NHLANGANO: A handful of elderly people were witnessed participating in the strike action by the Public Sector Associations (PSAs), they are demanding that government increase their grants from E400.00 to E1500.00.
Most of these elderly people were not in the forefront during the demonstrations here in Nhlangano, some watched from a distance in fear of being attacked by State security agents. Magadeyiwile Mdluli, a retired civil servant confirmed the participation of the elderly. "I and a handful of elderly people joined the salary hike march in Nhlangano town on Monday morning. We are not happy that the elderly in the Kingdom of Eswatini continue to receive mere E400 monthly. This money is too little to cater for our monthly expenses as we also have to look after our grandchildren" he said.
"We would appreciate if the King would give each elderly person a sum of E700 per month. We are currently not coping as life has become unbearable and we find ourselves not being able to manage our financial responsibilities. Some of our responsibilities include buying groceries, going to the hospital when sick as well as making sure that our grandchildren are well looked after, " Mdluli emphasized. Mdluli said the current drugs shortages in hospitals were making life difficult for elderly people, as they have to spend their money in pharmacies. "There is drug shortage in local hospitals, and from where we are standing it seems as though our health system has collapsed. Does government still subsidize medication, because we are made to pay extra cash in pharmacies for drugs? The government must give people the political platform so that they address all the social ills. Eswatini has money, but the money is looted by a clique " he said.
Another Swazi Mduduzi Sibandze (69) said as elderly people they want government to pay them E1000 per month. "We want E1000 each per month as elderly people, because we have massive economic challenges. What can we do with E400 per month? So many of our needs require us to have money to finance them. We are also expected to take care of our orphaned grandchildren who were left by our deceased sons and daughters."
Well-known Swazi activist and retired former Swaziland National Association of Teachers President Sibongile Mazibuko confirmed the participation of the elderly in the salary hike strike. "SNAT Constitution stipulates that once you join the association you become married to the organization until you die. Retiring from teaching does not change your membership with SNAT as you can still join marches like the current marches for the cost of living adjustments. We still enjoy the benefits of being SNAT members, it’s obvious the retired teachers are also looking at getting reviewed cost of living adjustments" said the former SNAT President.
The Minister for Finance Neal Rijkenberg could not be reached for comments as his phone numerously rang without being answered, as he also did not respond to our whatsApp messages. However, in a budget speech the Finance Minister delivered in Swazi Parliament at Lobamba, in February 27, 2019 he did admit that Eswatini is faced with a major financial crisis. The Swaziland National Association of Teachers, along with other Eswatini Public Servants Associations (PSAs) demanded a Cost of Living Adjustment from King Mswati III’s government.
In an interview with the Chairperson of the Eswatini Pensioners Association Elliot Mkhatjwa said the elderly people who participated in the strike might be sympathizing with the workers. "The elders who joined the strike may be sympathizers who have an interest in the financial matter (COLA.) As elderly people, including pensioners we have an interest in seeing the elderly grant increasing to E1500. We believe that the money for our increased grant is there and its money we have worked for as citizens of the state. We are standing firm in our quest for an increment mainly because we worked for the money whilst still employed citizens of the country" he said.
Civil servants during strike