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R1.2 Billion For Equalisation of Old Age Grants 

 

By Gabi Khumalo, BuaNews

 

May 18, 2008 

 

South Africa

 

 

R1.2 billion has been allocated for the current financial year to provide for age equalisation for state old age grants. During the second reading debate of the Social Assistance Amendment Bill on Friday, Social Development Minister Zola Skweyiya said the Bill will see men aged between 60 and 64 years qualifying for social assistance. 

The minister said that of the many izimbizo he attended, people asked him why men only being eligible for the old age grant from the age of 65, while women received the grant from 60 years, if the constitution stipulates equality between men and women. 

"We have ridden roughshod over the rights of older men as we have perceived them to be the stronger sex and more able to handle life's hardships than older women. 


"It is a liberty we have taken reluctantly and one which the Social Assistance Amendment Bill seeks to remedy," Minister Skweyiya said. He said that 450 000 men will benefit from the passing of this legislation, with approximately 121 000 coming on board this year. The first group of men aged 63 and 64 will be done after 1 April 2008, second group from 61 years after 1 April 2009 and from 60 years will be done after 1 April 2010. "These are mainly black males who were excluded by the apartheid regime from obtaining benefits that would prepare them for their retirement and protect them against poverty," said the minister. 

He said poverty and unemployment have caused many families to rely on social pensions for their survival especially where a social grant is the only source of income in a household. Older persons are instrumental in caring for the needs of their children, grandchildren and orphans as a result of the HIV and AIDS pandemic that is crippling the nation. 

The legislation, he said acknowledges the strategic role played by older persons in society. "We cannot just simply regard them as grants recipients but also need to recognise and appreciate their role as providers of care and ambassadors for moral regeneration." He noted that applicants are only eligible for payments from the date of application. 

The second objective of the Bill is also focused on ensuring that access to grants occurs in a fair and equitable manner. The minister said that the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) is currently responsible for the process of grant applications stressing that the department including him have no say in this process and are unable to review the rejection of grants. 
The Bill allows the minister to appoint an independent tribunal that will consider all appeals against the decisions of SASSA. 

A centralised model of a Tribunal has been set up at the national office and being piloted in KwaZulu-Natal. The independent tribunal consisted of two sections including appeals officers to develop policies, while the adjudication was done by enlisted panel members. There were two phases of adjudication. At the pre-adjudication phase a matter would be investigated by medical practitioners and attorneys. Civil society would then usher in specific contexts like poor socio-economic conditions. The Independent Tribunal will serve as a mechanism that will allow the poor the opportunity to appeal the rejection of their applications without undertaking a costly legal process. Social security has expanded from a coverage rate of 2.5 million in 1994 to over 12.7 million in 2008. 


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