elderly group were on Friday forcefully removed after a two-day sit-in outside Parliament's gates. They refused to allow cars to enter.

Members of the group said that when the new administration created new transport entities, their pensions disappeared. They said they wanted to get paid the money they were still owed.

The Office of the ANC Chief Whip said in a statement that since the arrival of the protesters at Parliament three weeks ago, it has been engaging with them as well as helping arrange discussions with relevant government departments to find an amicable solution. 

"Of particular concern to us is the effect the protest is having on the health of these senior citizens, some of whom are frail, as they have been sleeping on the street under... extreme cold weather conditions.

"Amongst our initial interventions when they arrived at Parliament was to persuade them to sleep at the provided accommodation and accept the food [arranged] in conjunction with the department of social development while their issues are receiving attention. 

"Our request was initially rejected but they subsequently began utilizing the venue, albeit inconsistently. [A] similar accommodation and food offer was made in their previous protests at Parliament," the statement said.

Deadline passed

Through negotiations, the office said, it was agreed two weeks ago that given the historically complex nature of their grievance which is beyond the competence of Parliament, the department of labour should explore the pensioners' eligibility for UIF. 

"The deadline for the submission of all applications for UIF, approximately 400 of them, was set by the department of labour for May 5. When this agreement was reached on April 20, the pensioners, through their representative, agreed that they'll return to their homes in the Eastern Cape the next day while their UIF eligibility is being processed by the department of labour. 

"However, they reneged on the undertaking the following day, stating that they'll continue with the protest until their UIF applications are processed and paid."

But on Thursday, the day set as the deadline for the submission of applications, pensioners instead demanded payments of UIF.

The protest escalated with pensioners blocking all the three vehicle entrances to Parliament, the statement said.

"The blockage continued on Friday, adversely impacting the business of Parliament and causing great traffic outside Parliament. We note that, due to high traffic volume caused, on Friday the provincial police decided to intervene and removed the pensioners and ferried them to the safe accommodation. 

"We are informed that the police were acting independently in accordance with their own assessment of the situation and Parliament was not involved as the protest action was taking place outside the precinct - outside of its scope of authority."

Helper slammed

It also slammed a man who had acted as the group's representative who, the office said, misled the pensioners into believing that the UIF would be paid to them on Thursday, despite knowing that Thursday was the deadline agreed with the labour department for the submission of the pensioners' UIF applications, not for payment. 

This, the statement said, led to the pensioners escalating their protest by blocking Parliament's gates on Thursday and Friday. 

Parliament has helped set up meetings in both Cape Town and East London with various stakeholders, including representatives of the groups, Transnet, the departments of labour and public enterprises, private insurance companies and individuals in an attempt to get to the bottom of what happened to the missing pensions, the office said.

"What distresses us the most is the health condition of these pensioners, who are made to put their bodies on the line under bad weather condition as a form of protesting.

"While we respect their right to protest, we will however not give up persuading them to use the provided shelter daily and to accept regular food assistance while their matter is being attended to. We will also ensure that medical help is provided where necessary."

Read more on:    anc  |  cape town  |  parliament 2016

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