The struggles of the Namibian penioner

A pensioner from Swakopmund shared his thoughts with Namib Times regarding the support given by Government to pensioners. This person highlighted several challenges which he feels needed to be considered by President Hage Geingob to improve the situation. He also pointed out discrepancies and situations where pensioners are unfairly treated by the system. In what follows, the letter the person directs to the Namibian public, through the columns of Namib Times.

“Since coming to power, President Hage Geingob has been under sustained pressure and faced criticism from all sides, some rightly and some of it – in our view – unfairly. But to his credit, the President made a substantive effort to improve the livelihood of the elderly when he undertook in March 2015 to raise the state pension from N$600 to N$1 000, and further up to N$1 300 at the present time.
Following a tough year in 2020, which we spent mostly under lockdown and unable to earn a living or even subsist from fishing along the sea – as many pensioners here at the coast are wont to do – my wife and I were pleasantly surprised in December when we received a generous hamper of food and toiletries, which really helped us, as many of our senior citizens were going hungry and struggling to survive during the state of emergency. For this I want to thank the President for his concern.
The problem we want to bring to his attention is that over the past few years, and especially since the pandemic kicked in, the price of basic goods, including vegetables, meat and fish, has been under constant inflationary pressure and the cost of foodstuffs rose dramatically, to the extent that many pensioners can now barely afford the most basic things.
As pensioners of this country, we find ourselves in a nutritional crisis that marches hand in hand with the pandemic. Yet, sadly we see how the country’s resources are drained by corporations that export 95% of our fish and most of the meat produce abroad, and we must bring it to the attention of our President that the elderly are fal-ling behind… And we feel left behind.
The Constitution in Article 95 (f) says “the State shall ensure that senior citizens are entitled to and shall receive a regular pension, adequate for the maintenance of a decent standard of living and the enjoyment of social and cultural oppor-tunities”. Given, the cost of living, it is surely necessary to look again at what constitutes an “adequate pension”.
The fact is that it is increasingly difficult to maintain a decent standard of living with the current state pension. Inflation has severely eroded the buying power of the dollar and consequently most pensioners are undernourished and face health risks due to physical and psycho-logical distress as a result of hunger poverty.
We are also painfully aware that the ‘veterans of the liberation struggle’ are entitled to N$2 200 per month, in addition to their state pension. Government has also spent over N$2 billion to fund their projects and has provided homes to many veterans. This seems to us to be blatantly unfair and discriminatory against the other senior citizens.
As struggling pensioners, we want to remind our leaders that we built up this country while they were abroad. The roads they drive on, the public hospitals the veterans use, the schools their children attend were built by us, the workers who did not flee abroad, but who stood to face the enemy here at home. We built the harbours, the factories, the industries that today benefit mostly the privileged few.
It is time to put an end to this brutal inequality and discrimination against the pensioners of this country. It is time for this government to show mercy and compassion to the elderly by raising the pension substantively to at least be in line with what the war veterans receive. That is why we are calling on President Geingob to show urgent resolve in the matter and to extend a helping hand to the long-suffering pensioners by raising the pension to at least N$2 000 in the March 2021 budget. Beyond that, the President should aim to raise the pension to N$2 400 before the end of his term.
We believe the cost can easily be offset by making a small reduction in the military budget. We understand that the soldiers get three adequate meals a day. Yet many pensioners are fortunate if they can afford even one meal a day of the most basic foodstuffs, such as pap and spinach. We are not ungrateful, but we need justice, equality and to be treated with dignity.
We see that his administration is tarnished on all sides by reports of wrongdoing, but we still believe that there is a prospect of redemption for our President – as there is for us all.
If our President can hear our cries and attend to our urgent plea to raise the pension to N$2 000 this year, it will go a long way to restoring his legacy as a man of integrity, who through it all sincerely cared for his people”.
With highest regards, Steven McClune (Swakopmund).

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