The ‘curse’ of the old age pension

The ‘curse’ of the old age pension

MASERU – A princely sum of M700 a month.
That is all that Mafokafoka Makau, 72, gets as her monthly pension under an ambitious programme initiated by the government to cushion the aged against poverty.
All citizens of Lesotho who are above the age of 70 are entitled to the old age pension scheme.

The programme is the largest regular cash transfer in Lesotho, covering about 4.5 percent of the country’s 1.8 million people, according to the International Labour Organisation (ILO).
While the M700 monthly pension might appear small, the money often goes a long way in cushioning the aged from the ravages of poverty and economic deprivation.
For Makau, however, the old age pension has proven to be both a blessing and a curse; a blessing in the sense that it sometimes helps douse raging economic woes in the family.
But it has also proven to be a curse. Since he gets the M700 a month, his fellow villagers now don’t expect him to take up any jobs to complement his pension.
He says what made their situation worse was that they were not being allowed to work to supplement their meagre pensions.
“I am a victim of that situation,” he says.

Makau says sometime in 2014, he got a job as a foreman to build drifts in Teyateyaneng’s urban council roads.
He says he was however attacked by some villagers from Ha Mohlaetoa who accused him of snatching their job when he was already receiving a government pension.
Makau however insists the pension is too little.

“With this little pension we have to feed our families and cater for other needs of the family that include water bills,” Makau says.
Makau, from Teyateyaneng, was speaking during celebrations for the International Day of the Elderly in Maseru last week.
He says while they are grateful for the pension, the reality is that the majority of the elderly were facing extreme economic challenges.
Their lives have become a daily grind for survival, he says.

He says in Berea district where he comes from, some pensioners have to travel for over four hours in challenging terrain to reach centres where they can collect their pensions.
Makau says that in itself is a challenge as most of them were now frail.
He urged the government to adjust the pension for the elderly upwards arguing they “too voted for this government”.

Makau says they were even given some groceries in the run-up to last year’s elections to vote for the ruling parties.
‘Mats’epo Sepamo, from Ha Sehlehle in Mohale’s Hoek district, says the elderly are sometimes physically attacked because of their pensions.
She says there have numerous cases of some elderly women being robbed of their pensions with some even being raped during the attacks.
Sepamo says some elderly citizens are even targeted for elimination after being labelled witches in their villages. In most cases such elderly women would be suffering from dementia, she says.
“That is depressing and has to change,” she says.

Sepamo says the elderly often go through stressful times leading to diseases such as dementia.
A representative of the Maseru Women Senior Citizen Association (MWSCA), ’Malebohang Motete, says their association has been holding workshops to sensitize people about dementia and the need to care for the elderly.

She says the elderly need to be educated about their rights.
The Minister of Social Development, ‘Matebatso Doti, says the government is in the process of drafting a policy for the elderly.
She says there has been an upsurge in the number of cases of the elderly being abused.
Doti says the government is even planning to set up mobile banking facilities in villages to ensure that the elderly access their pensions in the villages without walking longer distances.

‘Makhotso Rakotsoane

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