Namibia: SA Dumps 900 Walvis Pensioners

ABOUT 900 pensioners at Walvis Bay who have been receiving monthly pension grants from South Africa have been left in the cold after an announcement that such pensions will no longer be paid out.

The affected elderly citizens have been receiving pension money from the Namibian and South African governments as a result of an agreement that was signed between them at the reintegration of Walvis Bay into Namibia in 1994. The agreement stated that South Africa would provide pension money to all its citizens who were born at Walvis Bay when they reach pensionable age. Most pensioners were receiving R1 600 per month.

However, as Namibia does not permit dual citizenship, the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA), which is responsible for the payouts, recently sought legal advice from their lawyers to determine whether it should continue with the pension grants to the Walvis Bay-born elderly.

A decision was made to stop the pension grants from the South African government, and a letter was sent to the Walvis Bay office on 1 August. However, the pensioners were only informed of the decision yesterday following a meeting with the SASSA representative.

Some of the senior citizens at the town have not been receiving their pension money for the past three months, and did not know why. According to the memo which was written to the SASSA grant administrator at Walvis Bay, Isabel Fortuin, the South African authorities already started cutting the pension money of some pensioners.

"I have already received 38 letters which need to be issued to pensioners. Those who did not receive their pension are required to pick up their letters. SASSA is in the process of completing [the letters] for the rest of the pensioners, and everybody will get a letter," she explained.

However, Fortuin advised the senior citizens that they still have a right to appeal after receiving their letters.

They have to find representatives within their families or community to help them write letters to SASSA to ask if they cannot reconsider their decision. Alternatively, they can find representatives to represent the entire group.

"If the appeal letters fail, the matter can be taken to court in South Africa. Senior citizens were all given a chance to appeal within 90 days," she said.

Fortuin admitted that although her office received the letter on 1 August, she was only able to access it weeks later "due to an internet connection problem".

She added that as a result, the pensioners only have 60 days to appeal instead of 90 days. "Please try to find people to represent you," she urged. New applications for the pension payouts were also cancelled due to the same reason of dual citizenship. Meanwhile, SASSA plans to send a delegation from Cape Town to address the affected elderly soon. Some senior citizens at Walvis Bay were left disappointed yesterday following the announcement at a meeting with the SASSA representative.

"This is truly a shock to all of us. Life is going to change a lot, as we have to cut on a lot of things. I do not have children with a steady income, and the Namibian government pension alone will not be enough" said pensioner Susanna Samuel.

"Life will be difficult. We were so used to our pension money, and it will be taken away, just like that. Life will not be the same," Abbie Fransman lamented.

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