Eswatini government removes 5000 elderly from $26.00 grant


Elderly pictured in an event(not those removed from payroll)


BY : EUGENE DUBE

NHLANGANO - Through the office of the Deputy Prime Minister Themba Masuku, Eswatini government has removed about 5000 elderly from the grant payment system. This is contained in a report that was submitted to the Senate Portfolio Committee for the DPM office where it stated that the senior citizens were removed from the payroll after a verification process.

It has been disclosed that around March 2019, government condcuted a verification process to establish the number of elderly that were still alive after allegations emerged that part of the money went to ‘ghost’ senior citizens. But an independent investigation by this publication uncovered that some of the senior citizens died on their way to the verification centres, while some are bedridden due to their old age. The removal of the about 5000 elderly means they will not receive their monthly E400.$26.00) from government.

A report of the elderly grant verification exercise known as Vela was submitted to Eswatini Senate Portfolio Committee on Thursday 15 August, 2019. The new Parliament report in possession of this Swaziland News quoted Deputy Prime Minister Themba Masuku saying , “The Vela verification of the elderly and disabled grant Beneficiaries was conducted between 18 March to 30th April, 2019; this resulted in the recording of 4,725 that did not verify”.

When called for comment, Deputy Prime Minister’s office Public Relations officer Mihla Khumalo said, “4725 people did not verify. No one was blocked but those who were unable to verify their existence had their grants suspended until they verify their existence with the Deputy Prime Minister’s office, threafter, they will continue receiving their grant payments”.

When quizzed further Khumalo said, “This did not only happen in Shiselweni II but country wide, as the whole point of the exercise was to make sure that the money is being received by the deserving beneficiaries.” During the recent payment of grants, it is alleged that senior government officials allegedly turned back the elderly from accessing the grant. According to an eyewitness - the officers ordered them to comply with a new policy implicated earlier this year by government.

The new policy required all elderly people with Eswatini citizenship to personally produce their identity documents as prove that they were still alive. They were also told to come and register a name of a person who will collect their monies in case of illness. According to the Deputy Prime Minister’s office, the cause of the verification exercise is a way to curb illegal claims by relatives in the event of death of the beneficiary. There are also allegations that some elders are abused by unauthorised relatives who claim money on their behalf. Shiselweni II Member of Parliament Strydom Mpandza confirmed the matter in an interview. “I have received information from my Constituency that around five elderly people did not receive their grant.There was this verification process where all people were supposed to be complying with a new procedure. It seems like these ones had still not complied with the new arrangement hence they were suspended from getting their monthly payment. However, the relevant parties are working hard to resolve this issue. Already those old people who did not receive their monies are currently being helped ” said the MP.

Mbangweni Royal Kraal Development officer (Bucopho) Ntando Dlamini shared the same sentiments with Mpanza. “We have elderly people who have not been paid their grant this month. The information we have suggests that they did not comply with the new government system. The system dictates that all people must bring their documents and prove that they are still alive. In an event that the old person fails to collect his or her money due to ill-health, he can send a relative who appears in the government payment system. The painful thing is that the money could go back to the state if any senior citizen fails to collect it on stipulated time,”Dlamini explained. Shiselweni II Constituency headman Gonyovu Bhembe also confirmed the matter in an interview. “They were those who were sickly who could not come for the verification exercise.The agreement was that Government would send social workers to the sick and bedridden old people to register them. This was to ensure that these elderly people were still alive. However, it later appears that government failed to honour her promise and removed the old people from accessing the monthly grant” he said.