By Petronella Sibeene
Some pensioners have expressed dissatisfaction with the N$80 increment to their monthly pension stipend as announced last week by the Minister of Finance.
They feel the increment can hardly get them through a day.
With the ever-increasing price of basic commodities, the old people generally say that the pension is insufficient to meet their basic needs.
They feel that Government should have considered raising their pension from N$370 to N$500 or even more.
“It is very little. The house is N$300 and where does money for mealie meal and bread come from,” bemoaned 65-year-old Martha Pholoana.
She added that most pensioners would become destitute, especially as prices for basic commodities continue to skyrocket.
“A loaf of bread is about N$7.00 and we have to buy soap, food and pay for the house, all from N$450.00. What a joke,” lamented another pensioner who preferred to remain anonymous.
The rising cost of living has eroded the value of the elderly’s pensions so much that they fear they will now rely on handouts.
Most elderly Namibians depend heavily on government grants, since this is their only source of livelihood.
In addition, many old people are said to be living with their grandchildren whom they have to feed and clothe on a state pension.
This makes a grandparent an integral figure in the daily management of the household, not only in terms of providing financially, but also in terms of food purchasing, meal preparation and housework.
“Grandmothers have to use this money to pay for all basics at home and also pay school fees for their grandchildren,” said Pholoana.
“We are not happy with the money because it is not enough for us to be able to take care of all the responsibilities,” commented another pensioner, David Kambalala.
Kambalala added that pensioners are sickly and often have to go to hospitals, adding that the money as provided by Government is not enough to sustain them and cater for all medical expenses.
He proposed that Government exempts old people from paying for health services in government facilities.
“My point is, just like we look after their interests when we vote, so they should look into our interests,” he said.
Years ago, pensioners lived relatively comfortably on the money they were receiving. But the situation now is pathetic because now everything is expensive, he said.
“It’s a joke for anyone to suggest that I can live off my pension, which is only now N$450. The money finishes within two weeks and again we wait for the next pay. We struggle because we cannot get anything.”
Pensioners who live in rural areas have not only to contend with high food prices but also hire vehicles to take them to the nearest pay points. Before independence they used to get their pensions paid out at their homes, said one source.
Due to high transport costs, some pensioners have to pay at least a third of their income for transport to and from the pay point. It is therefore not surprising that some pensioners prefer skipping collection of their pension money so that when they do go to collect, the money is relatively higher and can justify paying for transport. In the meantime, they endure hardships of food scarcity during that period.
Apart from using the money to sustain themselves, usually pensioners support unemployed adults, young grandchildren and other relatives.
“Typically, young adults move to town in search of work, leaving their parents to care for the children in the village, where the cost of living is lower.
Increasingly, the pension provides vital support to relatives especially those affected by HIV/ AIDS, with many elderly people fostering AIDS orphans,” HelpAge said in its report.