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KwaZulu-Natal MEC for social development Meshack Hadebe has urged shop owners, especially in rural areas, to stop exploiting pensioners by forcing them to buy goods in their stores.
The South African Social Security Agency, which is contracted to make the pension payments, utilises selected stores in rural areas from where they distribute monies.
Hadebe was speaking in Pietermaritzburg yesterday where the name of the department was changed to the development department.
He said he was aware of situations where pensioners have to collect their payments at certain shops and in return are forced to buy there.
He also said he was shocked that in some instances pensioners are forced to sleep at the pay points on the eve of getting their grants.
"This is a disgrace. As we are now the department of development, it means we are no longer confined to only looking after the welfare of our people, but we are now given a mandate to develop our people," said Hadebe.
He said the department would now have poverty alleviation programmes and structures that would look beyond the welfare of the elderly and those surviving through government grants.
"We will come up with programmes that will create a better life for the poor, vulnerable and excluded people in our society," he said.
The plans include setting up one-stop shops where people can do everything at one centre.
"This would certainly speed up service delivery," he said.
"The services that would be rendered are geared towards development, social protection and empowerment.
"They span the entire life cycle of human beings and encompass advocacy, promotion, prevention and care."
Pensioner Nozizwe S'biya of Imbali township said: "Old people need more than just their grants from the government.
"But we also need to know that when go there, we won't have to queue in the scorching sun, but that there will be a proper structure," she said.
S'biya also urged the department to ensure that pensioners were not exploited by insurance brokers.
"Many of us pay the insurance companies regularly but when one dies the family does not receive money.
"Instead they are shoved from pillar to post and end up not getting what was actually paid for."