Ray of hope for Parliament's protesting pensioners

2016-06-02 15:57

Cape Town - Eastern Cape pensioners who have been protesting outside Parliament over missing money have made a breakthrough with their UIF payments, but refuse to go home until everybody is happy.

The labour department had paid Unemployment Insurance Fund benefits to about 30 of the pensioners, their representative Michael Matshaya said on Thursday.

"Some of the people were paid, and some of the people were not paid," said Matshaya, who had gathered evidence on behalf of the group.

The mostly elderly men and women have been holding a vigil outside Parliament's visitors' centre since April. They slept at the Methodist Church in Greenmarket Square and returned during the day to make their presence felt.

As winter set in, the group was thinning, with most opting to stay at the church. Every day, however, the men made the pilgrimage up Plein Street in a bid not to be forgotten. 

They alleged that their pensions disappeared during the post-apartheid creation of the new transport entity, Transnet. Some had worked for the Ciskei Transport Corporation, and some for SA Railways. 

The group from the SA Railways went on strike and were dismissed. They challenged their dismissal and won, said Matshaya, but were locked out when they went back to work. Even though they were dismissed, they were entitled to their pensions, they argued.

Meanwhile, Parliament expected them to go back home, while about 400 applications for UIF were processed. But the pensioners stood firm, even screaming their way through an attempt by police to remove them. 

During her recent budget vote speech, Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant said the department was looking into the matter with the departments of trade and industry, and public enterprises.

"The processing and payment of benefits to the qualifying claimants has commenced and some have already been paid," she said. 

Matshaya said, although there was hope on the UIF front, they would approach the High Court in Grahamstown over the missing pensions.

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