House of Assembly: Vol2 - MONDAY 11 MARCH 1985
announced that he had called a joint sitting of the three Houses of Parliament for Monday, 18 March, at 14h15, for the delivering of Second Reading speeches on certain Bills.
announced that in terms of Joint Rule 22 (4) he had referred the following proposed Bills which had been submitted to him, together with the memorandums thereon, to the Standing Committee on Private Members’ Bills:
- (1) Prohibition of Political Interference Repeal Bill, submitted by Mr C W Eglin.
- (2) Constitution Amendment Bill, submitted by Mr J A Rabie.
- (3) Prohibition of Political Interference Amendment Bill, submitted by Mr J A Rabie.
- (4) Aliens Amendment Bill, submitted by Mr J A Rabie.
- (5) Agricultural Workers Bill, submitted by Mr A E Poole.
- (6) Freedom of Farming Bill, submitted by Mr J V Iyman.
announced that on Friday, 8 March, he had received reports from the Standing Committees on Mineral and Energy Affairs and Finance submitting the State Oil Fund Amendment Bill [No 52—85 (GA)] and the Public Accountants’ and Auditors’ Amendment Bill [No 14a and b—85 (GA)], respectively, which had been referred to them. The reports would be printed in the Minutes of Proceedings of each House, and he had placed the Bills concerned on the Agenda for Second Reading today, and on the Order Papers of the Houses.
He further announced that Item 7 on the Agenda—Second Reading—National Key Points Amendment Bill [No 40a and b—85 (GA)], would not be dealt with today, and would be placed on the Agenda for the Joint Sitting on Monday, 18 March.
The House met at 15h08.
announced that Mr Speaker had reported to him that the proceedings at a joint sitting on certain bills had been concluded and that he had placed these bills on the Order Paper for the Second Reading debate.
laid upon the Table:
- (1) Family Court Bill—[No 62—85 (GA)]—(Standing Committee on Justice).
- (2) Divorce Amendment Bill [No 63—85 (GA)]—(Standing Committee on Justice).
To be referred to the appropriate Standing Committee, unless the House decides otherwise within three sitting days.
as Chairman, presented the Fourth Report of the Standing Select Committee on Mineral and Energy Affairs, relative to the State Oil Fund Amendment Bill [No 52—85 (GA)], as follows:
M H VELDMAN,
Committee Rooms Parliament 8 March 1985.
Bill to be read a second time.
as Chairman, presented the Second Report of the Standing Select Committee on Finance, relative to the Public Accountants’ and Auditors’ Amendment Bill [No 14—85 (GA)], as follows:
C H W SIMKIN,
8 March 1985.
Bill to be read a second time.
Mr Chairman, when the debate was adjourned, I was giving a short introduction to my reply, and I should like to continue in the same vein—although perhaps in a slightly different style.
After reading the Hansard reports of the speeches made by the main speakers of the Opposition parties, I just wondered whether those hon members had in fact studied my Budget speech, or had even read it first. I found it strange that many of the arguments they raised really had nothing to do with the Budget.
†In fact, the main speaker of the Official Opposition delivered a speech which was probably written or inspired by an outside source. That is not the way I know him. [Interjections.] He used the same old clichés, for example, “rise in the tariffs are a shame”, “fail to set an example”, “worst budget ever”—he thought last year’s budget was the worst; this year’s budget is worse— “abuse of powers” etc. Those are all old clichés which make no contribution; he made even less of a contribution than the hon member sitting opposite me.
When one examines what the hon members for Umlazi, Boksburg, Hercules, Overvaal, Brits and Umhlanga said, one realizes that they made some attempt to make a contribution in a very important debate.
*The hon members of the CP, the hon members for Nigel and Sunnyside, tried to scavenge a few votes. They tried to see whether they could not gain a vote or two from the Post Office workers. No mention was made of suggestions as to how they would have dealt with the situation.
We want a new Minister.
That is not for the hon member to decide. [Interjections.] That is not for the hon member to decide.
Order! We cannot go on like this. The hon the Minister is entitled to speak freely here and make his speech. There are people in this House who want to hear the speech. If hon members have questions to ask, they may ask them. Please work through the presiding officer. Then we can all listen to one another’s speeches with mutual respect. The hon the Minister may proceed.
The hon members have developed a style of trying to shout a person down as soon as he replies to a debate. It makes no impression on me though.
Mr Chairman, may I ask the hon the Minister a question?
I am not interested in questions. Those hon members’ style does not impress the other hon members of this House, nor the people in the galleries. And least of all does it impress the Post Office workers as such. [Interjections.] It is a pity we did not have a live television broadcast of the last debate in this House when the two hon members on that side were participating. [Interjections.] It was an revelation to the members of my general management who were here for the first time. In fact, it would also have been an revelation to any Post Office worker in the country to see how little those two hon members really know about Post Office matters, and then try to debate them. [Interjections.]
When I come now to hon members who participated in the debate I first of all want to thank the hon member for Umlazi for his exceptional speech. I want to congratulate him once again on his achievement in becoming chairman of the standing committee, and I also want to congratulate him on the way in which he has coped with the standing committee up to now. This is a new facet of our new dispensation, and if he continues in the same way he began, he will make a great contribution to the Department of Posts and Telecommunications, as well as to the new Department of Public Works, under which that standing committee will also fall.
I want to convey my sincere thanks to the hon member. He refuted virtually all the arguments which the hon member for Hillbrow raised here, because he had made a very thorough study, not only of the Budget speeches, but also of the recent administration of the Post Office as such. He pointed out to the hon member for Hillbrow that, if his advice were to be adopted, it would mean in the first place that the Post Office would bleed to death and would fall behind with its capital programme. He could also have added that the Post Office would have borrowed to the point of bankruptcy if it had followed the advice of the hon member for Hillbrow. We must have the courage of our convictions when dealing with a department such as that of Posts and Telecommunications, on which heavy demands are being made by external organizations as well as the general public. There is a very heavy demand. Last year 255 000 telephones were installed and there is still a waiting list for 245 000 telephones. We have already installed almost four million telephones in this country during the past few years, and the demand is still heavy. That is why I say that we should have courage of our convictions to spend money on our infrastructure. Another very important factor is that we should have the courage of our convictions to ask for increased self-financing. We can only do this by borrowing less and structuring our tariffs in such a way that we do in fact have the money for capital expenditure.
†We do not need a repetition of the investigations conducted by the Franzsen Commission, as was asked for by the hon member for Hillbrow. What can such a new commission decide? There are only two possible things it can decide. Firstly, it can decide on the question of whether we need more self-financing, and secondly it can decide on the question of whether we need less self-financing. It is as simple as that. Surely those who run the Post Office—the Minister, the Postmaster-General and the top executive—are capable of deciding whether we need more or fewer funds generated by way of our own income.
When one considers—as was suggested by the hon member for Hillbrow—financing the running expenses of the Post Office by borrowing money elsewhere, one cannot but realize that that would surely be tantamount to self-destruction. That would certainly be the shortest road to ultimate disaster. The Post Office is rendering a service and it expects to be remunerated for that service. The hon member for Hillbrow, the hon member for Bezuidenhout and the hon member for Johannesburg North seem to hold a different view. They evidently believe tariffs should be reduced to such a low level that the Post Office can continue to borrow money in the open market. The hon member for Hillbrow suggested that we need only a 4,5% rise in income. According to him that would be quite sufficient. He does not analyse his suggestion, however. He merely makes a statement. With an increase of only 4,5%, where does the hon member expect us to obtain the rest of the money needed by the Post Office to pay for its capital expenditure and for its necessary infrastructure?
You did not read my speech.
I read the hon member’s speech very carefully.
Why then do you react to it the way you do?
I read the hon member’s speech very carefully over the weekend. Unfortunately it took up most of my weekend. That is one thing about which I feel very sorry. [Interjections.]
Sir, if the point of view of those hon members prevails the Post Office will suffer a severe decline in its income and there will just not be enough money to pay for its essential infrastructure. It is as simple as that. With lower tariffs the income of the Post Office will naturally also be smaller. We simply cannot cut down on infrastructure. Hon members of all parties in this House will agree with this. The hon member for Yeoville has already on occasion sounded a warning in this direction. Speaking during the Part Appropriation debate here in the House on 12 February this year, the hon member for Yeoville said, inter alia, and I quote (Hansard, 12 February 1985, Col 827):
This is indeed a very wise statement, Sir. In a developing country one cannot cut back on infrastructure and still expect to act the hero who cuts the tariffs. We have a certain number of contractors who have to deliver exchanges, cables, telephones and other equipment to us every year on a contractual basis. If we cut down on those contracts it will cause thousands of people to lose their jobs. No business enterprise can continue to function without being able to sell its commodities in order to keep its workers in employment. If therefore we cut down on those contracts it will lead to our contractors being compelled to retrench their staff. Once that has happened we will have lost some of the most reliable and best infrastructural supply organizations we can possibly find. How will we ever be able to revive them and build them up again? We will create a void which we will never be able to fill, not even when the upswing in the economy comes and we want to be ready to meet the challenges new and more prosperous times will offer us.
How often do I have to repeat that it is necessary for us to overhaul the whole system? We are switching from the analogue system—the old electro-mechanical system— to the digital electronic system. This was not my decision. It is being done in terms of decisions taken long before my time. Posts and Telecommunications is a business with its own income. It has powers to borrow money for capital expenditure. By an exceptional effort on the part of all concerned—all the staff, that is—the R131 million deficit of last year was changed into a R29 million surplus. This was not accomplished without pain and sacrifice. We had to cut back on capital expenditure which we could not afford for the second year running. We had a slight increase in our income. We even had to roll over one of our loans, which we were fortunate enough to do without its being in the slightest affected by the exchange rate between the rand and the dollar.
When we want to borrow money from financial institutions abroad we have to produce our balance sheet. Would we not look silly turning up in the overseas money market to borrow money with our balance sheet showing a deficit? The appointed way to remedy such a situation is by way of increasing our tariffs. Is there any bank in the world that would allow us to borrow money while our balance sheet showed a clear deficit and while we were too frightened to raise our tariffs because it might adversely affect our popularity with the South African public? That is perhaps what the opposition parties in this House would want to do. We simply cannot afford that sort of foolishness.
*There are one or two general matters I still wish to discuss before I reply to hon members in detail. Criticism was expressed by a person who represented the Consumer Council on television. I want to add that similar criticism was also expressed through the other media. It was said that the office hours of the Post Office should be carefully examined, for according to the existing system everyone works 39 hours per week, and they have one hour off for lunch on weekdays. But that is quite untrue. It is alarming that a person representing the Consumer Council can appear on television and tell the country that the Post Office worker works 39 hours a week, and then has an hour for lunch on top of that. Such a person is regarded as an expert, who is able to criticize, but not one of those statements is correct.
Since 1971 the minimum weekly working hours of the Post Office staff have been set at 42. That decision was taken voluntarily by the Post Office staff in 1971. There are groups which work as much as 44 and 48 hours per week. The staff in post offices who render a service directly to the public, work at least 42 hours per week. In general the staff have less than an hour for lunch, and when staff members do in fact have an hour off for lunch, that is not included in their compulsory weekly office hours. Could the person levelling that criticism not simply have telephoned the Postmaster General and asked him what the office hours in the Post Office were? Was it necessary for him to drag this Post Office matter onto television, and utter a whole lot of falsehoods, which were not even substantiated?
I want to point out that the main post offices in the main centres, as well as a few of the largest branch offices in those centres, render continuous service to the public. Possibly it is because the staff provision is adequate, and the staff is therefore able to work shifts during lunch hours. The department tries to keep as many post offices as possible open during lunch hour for the convenience of its clients, without appointing additional staff. It should be mentioned that the arrangement whereby counters for financial transactions closed at 15h30 has been cancelled since January 1981. All post office business can now be transacted from Mondays to Fridays until closing time at 16h30. These extended hours of business are very convenient for our clients, and compensate in generous measure for the lunch hour during which some post offices do in fact close. I wanted to rectify that matter very carefully, so that people are not left with an erroneous impression.
†I come to the hon member for Hillbrow. At the outset I want to confirm the point which the hon member for Umlazi made regarding the long tirade the hon member had about the case between the Postmaster-General and a certain Miss Lister in SWA/Namibia. The hon member for Hillbrow has been the main speaker on Post Office affairs for a number of years. Up to this stage, however, when speaking in this House, he has not seemed to realize that the SWA Post Office is autonomous and that it has nothing to do with me as Minister of Communications. Therefore, whatever has happened in that Post Office, whatever the Postmaster-General for SWA has said, and whatever the examination of the facts by the Postmaster-General of Windhoek that has taken place, is a matter wholly between the Administrator-General and the Postmaster-General in Windhoek. It has nothing at all to do with my department and I am not interested in the case either.
The hon member will be doing me a favour if he conveys that message to his very amusing friend Mr Hogarth who writes in the Sunday Times. If he is interested in facts, he could also have ascertained the fact that I have nothing to do with the Post Office in SWA. Mr Hogarth found it very amusing that I had told the hon member, and my exact words were: “It has nothing to do with me at all; you are wasting your breath.” I said so when I addressed the hon member for Hillbrow across the floor of the House. Mr Hogarth apparently found that very amusing and thought he would write something amusing about it. He may perhaps find it even more amusing when he discovers that I have nothing to do with the whole matter.
I should like to come to a few more points that the hon member made. He said that when we announced tariff increases the time to provide for them was far too short. The hon member was one of the people who went out of their way to criticize every previous Minister and myself when I came here because of the fact that at that stage it was the policy to announce increases two months ahead. At that time the hon member complained and asked why we did not rather announce them in Parliament.
During my time in office we have announced them on each occasion in Parliament in the course of the Budget Speech. This year we did consider staggering the dates on which the increases in the various tariffs would take place in order to postpone them to, say, 1 May or, at the latest, 1 June. After having considered it carefully in the light of the prevailing economic situation we were, however, unable to do so because we would be losing revenue to the extent of between R30 million and R40 million per month on the increased tariffs.
This is something at which we shall look again, but I just want to point out to the House that the hon member for Hillbrow has on all occasions been extremely annoyed at and has also gone to the Press about the fact that the Minister ignored the House by telling everyone outside of the House while the last people to hear were the members of the House. After having changed that, the hon member is still not very happy about it. I am sure that I shall never get him to be happy about it. [Interjections.]
There was another slightly misleading point in the speech of the hon member. He said that at the moment the inflation rate was 14%. He then spoke about the tariffs and said that the inflation rate would soon be up to 18%. I should like to correct this impression which might have been left by his speech. The increase in the inflation rate over the short term will only be 0,15% due to Post Office tariffs while it is expected to be 0,2% in the long term. The hon member can therefore rest assured that the Post Office will not cause inflation to rise to 18% as other factors may. He nevertheless creates the impression that the Post Office Budget is increasing the inflation rate from 14% to 18%. I think the hon member ought to accept that that is completely incorrect.
The hon member asked: Why budget for a surplus of R68 million; why not budget for a deficit? I told the hon member on numerous occasions that I was sure that he never meant it seriously when he said that I was not prepared to budget for a deficit because one would be killing a good business if one were to deal with it in such a way. When one went to overseas groups to borrow money, one would in such circumstances look an absolute fool because one had in one’s own hands all the methods to control the situation.
Why did you do it last year?
Last year we did it for a specific reason because we could then bring about many cuts in our capital expenditure, and that we did. I was, however, not prepared to do it a second time at the risk of not being able to find that money. There are no more items on which I can cut capital expenditure, and I shall be running into trouble in my efforts to get to terms with some of the people who supply a lot of our goods because they will have to let some of their employees go.
Last year the hon member was not very impressed with my Budget. Why does he now mention that Budget? He told me last year that that was the worst one he had ever seen, but now this one is the worst. He was not impressed last year; why should he now ask me to budget in the same way as I did last year?
*No, the hon member must not allow other people to influence him when he has a speech to make. If we were outside I could tell him precisely who helped him with that speech, because I had those people in my office when they came forward with precisely the same suggestions.
†There is for instance the suggestion of a financial study group. I am not against a financial study group, but what do we have? We already have the consultative committee which regularly discusses matters pertaining to the Post Office with the Postmaster-General.
Mr Chairman, may I ask the hon the Minister whether he will be prepared to accept my absolute word that I consulted no one and was consulted by no one?
Mr Chairman, I accept that. I am always prepared to accept the hon member’s integrity. It does seem strange, however, that the hon member is saying that he has not consulted anybody. It is a good thing sometimes to consult with other people if one is not quite sure of the actual position. [Interjections.]
Another interesting point arises from the hon member’s amendment. His is the old type of amendment that this House declines to pass the Second Reading, and so forth. If this House declines to pass the Second Reading there will not only be a problem with a third of the bonus cheque; nobody will have a salary after 1 April! All the amendments that have been put before the House are the opposite of what one would expect, namely a constructive amendment. On the contrary, they are: Unless you do this, unless you do that, we will not pass it. [Interjections.] His amendment mentions, inter alia, adequate notice, intolerable burden to the consumer, and a basis that will generate sufficient funds, eliminate inflationary and unnecessary tariff increases, and increase efficiency and productivity. The hon member therefore did not listen to my Budget Speech before producing this. I have a report here, but I do not have the time to read it, in which the National Productivity Institute regards us as the leader in the country as far as productivity is concerned. They say that we are actually setting a trend and that if it had not been for the Post Office the economic situation as far as productivity is concerned could have been much worse.
Productivity on which side?
No, no, let us see what they say. I quote:
If the hon member wants this, I will give it to him to read at some time or another.
We have a productivity record that is better than anything else in the country at the moment. We are proud of it and we are going to keep it that way. We will run the Post Office on proper business lines with the idea of keeping it this way.
*The hon member for Umlazi made an excellent speech. If the hon member for Hillbrow wants to learn something, he should go and study that speech. In the speech emphasis was placed on increased productivity, something which one cannot repeat often enough. An analysis was given of the small growth in personnel, compared with our considerably increased expenditure. The hon member said that the tariffs for mail matter were still too low and I am in full agreement with that. We are making a study of what happened in Great Britain and we intend adjusting the postal tariffs over a number of years, if we can succeed in doing so, in such a way that the postal division will sooner or later be able to pay for itself. The cross subsidization from telecommunications services cannot continue.
The hon member for Umlazi issued an interesting warning, in particular to the hon member for Hillbrow. It was that the loan burden of Posts and Telecommunications should not become too high. I can give the hon member the assurance that we are looking into this with the utmost circumspection, and that is why tariffs had to be adjusted this year. If we had to continue according to the suggestions of the hon member for Hillbrow, we would have spent so much on interest plus redemption of loans alone that we would have had to find the full R1 300 million, which we require for capital purposes, abroad. Whereas now we shall only have to find just over R500 million …
Mr Speaker, I should like to ask the hon the Minister if, in referring to loans, he can assure this House that his foreign exchange losses during the forthcoming year will only be R67 million?
Does the hon member suggest that our losses will exceed R67 million?
No, the foreign exchange losses on loans for next year are put at R67 million, according to the Budget. Can the hon the Minister assure the House that it will only be R67 million and not more?
The hon member must not come forward with a completely different argument now. I am replying to questions now, but we can discuss that question again during the Third Reading or during the Committee Stage. But then the hon member must make certain that he has made a thorough study of what I said during the Second Reading and of what the financial position actually is. Then we can discuss the matter again.
In addition, the hon member must not be so concerned about the courier post. The hon member can do far better than that speech he made. [Interjections.] He must not allow his Chief Whip to force him into an inferior position. He must not allow himself to be pushed around.
I come now to the hon member for Nigel. I do not know what happened to that friendly, gentle-natured hon member whom I had known for so long. He made political statements from beginning to end. He was replied to well by the hon member for Hercules, but only bitterness and hatred for me emanated from his speech. I do not know whether it is necessary, during a Post Office budget, to make a speech like that in which one attacked just about everything there was to attack. But I think the hon member and his prompter underestimate the will of the voters and of the Post Office worker to survive economically in this country. [Interjections.] They understand very well…
May I ask the hon the Minister a question?
No, I cannot reply to any further questions now. The hon member did not participate in the debate, and he can put his question to me on another occasion or attend the meeting of the study group.
This conservative member from Nigel— and I am not saying this disparagingly because I have known him for a very long time—found it necessary to quote Shakespeare in order to get at us, while there are probably many more appropriate quotations in our Afrikaans poetry which he could have quoted instead of the one he did quote. He spoke about the “Edict of Cape Town” against the poor people of the Republic of South Africa. It is preposterous to say that the officials of the Post Office are living below the bread line. The hon member for Hercules dealt with this very thoroughly. Although the officials of the Post Office are having a very hard time of it in the present economic situation, harder than before, very few of them are living below the bread line, if one were to define it. During the past two years they have received salary increases, while many of their benefits have been improved. The hon member referred to the “Pragen Praalwette” of Ryk Tulbagh, and perhaps they should be re-enforced. I would suggest, however, that the hon member refrain from that kind of debating. It makes no impression upon us, nor, I am certain, on anyone outside this House.
Did the hon member forget to discuss the Budget? I read his speech, and it contained no suggestion as to how the Post Office should render its services. He knows that we have to provide infrastructure and keep all our personnel employed. He did not tell us how we should do this, or whether we should keep tariffs as they are or should reduce or increase them. He did not say a single word about the economic position in the Post Office or about the desirability of our establishing and maintaining the infrastructure. After all, he did help us in the past to balance our budget by making certain suggestions. Surely he could have tried to do so in this case as well and would then have been trying to help us.
In the amendment moved by the hon member it was stated that if we did not do certain things the CP would not agree to the appropriation. If their amendments were accepted it would mean that the same people whom they are so concerned about because they are being deprived of one third of their bonus, would receive no salary at all from 1 April until we were able to rectify the matter again one day. Surely one must bear this in mind when one moves an amendment. According to the amendment I must give the assurance that I will stop “the integration process in all the ramifications of the department.” This so-called integration process, the throwing open of post offices, began when all those hon members were still sitting on this side of the House. The hon member for Sunnyside was still the main speaker on Post Office matters, and I have already thrashed out this matter with him on a previous occasion. During the time of the late Mr Vorster, when they were still members of the NP, the doors of post offices were already being thrown open. With proper organization and with a compassionate attitude we are prepared to ensure that there is as little friction as possible at our points of sale. This is not something that I am suddenly doing now. I did this last year and the year before. Hon members should not allege now that I have made any adjustments to the so-called integration process during my time as Minister of the Department under the present State President.
The hon member discussed the question of more loans. It seems to me the direction in which his party wants to move will be that of more loans and more debts, and that in addition they would charge lower tariffs. I do not know how one would succeed in doing this, and perhaps the hon member could give us more information during the Committee Stage or the third reading debate. We cannot do anything else but continue in the way we are doing and provide our infrastructure.
The hon member for Boksburg made a carefully considered speech. He quoted from Telcom, in which it was stated that we should expand our infrastructure. He spoke about manual exchanges and pleaded with us not to forget about the people in isolated places. We are investigating new techniques. We are investigating the possibility of adapting the SOR8 and SOR18 exchanges so that we are able to render service to the people in remote areas as well. It is possible that this service may be provided at a lower cost, and it may also be more effective. We shall see whether we are able to do this. The hon member spoke about productivity, and I thank him for what he said in that connection.
†The hon member for Umhlanga congratulated the Department of Posts and Telecommunications on an outstanding effort last year in achieving a surplus of R29 million. I thank him for his special words concerning the staff. The hon member, as I summed it up, agreed with the principle that there should be tariff increases. We only differ on the extent. He felt that an increase of 10% would have been adequate, but we felt that this would actually not meet the demand. Considering the volume of the income that we derive from telecommunications services, it is obvious that, even with a relatively low tariff increase in respect of these services, we shall earn far more revenue than if we raised other tariffs.
I do not like the term “junk mail”. It is used very often, but I think that one should rather refer to “direct mail advertising”. As far as we are concerned, they are good clients. Whenever we need the money, they pay up.
The hon member made interesting remarks about Beltel. We are going to stimulate a greater public awareness of this service shortly by advertising. We already include these pamphlets with telephone accounts, but we shall take the hon member’s hint.
We have experienced rental resistance. For instance, from January to March, 1984, the average number of call units per working line was 621. Between April and June—after the Budget had been announced—it fell to 589, but from July to December it was back to 623. So we do find a resistance during the first month or two, but it reverts very quickly to the actual figure at which it was before, and even outstrips it. So there is the normal growth that we usually find.
The hon member also said that he would support all development that keeps pace with the growth and the infrastructure that are needed. He said that the errors of the past must not be repeated. I am not quite sure which errors he was referring to. If it is the question of tariff increases, then he may feel that we have erred, but I think that he has agreed in principle that there must be an increase in tariffs. As far as I am concerned, it is better to have small increases at regular intervals than to be a hero for five years and then suddenly have to hit the people with a doubling, or trebling of tariffs.
That was an error of the past.
I do not suppose that the hon member wants me to comment on that.
*The hon member for Overvaal, as usual, made a sound contribution. I beg your pardon, it was he and not the hon member for Boksburg who quoted from Telcom where they said: “The tariffs are too low.” This was confirmed to me by the German adviser of the Bundespost, who said: “You do not have zee tariff, you have zee non-tariff”. In other words, we have no tariff at all. I think the very good point that was made was that workers who give up one third of their bonus, will prevent fellow-workers from losing their jobs. I think that is a point which our people throughout the country feel glad about. This has become particularly apparent from my recent contacts with our associations.
I am very pleased that the hon member made a study of the motor vehicle situation. Again it was one of the newspapers which felt that it was able to write about this, but which did not verify the facts with us. We have everything on computer and we have a very good system. No motor vehicle is simply written off or sold by the Post Office unless it has seen a great deal of service. We have expenses on every vehicle. He concluded in a nice way when he said that our employees were a particularly loyal workforce. They will be looked after as soon as matters improve. I want to give him that assurance across the floor of this House.
†The hon member for Bezuidenhout said the annual report contains old news. I must agree with him. It is as a result of the financial nature of the report. However, in the coming report there will be an improvement because now that we have everything on the computer, it is easy to draw out the facts. We shall therefore try to include in the report additional information up to, say, December. That will give the hon member the opportunity to see how the finances are going. We shall try to do that.
The hon member also mentioned the special courier service in America. We have a Document Exchange Bureau which works similarly but much more cheaply. The only problem we have with the hon member’s suggestion is that we do not think we will be able to generate 10 000 parcels per day. As I have said, we already have the Document Exchange Bureau and I think it would be a bit risky to aim at 10 000 parcels and then find that we cannot generate that number. It is interesting to hear the facts about the American service, although a delivery at R18 or $9 at present is, I think, a little expensive.
R9 is only $4.
*I should like to thank the hon member for Hercules. He thanked the Postmaster-General and the top structure. He also replied very effectively to the hon member for Nigel. I shall not say anything further about that. I do want to say, though, that the hon member for Hercules put it very well when he said that the bonus was a thank you for service rendered. It is a separate item in our appropriation, which is simply an indication that it is not calculated as part of the salaries. Salaries total just over R900 million and for bonuses the amount is, I think, approximately R58 million. The hon member therefore put it very well when he said that it was a thank you for service rendered.
The hon member Mr Vermeulen spoke about Postel. I can give him the assurance that we have already made a great deal of progress and that we will soon publish an issue with colour photographs and advertisements. We have such a demand for colour advertisements in that publication that it will in fact mean a good income. We also thank him for his fine words in connection with our philatelic service. It is really something exceptional, and we are very pleased that he supports us so well in this sphere.
†As regards the hon member for Johannesburg North, I did reply to some of his questions. He also raised the question of tariffs on long distance calls. I want to point out that in respect of a call over a distance longer than 200 kilometres the increase actually works out at only 10,5%, because we allow a few seconds more than the tariff provides for.
*The hon member for Brits spoke about the exchange at Mooinooi. I am sorry that I cannot quite help him with the “pretty girl”, but we shall do our best to improve that service. No provision is being made for it in our forthcoming programme, but we shall see what we can do. The hon member also discussed optical fibre. It is clear that he had made a study of what is happening in his constituency. As soon as the people concerned have reached an agreement, the factory will be opened. It will be the first optical fibre drawing factory in Africa, and one of the few in the world. Then Brits will be in the lead again. He is a wide-awake MP and those are wide-awake factories in that area.
Finally I come to the hon member for Sunnyside. I kept him for last. He apologized for not being able to be here, and I accept that. What I found astounding was that he was clearly unprepared when he participated in the debate. I do not think he read the second reading speech. Nor do I think that he even asked the officials what was happening in the post and telecommunications services. All he spoke about was the one-third which is being deducted from bonuses. As far as his contribution was concerned, he tried to scavenge a few votes and he wanted to make a big impression on the general public. The Post Office staff know who looks after them. They are not here for gimmicks. Anyone who rises in this House and says that he is going to strike a great blow for the Post Office, is simply brushed aside by them. They find him amusing, as I found the hon member to be. The hon member also made the derogatory remark that in his opinion the previous budget had been a good budget which had been brilliantly drawn up by the officials, in spite of the political head. What did he try to gain by saying that? If it was a rotten budget, and if we had had a deficit of more than R131 million, would he have attributed it to the officials or to the Minister? We must get this matter into perspective. We work together as a team. I work very closely with the Postmaster-General and the management, far more enjoyably than I have ever worked in a Government department or in any other position before.
The hon member for Sunnyside will not achieve anything by trying to drive a wedge between the top management and myself, or between the top management and the officials. I just want to tell him that he must very definitely prepare himself better if he wants to make an impression on any of the hon young members in this House and if he does not wish to create the feeling among the older hon members that he does not think much of this Vote, and that he can simply rise to his feet and make a speech with a few odd scraps of paper. I also told him that I would say something about this.
In conclusion I should like to convey my sincere thanks to the hon members for their contributions and also for their fine words which they addressed to the Postmaster-General and Mrs Bester. When we come to the Third Reading, we shall say something about this in an appropriate way. Once again, in spite of the fact that some contributions were not all that good, I want to convey my thanks to all the hon members who participated. It is the right of hon members to make whatever contribution they want to make. All I ask is that we try to conduct this debate on a level on which we can keep politics out of it. This is not a political department, but if hon members want to drag it into the political arena, they must also take what is coming to them.
Question put: That all the words after “That” stand part of the Question,
Upon which the House divided:
Ayes—82: Aronson, T; Ballot, G C; Bartlett, G S; Botha, C J v R; Botha, J C G; Botma, M C; Breytenbach, W N; Coetzer, H S; Conradie, F D; Cronjé, P; Cunningham, J H; Cuyler, W J; De Beer, S J; De Jager, A M v A; De Pontes, P; Du Plessis, G C; Durr, K D S; Du Toit, J P; Golden, S G A; Grobler, J P; Hayward, S A S; Heine, W J; Heyns, J H; Jordaan, A L; Kleynhans, J W; Kriel, H J; Landman, W J; Lemmer, W A; Le Roux, D E T; Ligthelm, N W; Marais, G; Marais, P G; Maré, P L; Maree, M D; Meiring, J W H; Morrison, G de V; Munnik, LAP A; Niemann, J J; Olivier, P J S; Poggenpoel, D J; Pretorius, N J; Pretorius, P H; Rabie, J; Rencken, C R E; Schoeman, H; Schoeman, S J; Schoeman, W J; Schutte, D P A; Scott, D B; Simkin, C H W; Smit, H A; Streicher, D M; Swanepoel, K D; Terblanche, A J W P S; Terblanche, G P D; Thompson, A G; Van Breda, A; Van den Berg, J C; Van der Merwe, C V; Van der Merwe, G J; Van der Walt, A T; Van Rensburg, H M J (Rosettenville); Van Staden, J W; Van Vuuren, L M J; Van Wyk, J A; Van Zyl, J G; Venter, A A; Venter, E H; Vermeulen, J A J; Viljoen, G v N; Volker, V A; Weeber, A; Welgemoed, P J; Wessels, L; Wiley, J W E; Wright, AP.
Tellers: J P I Blanché, A Geldenhuys, W T Kritzinger, C J Ligthelm, R P Meyer and L van der Watt.
Noes—35: Andrew, K M; Barnard, M S; Barnard, S P; Boraine, A L; Burrows, R; Eglin, C W; Gastrow, P H P; Goodall, B B; Hardingham, R W; Hulley, R R; Langley, T; Le Roux, F J; Moorcroft, E K; Olivier, N J J; Page, B W B; Raw, W V; Rogers, P R C; Savage, A; Scholtz, E M; Sive, R; Snyman, W J; Suzman, H; Tarr, M A; Theunissen, L M; Treurnicht, A P; Van der Merwe, H D K; Van der Merwe, J H; Van der Merwe, W L; Van Heerden, R F; Van Rensburg, H E J; Van Staden, F A H; Visagie, J H; Watterson, D W.
Tellers: B R Bamford and A B Widman.
Question affirmed and amendments dropped.
Bill read a second time.
Precedence given to private members’ business.
Mr Chairman, I move the motion standing in my name on the Order Paper, viz:
- (1) purchasing old rental buildings still available, before they are bought up for conversion into luxury flats or sectional title, and letting them through private agencies or welfare organizations;
- (2) providing for all members to share fairly in the accumulated assets of pension funds without arbitrary exclusion from increased benefits when benefits are changed;
- (3) prohibiting restrictions on the provision of “granny flats” in local authority regulations;
- (4) providing capital loans to families which provide such accommodation for qualified social pensioners, on a similar basis to those granted to welfare organizations which provide accommodation for the aged;
- (5) increasing tax remission on incomes from pensions;
- (6) introducing a national contributory pension scheme; and
- (7) allowing the establishment of a national lottery with the necessary State regulation, to supplement Governmental assistance to the aged.
I move this motion with deep feeling for those on whose behalf I am speaking and I want to emphasize two things at the outset. Firstly, I am speaking for all pensioners, not only for those who receive social or civil pensions. I am also speaking on behalf of retired people, including those with pensions from business schemes and people living on their savings.
I had taken it for granted that what is contained in the introduction to my motion, viz that “this House, deeply conscious of the desperate plight brought about by inflation on persons who had provided for retirement” … etc, would be common cause, that everyone in this House would agree that there was a desperate plight, caused by inflation, amongst people who had provided for retirement through pension contributions or savings or who were dependent on social pensions. This does not seem to be the case however. From earlier debates that have taken place during this session it seems that there are those who do not accept this and that therefore it is necessary to motivate it. There are even those Government praisesingers, the mbongos, who in this session have stood up and thanked the Government for what they have done for pensioners. If I were a betting man, I would take odds on it that an amendment will be moved by a Government member in this debate, thanking the Government for what they have done for pensioners. We will have the same as we had in the debate on the SATS, viz the whitewashing of the situation by quoting statistics. That is a fairly certain bet, too.
However, before I start, I want to say that statistical whitewashing is based on a false point of departure, that it rests on a false base. What I am dealing with here is not percentages but people. One can play with percentages and statistics as much as one likes, but what I am talking about are real live human beings, people of flesh and blood proud of the contribution that they have made to South Africa, in whatever field they made that contribution: In Government service, in the service of the SATS, in any public service department or to the economy of the country through industry and commerce. All of them are proud of what they did to help to build South Africa. All of them have personal feelings and all of them have certain basic needs. They need a roof over their heads, a house or a home to live in. They need food. They need clothing and they need to have something with which to obtain some of the pleasures of life. They are people, not computer statistics. I am talking now of the reality, the reality of what is happening to these people in South Africa at present.
Let us consider a few facts as opposed to statistics. It is a fact that a social pensioner, if he qualifies under the means test, today obtains a maximum social pension of R166 per month. If he is a war veteran or has an attendant he can obtain an extra R10 per month—also if he has delayed his application. But the basic pension paid to a social pensioner or any social grantee, whether by way of a disability grant or a grant to a blind person or any other social grant, is R166, provided that he first qualifies under the means test by having an income of R160 or less per month. If he gets R161 per month, he does not qualify for any pension at all. So, what the Government of South Africa is saying, is that an elderly person must be able to live on R161 per month. Beyond R160, there is no help at all for him. If he qualifies on the R160 level, that means that he gets the minimum pension plus allowances totalling R90 per month.
If a mother qualifies for a childrens’ allowance, she will get R51 per month per child up to the fourth child. She gets R51 per month on which to bring up, to feed, to clothe and to educate a child. If she earns a salary, which she obviously must, she must not earn more than R160 per month in order to qualify.
Now, a 10% increase on R166 gives a person an extra R16 to spend. However, if a person is earning R1 000, and one gives him a 10% increase, he gets R100 extra. What does one find, if one starts talking in terms of figures instead of percentages? A group which get an increase of 10% across the board can statistically be claimed to be treated equally. However, if one says that a person earning R166 would get R182 after a 10% increase one also has to compare that with the person earning R1 000 who would be receiving R1 100. Now one cannot compare in any way the problems of survival, of existing, of making ends meet, of a person earning R182 with those of a person earning R1 100. Because both received an increase of 10%, however—and those are the statistics that are always quoted—they are supposed to have been treated equally.
In order to assess the situation objectively, one has to look at the base line to see what one is working on. I have some statistics here which I obtained for use in another debate. I chose two levels in the SATS at random and asked an official to pick two equivalent grades. He gave me the figures for a stationmaster grade 2 and a clerk grade 2 for the dates 1 January in 1975, 1982 and 1985. The reason why I chose 1982 was that the Bulletin of Statistics took 1975 as the base line and then gave the 1982 and 1984 figures.
A stationmaster grade 2 was earning R425 to R450 per month in 1975. On 1 January 1985 he was earning R15 720 per annum, that is R1 310 per month. A clerk grade 2 earned between R150 and R380 per month in January 1975. Now he is earning R545 to R930 per month.
There are two things one has to consider. When I say that a clerk’s salary was R150 to R380 per month, it means that each year with each notch his salary goes up, it increases. Thus in addition to general salary increases, there are the regular annual increments. If he started at R150 per month, he would go to R380 per month in the same grade. If he started this year at R545, he could have increases up to R930 per month. The pensioner only gets the general increases.
The SATS also gave me a table which shows the wonderful growth in pensions from 1973 onwards. Taking it from 1975, when the figure of R112 was the base line, in December 1984 the figure was R309, which is a little less than three times the figure for 1975.
Let us look, however, at what the person who retired on 1 January this year will be receiving by way of a pension, compared with what the person received who retired in 1975. Someone who received R150 upon his retirement in 1975 will be receiving about R400 a month compared with double that now. Therefore, when I say the figures are a false base, I say that because I believe one has to look at what the person concerned actually gets. I do not have the time to do so but the hon the Minister has the staff to do that checking for him. He will find that this is true throughout.
Let us look now at the consumer price index. Taking 1975 as a base, we see that in 1982 it was 233,5 points, in July 1984 it was 295 points, and by now it will be over 300 points. Again, that would be fine if we were comparing similar things because pensions have gone up from 114 points in 1975 to 310 points at the moment. When one looks at this, however, in terms of money one has to look at what that money is able to buy. I receive letters in this connection almost every day. Here I have one that happened to land on my desk this very afternoon. It is dated 6 March and comes from Durban. It contains the following plea, and I quote:
Imagine, Sir, facing an amount of R109 in the form of additional expenditure on the pension of a couple who are receiving R332. What happens to their pensions? Those pensions are eaten up completely. I accept we cannot index pensions but neither can we— in heaven’s name—wash our hands of responsibility. I believe the Government is out of touch—or its members are out of touch— with what is going on.
Oh no, Vause.
That hon member says: “Oh no, Vause.” I want to challenge them. Which of those hon members—as I do— catches a bus in their constituencies in the morning after the rush hour when the pensioners’ bus concessions are operative— round about 09h00? Which of them stands at the bus stop and chats with those pensioners and hears of their problems? Which of them travels on that bus, sees those pensioners looking proud and as neat as they can but perhaps wearing mended clothes and rundown shoes? Who watches and sees them surreptitiously looking in their purses, probably to see whether they have enough money to have a cup of tea when they have done their shopping? Who watches to see the lined haggardness on many of their faces because of their battle to survive in the knowledge that they are being priced out of the homes they live in by rent increases of 50% to 100%? Has any hon member opposite ever been on a bus on pension day as I have done? I make a point of it, not to try to pry but because it is also convenient for me. I catch the beachfront bus into town in Durban regularly. If one travels on that bus on pension day, one will see the looks of anticipation on their faces as they go to draw their pensions. One never has a seat because that bus is always packed out on “strap-hangers’ day”. I ask those hon members opposite: Does any one of them ever do that? Does any one of them know what is going on in their own constituencies?
Yes, of course.
They know, Sir. Let them then get up now and support me because if they know what is going on they must support me. [Interjections.] I want them to get up now and support me in my plea. How many of them have gone to chat with the patients in a provincial hospital’s outpatients queue? They should talk to those people. They claim to know what is going on. Just watch them later this afternoon saying, “Ek dank die Regering.” “Nkosi, thank you! Thank you for treating these people so well!”
I am not talking about percentages, I am talking about people. Let us take a couple of examples of problems that do not fall within the normal pattern. We try to get people to own their own houses. We prefer them to live in their own houses, houses that belong to them. Many people have paid off their homes over their working lives. They may now enjoy a bond-free and rent-free home valued at R9 800 for the purposes of the means test—providing that they are living in it. If, in addition the breadwinner gets a pension of R350—that is all he has to live on— he cannot qualify for an additional social pension. He also has to pay rates, and the rates increase year after year. On a reasonably priced house—not a luxury house—it is normal to pay R150 or more per month in rates. That money is deducted from his income and goes to the city council to pay the rates on that house. If a person’s railway or civil pension amounts to, say, R400, and he pays rates of R150, he is still above the means test although he no longer has that money. However, because that is his full pension, he is disqualified from any other help because officially and legally, according to the rule book and the red tape, he receives a pension of R400. Fact is, he receives R400, less R150, so he is actually getting R250. Surely we can amend the means test regulations so that rates can be deducted from the means test and a person can live in his own home, the home he has paid for, often with difficulty over a lifetime of work. However, now he is being pushed out and forced to sell that house, his own home, because he cannot qualify for an additional pension and because he does not have enough to live on when he has paid his rates.
Let us take the example of a small fanner who has given his farm to his son. The son then supports his father and mother. In order to get a bond, however, the son has to take transfer because he cannot obtain financial help or a bond if he is not the owner of that farm and the registered owner is not living on the farm. Therefore he takes transfer. In the present climate hundreds of those people are going bust. The sons are going bust—in businesses it is just the same—and cannot maintain their parents any longer. They cannot pay them the R400 or R500 they have been paying them. However, those parents cannot obtain a social pension because in terms of the regulations they have given their farms or businesses away within the past five years and that disqualifies them. They are classified as still owning the farm or business because they gave it away within the past five years.
These are some of the things we should be looking at. We should be doing something about them. I recognize the financial situation. I am not asking for the impossible. I am not asking—as I would love to have asked—for the doubling or tripling of old civil and social pensions. It would be ridiculous at this stage. My motion calls for the practical, realistic things that South Africa can afford to do. My motion thus calls for things that can be done, that can even save money, and for attention to be paid to these exceptional cases of hardship.
That is all I am asking, but there is one thing which we demand. This motion calls for it, and we demand it. We demand a commitment that as soon as the economic situation improves, radical attention will be given to the level of pensions and the level of the means test. The means test today is meaningless in relation to the value of money.
The consumer price index of the basket referred to in the Bulletin of Statistics of the Government is most revealing. I do not have the time to deal with this in detail, but if one looks at what makes up that basket, one finds that the allowance for housing for the ordinary person is 17,6%. The weighting of the index allows 17,6% for housing. Show me a pensioner living independently today who is paying only 17,6% of his income for the roof over his head, and I shall be amazed. Outside an old-age home or some institution, pensioners are paying 60%, 70% or even 80% of their income just to keep the roof over their heads. I have case after case all the time in my constituency where the increase in rent leaves the pensioner with only R10 or R15 left to live on.
We must also look at the other things which are taken into account. For fuel and power 2% is allowed; and for furniture, 3%. An allowance is also made for appliances, but they do not buy these things. They cannot afford these things. They have three basic requirements: the roof, the food and some clothes. Furthermore they require transport to get to hospitals and to medical treatment.
I have appealed year after year. The cost of housing is the biggest load on pensioners. In my constituency dozens and dozens of buildings have been demolished or converted into luxury flats or into sectional title units. Literally hundreds of flats are empty for eight to ten months of the year. The owners live in Johannesburg and they come down for a couple of weeks at Easter, a couple of weeks in July and a couple of weeks at Christmas.
These were homes that people lived in. I pleaded with the Government to buy up those buildings when they become available. The owner does not make millions; it is the developer. When those homes come on to the market—it is easy to find that out—the Government should buy them and let an organization like Tafta which has done a fantastic job develop those properties. Tafta now has five or six such buildings with Government aid, yes, but it has taken the initiative. If such organizations cannot handle it, then we can use the private sector as letting agents to look after those properties.
It could save the Government millions if not billions if it would buy up these homes, these old buildings, do them up a bit and let them to the needy, but no. The Government waited until they had been taken over by the demolishers and knocked down, and then the Government spent millions building new old age homes.
My motion calls for other things as well, inter alia, a fair share in pension funds. When a fund changes, there is a cut-off line and those before that date are stuck with what they had. Let us for example look at the pension fund of the SATS. That fund has R1,89 billion in its coffers. I do not have time to take that further, but I believe that a pensioner who has helped to build a fund like that should be entitled to a fair share of the assets which have been built up.
My motion also calls for the prohibition of restrictions on granny flats and for tax remission where this is provided. An hon colleague of mine will deal with this.
The only other point I can deal with briefly is a national contributory pension scheme—another hardy annual. The debates go back to the 1950s. Some of the older hon members here will remember them. I remember Jack Lewis and Geoff Oldfield pleading year after year for a national contributory pension scheme.
We got very close to it at one time, until the insurance companies shot it down and the Government backtracked. Even when they preserved pension contributions and arranged transferability, they bungled it by not selling it to the workers and the trade unions first. There was resistance, it was rejected and a first step towards preserving pensions went down the drain.
We have to get back to that and work towards it because in 10 or 20 years’ time no government will be able to pay social pensions to the number of people who will require them.
To supplement that money one of my colleagues will deal with another hardy annual: A State lottery. I go back to the times of P A Moore, Marais Steyn, myself and the present hon member for South Coast. They have all pleaded for a State lottery. I hope the hon member for South Coast is going to support me and vote for my motion for a State lottery to add to what the Government can give.
It will be sad if this debate is simply lost in the pages of Hansard and if the Government again just shrugs it shoulders and forgets about it or says: “Oh, we will leave it till next year when we talk about it again”.
The tragedy of the aged in South Africa will then go on and on for another year and another year. They cannot fight back; they have no collective bargaining power. They do not have any trade unions and they cannot strike. Many have tried to mobilize the pensioners but without success. It is for us who feel for them to continue fighting for them. We in this party will continue fighting for them. If the Government does not heed our pleas, those who wash their hands of responsibility will be judged by history and by their own consciences.
Mr Chairman, when one looks at the hon member for Durban Point’s motion, it seems at first glance as though one could support it as it stands. There are many of us in this House who are concerned about the lot of old people and pensioners. Many of the hon members on this side of the House have made appeals in the past regarding the lot of pensioners in the mining industry, civil pensioners, old-age pensioners and so on.
The members on this side of the House made these appeals with the highest degree of responsibility when it came to increasing pensions and helping the aged. They did not simply blindly make appeals to the Government to make provision for all members to have a fair share of accumulated assets, and for all old rental buildings still available to be bought up. They looked at matters in a more responsible way.
This afternoon I particularly want to look, responsibly and with the greatest circumspection, at the financial aspect and the aspect of pensions in the hon member for Durban Point’s motion. For example, the hon member says here that the Government ought to take steps to relieve the hardship by “providing for all members to share fairly in the accumulated assets of pension funds without arbitrary exclusion from increased benefits when benefits are changed”.
He could actually be referring to two things. If he is talking about the wider benefits, the hon member knows just as well as I do that if a pension fund decided to allow, for example, for widows’ or death benefits for members, those benefits would have to be financed. They do not simply appear out of thin air; they must come from the assets of the relevant pension fund. The only way this can be done is for members of those funds to pay for it by contributing, for example, a further half or one per cent to their pension fund. The question now is: What about the members who already enjoy pension fund benefits? Who has to pay for their benefits now? Those benefits have to be financed.
What about the interest on their contributions?
Contributions can buy for you only what the fund is able to provide from those contributions. After all, I cannot go to a department store with two cents in my pocket and buy five kilograms of meat with it. I can only buy something worth two cents. The same goes for a member of a pension fund. The hon member knows that if I pay R5 or 5% of my salary per month into a pension fund it secures me a specific benefit as from the day I retire.
If the hon member meant, however, that members ought to share in further financial benefits insofar as monthly pension payments are concerned, that is something one can look at. Then, however, one’s approach has to be a practical one.
About two years ago a survey was carried out among hundreds of pension funds all over the country. It showed that only 20% of the funds did not annually make provision for a monthly increase in pension benefits. The 20% that did not make provision for an increase in pensions comprised the old “Money Purchase Schemes”, the old cash funds which people bought and which were paid out to them after a certain number of years. What is interesting is that 80% of the funds that took part in the survey did indeed make provision for one or other form of increase in monthly pensions. Eleven per cent of these funds annually made provision for a fixed percentage monthly increase. The remaining 69% annually made provision on an ad hoc basis for increases in the monthly pensions that are paid. The 69% made provision for an average increase of 7,2% in 1980, 7,3% in 1981 …
What about the means test?
… and 8,3% in 1982. The hon member will get a chance to speak. The hon member for Durban Point has nothing about the means test in his motion. He says “all members” must get a fair share. He will probably show this motion to his voters and say they must not worry because he has asked for relief for everybody, even for those who receive a pension of R80 000 per year. That is what it says here. It does not say here that it should apply only to social pensioners. The hon member ought to have another look at what it says in his motion. He refers to all pensioners.
As far as the question of financing is concerned, there are big problems. There is, however, one principle I would like to impress upon the hon member, namely that the Government has a duty towards social pensioners, but this does not mean it has to see to it that everyone who goes on pension will maintain the same standard of living from the day he retires until the day he dies. After all, the duty of the Government is surely to give help to as large a group of people as possible. It cannot spend thousands and thousands of rand on people who have made no provision for themselves. We can only attempt to relieve the lot of those people. We cannot provide fully for all their needs, but only partially.
The problem with pension funds, including that of the State, is inflation. Statistics show that someone who starts with a salary of R6 000 per year today, gets an increase of only 10% per year and works for the same company for thirty years, will retire with a salary of approximately R104 000 per year. The man who begins with R25 000 per year, and for whom the same conditions apply, will retire with a salary of approximately R436 000 per year. A pension fund would have to pay these two people pensions of R62 000 and R260 000 per year respectively.
To take another case: If a young member joining this House for the first time receives a 10% increase in salary per year and retains his seat here for 30 years, like the hon member for Houghton, his annual pension will amount to R750 000. [Interjections.] He has to get a pension of R750 000 per year! This the problem of inflation.
I now come to social pensions. If we increased our present social pensions by only 8% per year, by the end of the century we would have R1,3 billion to pay in annual pensions for Whites alone. If we increased this by 12%, we would have to pay R2,316 billion per year in social pensions by the end of the century. We therefore have to think of something to get around this problem, but what?
The hon member proposes a national pension fund. That sounds wonderful. If, however, one wants chaos in this country as far as pension schemes are concerned, one should introduce a national pension fund. If this hon member had said in his motion that we should make provision for the compulsory transferability of pensions … [Interjections.] I am talking about the hon member’s motion. His motion only mentions a national pension fund. If he were to tell me he wanted to make provision for the transferability of a person’s pension fund contributions, plus the employer’s contributions, I could agree with him and we could then look at the situation. I think, however, that we shall have to look at this problem at some time or another and make the transferability of pensions from private funds compulsory.
However, the matter goes even further. We shall also have to place an obligation on pension funds to make provision for the widows and orphans of pension fund members. If we do not do this we are unfortunately going to land ourselves in a situation in which we shall have to pay huge amounts for social pensions in the future. I therefore want to associate myself with the hon member in that regard and make an appeal to the hon the Minister. In my opinion, the sooner we legislate on compulsory transferability, the sooner we are going to solve the problem we will have with social pensions by the end of the century.
Mr Chairman, the hon member for Stilfontein spoke about the broad pension policy, and I shall be responding to some of the comments he made. When I look at the situation of the aged in South Africa, I think there are five points to consider. The first is that the present system is becoming increasingly costly. The second point is that it is going to cost even more in the future. In the third place I do not believe that we can afford to continue into the future, as we have in the past. The fourth point is that the present system is not working particularly well because, as the hon member for Durban Point pointed out, the plight of the aged is serious. Being a pensioner in South Africa has become synonomous with being poor and with living in poverty. The fifth point that I want to make is that the Government seems to be incapable of taking action to solve the problem.
In 1973—we have been talking about it and the hon member for Stilfontein spoke about the escalation in costs—social old age pensions cost R96 million. By April 1984 they had increased to R691 million. That is a sevenfold increase within 11 years. It is a compound growth rate of 19,65% per annum. We were speculating about how much it was going to cost us, and the hon member for Stilfontein gave some figures. One can choose virtually any figure, but if one takes that 19,65%, which is the historical growth rate from 1973 to 1984, and project it to the year 2000, one gets a figure of R12 766 million. When one looks at social old age pensions today, they account for roughly one eighth of all the tax collected from individual taxpayers. If one includes the State’s contribution—and the State is a euphemism for the taxpayers of South Africa—to civil pensions, then those two figures account for roughly one third of the total amount of money collected from individual taxpayers. We are getting into the same situation as Los Angeles where the position was reached where half of the taxes were used to pay for pensions.
South Africa cannot afford this. I want to motivate that. In 1980 we had roughly 1,3 million aged people in South Africa. By the year 2000 the figure will have nearly doubled to 2,3 million, and in the 20 years after that the figure is actually going to double to 4,6 million. Secondly, we know that the aged are living longer. In the USA—and we are in a very similar situation—a White male at the age of retirement can expect to live for 15 years and a female for 19 years. [Interjections.] We know that with increasing urbanization more and more aged people are no longer continuing to live in extended family units. It is to the shame of White South Africa that we house more of our aged in old age homes than any other country I can find.
There is another reason why we cannot afford to continue with the present system. We are finding that a greater proportion of our population falls into the aged category. At present it is roughly 1:10. By the year 2000 it is going to be 1:6—that is in respect of the White population only. What does that mean? It is a very significant figure because it means that fewer and fewer workers are going to have to provide benefits for more and more. In South Africa we have a particular problem because we are burning the candle at both ends. More and more of the Whites are falling into the aged category while the proportion of the total population under the age of 14 is roughly 40%. So, fewer and fewer people are going to have to provide benefits for more and more.
Overseas they talk of the old age dependency ratio. This problem is not unique to South Africa. In West Germany at the present moment the ratio of retired people to workers is 0,46. In 30 years’ time it is going to be roughly 0,89. The impact of this is dramatic. I want to indicate what it is. In 1950 in the USA the ratio of people drawing benefits to people contributing was roughly 1:12. According to the latest figures I saw for their scheme, they had 116 million people paying in and 36 million people drawing out benefits. In 1982 the USA, which is a wealthy country, paid out R24 million per day more than they were getting in. Yet in the USA both employer and employee contribute 6,65%. In the USA, which has the wealthiest economy in the world, they have realized they cannot continue into the future with the policies of the past. It has been worked out that, if they do, by the year 2030 they could be contributing as much as 36% of their salaries to pay for social security benefits. If the USA cannot afford it, by what arrogance do we in South Africa think we can?
I do not think it needs to be that way because I think there is a solution to the problem. I want to distinguish, however, between the long-term solution and what I call short-term repairs. In South Africa we at present have about 11 000 pension funds—in fact we have more—and about 60% of the working population belong to those pension funds. That is a good foundation on which to build. The problem is that the people are not getting the benefits of belonging to those funds. There is a wastage factor. This has been apparent since 1960. This is actually what gave rise to the appointment of the Cilliers Committee in 1964. Today, however, the problem is even greater. The latest figures I have are those for 1981 and, according to those, R364 million was paid to people withdrawing from pension funds by way of non-pension benefits. That amount of R364 million was wasted. I believe that we have to introduce legislation in South Africa to make it compulsory for every employer to provide a pension fund and for every employee to belong to a pension fund. Moreover, if he moves from one company to another he must be entitled to take not only his own contributions but also a portion of his employer’s contributions.
The policy of paying a person who leaves his place of employment 2% or 4% or 5% is not good enough. I think the employee is entitled to his true share of the pension fund when he moves from one company to another.
I do not think that we need to create another State monolith in the form of a national contributory pension fund. The experience with this kind of fund overseas has been that most of them are inefficient and some of them—in fact most of them—seem to be heading for insolvency.
I think we have within the private sector in South Africa the expertise to solve the problem if we as legislators create the right framework. What we have to do is to make it compulsory for employees to belong to a pension fund. We also have to provide for the transferability and vesting of pensions.
I just want to talk about the short-term repairs to the system. At present we have a system that penalizes some of those who try to provide for their old age. In fact, it is possible for someone who has made less provision to be better off than the person who has made more provision. For example, if one receives a pension of R84 per month, one qualifies for the social old age pension. One then gets a combined amount of R250. If one earns R167 from a pension fund then one gets nothing. So although such latter person has tried to contribute to his retirement he is worse off. The hon the Minister knows that this really does gall me. The hon the Minister also knows that this does not really encourage one to try to provide for one’s retirement. We have a bias against people who try to provide for their retirement by means of pension funds. For instance, if I have R40 000 invested in a participation mortgage bond, I will get in excess of R8 000 interest on that investment. Yet, if I had no other assets, I would, if I were single, qualify for a social old age pension— not the full social old age pension but I would qualify for some social old age pension because my assets were less than R42 000. If I am a single person and I get R167 per month from a pension fund, I do not qualify. Does this encourage me to save for my retirement by way of a pension fund? These anomalies in this means test are dangerous. The message I get is that people who try to provide for their retirement often say, “I know someone who did not provide as adequately as I did and he is better off. Why on earth, then, should I try to provide for my retirement?” That is a very dangerous attitude.
There are other things I think we should do. For example, I agree that we should encourage people to try to provide for their own houses in their old age. If we want that, however, why do we not exclude an owner-occupied dwelling from the means test? This will allow more people to qualify. What is important, however, is the message it will send out, namely, that the State will reward those who try to provide for themselves. I think we should encourage people to provide for their retirement by offering them investments—we can set a limit—whereby the rate of interest will adjust to the increase in prices. That is a positive encouragement. I think we should encourage people to work longer. I think it ridiculous that in a country experiencing a shortage of skilled manpower, we often force people to retire because they have reached the age of 60 or 65, irrespective of how capable they are. In some cases this happens when they reach the age of 55. [Interjections.]
At present, if one defers one’s retirement by one year, one gets an additional R5. If one defers it by five years, one gets an additional R13. Does that really encourage one? We could double those amounts, and we will still save money in the long run if we can keep people working longer.
This Government has been in power for 37 years. [Interjections.] That is an inordinately long time; in fact, it is too long. [Interjections.] It has shown a remarkable inability to tackle the problem. Commission after commission has sat and nothing has happened. [Interjections.] The hon member for Durban Point spoke about commissions which sat before my time. In 1964 we had the Cilliers Commission, in 1975, the Van der Spuy Commission, and in 1978 the interdepartmental committee.
I am sorry that the hon the Minister of Finance is not here because I did a calculation over the weekend to try to work out what each year of delay costs us. It is not only the pension for that year; those people who are going on pension are actually going to be drawing that pension for another 14, 15, or maybe 20 years. The cost for each year of delay I calculated at something like R450 million. We cannot continue on this path. We cannot cure a major problem with a band-aid solution. Therefore, I move as an amendment:
It is not only essential to appoint a commission, but it is essential to actually make them move to report, because each year of delay does not cause us any suffering, it is the aged people of South Africa who are suffering.
Mr Chairman, the hon member for Durban Point asked whether any of the hon members on this side of the House knew anything about the pensioners in their constituencies. He then went on to say that he was fortunate enough to be able to catch a bus, and this gave him an opportunity to get to know some of the pensioners. I should like to tell the hon member that these pensioners are lucky that they have a bus to catch. In my constituency there is no such thing as a public bus service. The pensioners there have either to use shank’s pony or hitch a lift. [Interjections.] I would therefore not say too much about that.
I welcome the motion moved by the hon member for Durban Point as it gives one an excellent opportunity to highlight some pertinent facts of Government policy that are not inconsistent with two legs of his motion. Because of the time limitation, I will deal with those two items of the motion, namely points (1) and (3) which, for the purposes of the debate, I will consolidate.
Before one can expand this argument, it is essential to get a broad perspective of the magnitude of the Department of Health and Welfare’s financial commitments in this particular field under discussion, ie social responsibility. It is interesting to see what, in fact, the Government provides by way of subsidies to registered organizations caring for the aged. For old-age homes alone, some 367 of them, caring for some 25 000 people, the annual cash subsidy is R45,3 million. In more detail, a category A resident in a home is subsidized by an amount of R133,14 or 54,61% of the cost to keep a person there. A category B senior citizen living in a home is subsidized by the amount of R201,22 or 65% of the cost of keeping him there. A category C senior citizen obtains R382,15 or 78% of the cost of keeping him in the institution. This, I may add, is over and above the social pension they are receiving, and this is the case in respect of the majority of people living in those homes.
What is also noteworthy is the fact that as at February 1985 there were some 143 000 people receiving social old age pensions amounting to R24,217 million; 729 blind pensioners receiving R120 000; 12 690 war veteran pensioners who were being paid R2,296 million, and there were 29 323 disability grants totalling R4,487 million. I am not trying to whitewash the situation by quoting these figures. These are facts. Therefore, for February 1985 185 695 grants were paid, totalling an amount of R31,48 million.
What further exacerbates the position in South Africa is the proven fact—and the hon member for Edenvale made note of it—that we have the highest percentage per capita of our senior citizens living in institutions, far higher than in any of the other Western countries. This phenomenon is creating concern and is receiving Government attention. Indeed, it has to.
This brings me to the concept of service centres, something of an innovation in South Africa that is being pursued as an alternative to institutional therapy and care, and which is also a further service to assist our senior citizens in their respective areas of domicile. This concept still has a long way to go before it is fully exploited in every area in this country. At the present moment there are 61 service centres catering for 18 703 persons. Here again the department subsidizes these centres on the basis of 75% of the cost to a maximum of R200 per average attendance figure.
As yet I have not discussed moneys loaned at 1% interest over a 40 year period to registered welfare organizations and/or utility companies to provide housing. Over the past two years some 12 buildings have been purchased by way of low-interest loans amounting to R11 million, all for occupation by senior citizens. This figure is 14,12% of money allocated to welfare and 10,41% of the global figure of the National Housing Commission.
I have, for argument’s sake, only highlighted three facets, viz subsidies, pensions and low-interest loans, for us to keep in perspective when debating this motion. The point that must be made is that we must be careful not to fall into the same trap as some overseas countries where their social security system cost poses a real danger of bankrupting those countries. The question must then be asked where the State’s responsibility starts and where it ends. Arising from that question, there is a further question: Where does the family’s responsibility start and where does it end? That, to my way of thinking, is the crux of this whole argument. In my humble opinion, far too much responsibility is delegated to the State and welfare organizations by the families of senior citizens. What has happened to the extended family system? In this regard we Whites have a great deal to learn from the non-White South Africans. To a large degree, their elderly are cared for by their own families in environments they are accustomed to. Among Whites this situation is the exception, certainly not the rule, as the extended family system has almost died out. The tragedy of today is that, as soon as a parent becomes aged and the slightest burden, every effort is made by that family to put him or her into an institution. In the majority of cases families are not prepared to accept the responsibility or inconvenience of having their aged parents living with them during their twilight years. Many parents are denied the dignity of dying in surroundings that are familiar and dear to them because of selfishness, no more and no less. Children tend to forget that the parents brought them up, often suffering great hardship, with great patience, love and affection. In return, because of the modern day pressures and material interests, they cannot find the time or the wherewithal to bridge the so-called generation gap, let alone even consider returning some of that love and affection they received when growing up. It is far easier to place the parent in an old age home because, as James Douglas said—and I quote him:
It is difficult to say what has caused the attitude which prevails at the present time. Maybe it is the system we have: The pressures and restrictions placed on society by the authorities. Who knows? However, suffice it to say that the Government has become more and more aware of the many restrictions placed on the individual when it comes to housing. It is for this reason that a Commission of Inquiry into Township Establishment and Related Matters was instituted, more commonly known as the Venter Commission. As the hon member knows, on that commission sat two of his colleagues, the hon member for Umbilo and the member in the Natal Provincial Council for Durban Point, Mr Roger Whitely.
This commission has tabled its report and I am only going to deal with the comments and recommendations in the report in respect of the so-called granny flats. I must emphasize at the outset that the Cabinet has accepted in principle the recommendations in the report and the relevant department has acted on these recommendations. Let us look at the recommendations—and I quote from the Second Report, page 58 under the heading “Erection of second dwelling”, par 21:
Paragraph 22 reads:
All local authorities have been circulated through their provinces, and some of them are prepared to accept the recommendation. Some of the provinces will have to change their ordinances. Equally so, however, there are some local authorities that are digging their heels in. They are saying that there is no way in which they will comply with the recommendations. They argue, on the basis of the comments of the commission as follows, and I quote from page 51, section 5.7.1, the second paragraph:
The commission has taken cognizance of local conditions and the wishes and opinions of the various communities. Now I want to put it to the hon member: In view of that and in view of what he has asked in his motion before us where he categorically states: “Prohibit restrictions on the provision of granny flats in local authority regulations”, I want to ask the hon member just one question: In view of the Commission’s recommendation, what has happened to his local option policies? That is all I want to ask him.
In many areas the hon opposition members have cause for legitimate criticism of Government action, depending on one’s point of view, of course. I concede that readily. However, having said that, the one area in which I believe there is little cause for criticism is the attitude of and the concern and assistance given by the Department of Health and Welfare to the lesser privileged of our society today. The Government has stated its position many times in matters of social compassion. It is endeavouring to upgrade the dignity of the infirm and the disadvantaged to the best of its ability with the means it has available.
However, this is not a one-way traffic situation. It behoves us all to reconsider our position and attitude. It was Lawrence K Franck who said:
Mr Chairman, the hon member for South Coast has been placed in the unenviable position this afternoon of having to react to a motion of his political leader of less than a year ago. Now I must say, when I was listening to the hon member, that I did not hear very much opposition to that motion. I should very much have liked to know, for instance, what the hon member thinks of point no 7 raised by the hon member for Durban Point, in which he asks for a State lottery. [Interjections.] I know what that hon member’s standpoint is, but we have listened to two hon members of the NP and we should like to know what their official standpoint is with regard to this particular matter. [Interjections.] We know that there is definite difference of opinion. [Interjections.]
There is no doubt that this motion is an extremely important one. We agree wholeheartedly with many of the matters that the hon member has mentioned here. Here I have in mind, for example, certain concessions in respect of the means test, and the major problem concerning the transfer of land with with those of us who represent rural constituencies have to deal regularly; where land which passes to a child is for five years still deemed the property of the father in terms of the means test, even if there is no longer any income and such a person cannot be expected to make a living from that land as such. These are all problems which deserve attention.
There are many other matters, however, such as point 7, with which we cannot agree, and therefore we cannot fully support the motion of the hon member. That is why we on this side of the House move the following further amendment to the motion:
- (1) notes with dismay the process of ever increasing impoverishment facing some categories of civil and social pensioners;
- (2) urges that immediate and special attention be paid to all the needs of the aged and others who are the responsibility of the Department of Health Services and Welfare so that affected persons may have the prospect of speedy relief;
- (3) in principle declares itself in favour of a continuous pension system which takes into account the fluctuating value of money; and
- (4) declares itself opposed in principle to any form of State lottery for any purpose whatsoever.”.
This is an important motion that the hon member for Durban Point has moved, especially when we judge it against the background of the desperate economic conditions into which this country has fallen; parlous economic conditions for which mismanagement on the part of the Government is largely to blame. [Interjections.] Yes, those hon members can make as much noise as they wish; it is and remains true, however. No one can deny it. After all, it is true that this Government is in a state of bankruptcy as a result of excessive State spending, as a result of unproductive spending in the form of the exorbitantly high costs involved in the establishment of this new constitutional dispensation.
We are drawing the necessary information from the Government bit by bit in an effort to construct what will eventually be a complete picture of what this new dispensation has cost the South African Government thus far, and what an enormous financial burden it is going to place on the shoulders of the South African taxpayer in future. After all, it is this Government which strives for parity in salaries and determines minimum wages, regardless of the production potential which ought to be linked to these things. It is this Government which is going to make R1 500 million available interest-free to the Development Bank of Southern Africa over a period of five years. It is this Government which is making the burden of the White taxpayer almost unbearably heavy with unrealistically high housing and transport subsidies.
The process of drastic impoverishment of the White population, at the expense of the economic prosperity of the other population groups, is an indisputable fact, and we must acknowledge this frankly today. After all, it is the White who has become drastically impoverished during the past year, as a result of the redistribution of income, as the hon member for Lichtenburg indeed put it very effectively during the no-confidence debate, when he said, and I quote (Hansard: House of Assembly, vol 1, col 372):
The hon member subsequently went on to refer to the weakening of the rand against every other currency in the world, including the pula of Botswana. The weakening of the rand against that currency was 8,1% during the period January 1984 to January 1985.
Last time you used the currency of Zimbabwe as an example!
Yes, and this is the actual situation of the economy of this country.
If there is one sector of our society which is suffering severely as a result of these depression conditions, it is those whose living conditions, and possible measures to alleviate these conditions, are being discussed in terms of the motion now before the House. How many of us do not know the pleas of these people, which they sometimes express in letters to us? They usually ask—and justifiably so—whether they did not also have a share in building up their fatherland; did not also make a contribution to the revenue of the State; did not also try to make provision for a pension of their own in a responsible way. In this connection I refer for example to a letter which pertains to the kind of case with which we are all very well acquainted. I quote as follows:
He goes on to point out that especially in view of the increase in the cost of living, he simply cannot make ends meet on R190 per month.
Let us take the case of a SATS pensioner as well. For instance, I have a report here in the Salstaff Bulletin of the association of salaried staff of the SATS, which the hon the Minister addressed at the end of last year, which specifically concerns the pensioners who retired from the SATS before 1 April 1981. The report reads as follows:
In addition they indicate that many of these people who retired before 1 April 1981, receive less than R200 per month. People who have dedicated a lifetime to a service of this country, receive less than R200 per month! On that occasion the hon the Minister of Transport Affairs undertook to do something about the matter. I just want to remind him of this, because it is the people in a large sector of the SATS who are suffering bitterly in these circumstances.
I want to refer to a third group of people. Who amongst us is not aware of the wishes of the civil pensioners of before 1973? Some of these pensioners were school principals, inspectors of education or senior public servants, who are simply no longer able to make ends meet on a less than average income—let alone maintain a suitable standard of living. Today these people are all 80 years old and older, but believe it or not, on top of it all that meagre income they receive is taxable.
That is not true! Those who are over 70 years old, before 1970, are only liable to pay tax as from R6 580 per annum. Only after that does his tax exceed his rebates!
The hon member can carry on as he pleases, but there are such people. Not many people from this category can still be living. [Interjections.] I want to put a friendly, but very urgent request to the hon the Minister of Finance—perhaps through the Minister of Health and Welfare—to think of these people in his Budget Speech. A one-off relief for these people, perhaps also by way of decreased income tax, will be of inestimable value to them.
If we look at the Constitution which was passed last year, it is clear that social welfare is the first matter to be classified as an own affair, but—and this is the snag—subject to any general law with regard to norms and standards for the provision of financing for welfare services. Therefore it is actually a general affair from beginning to end. This is where the potential for conflict lies, a potential for conflict that has been made inherent in this so-called peaceful, consensus-seeking new dispensation, especially when it comes to social financing in these times.
With reference to the preceding, one must keep the contribution of the taxpayers, who are represented here in the House of Assembly, in mind. For the financial year 1982-83 it amounts to R3 152 million, and 2 206 000 people who are economically active, paid it by way of personal income tax. The taxpayers of the House of Representatives paid R77 million, and 987 000 economically active people paid it. The amount for the House of Delegates was R74 million, and 285 000 people contributed to the State coffers.
Against this background, and against the background of the historic run-up to the present pension situation in South Africa, we now listen to provocative demands for parity within the next year. I refer to the hon the Minister of Health Services and Welfare in the House of Representatives, who, according to a report in The Argus of 13 November 1984, has said the following at meetings:
This also represents the standpoint of the Labour Party, the coalition partners of the Government. It is also the standpoint of its leader, Rev the Hon Hendrickse, one of the Cabinet Ministers of the Government. In practice, if these proposals were to be accepted, this means that at least a certain measure of freezing of White pensions would have to take place for this goal to be reached within the next five years.
Then that hon Minister of Health Services and Welfare in the House of Representatives says right at the outset (Hansard: House of Representatives, vol 1, col 155):
He threatens to resign. They threaten us with measures to destroy the whole new dispensation if this and that is not done. Indeed, that coalition party is a prisoner of its own system. It allows itself to be blackmailed, because the dispensation must succeed at all costs; it may not fail. That is why no word of contradiction has been heard from that side.
That is why I want to tell that hon Minister in the House of Representatives this afternoon: Rather confine yourself to your own people’s affairs; stop making demands with regard to our pensioners’ money. In fact, we on this side also want to tell him: Hands off as far as White pensioners’ money is concerned. We have no objection to his agitating for better conditions for his own people, but then he must not begrudge the CP the right to take the part of the people whom we represent in this House, and they must have understanding for this, because the Government can no longer do so, and indeed, does not do so any more.
That is why it is very clearly stated in point (2) of our amendment that the Department of Health Services and Welfare of this House must hold out as a prospect speedy relief for those affected, because the House of Assembly is responsible for the taxation and pensions of the aged and it is the White aged who are the responsibility of this House.
In the beginning I said that we could agree with much of what the hon member has said concerning improved housing, improved regulations with regard to pension funds and tax concessions from revenue obtained from pensions. I now want to come to point (6), which deals with a national contributory pension scheme or, as we put it in our programme of principles, a continuous pension scheme which takes the fluctuation in the value of money into account.
Inevitably it must be a differentiated system which differentiates with regard to the contributions of the members themselves, because otherwise we are moving towards a socialized system in which a declining economically active population can simply no longer bear the burden of an economically quiescent and ageing community, as is already happening in some Western countries, as the hon member for Edenvale rightly remarked.
Much has been said about this system, and I think it is high time we came to a specific decision in respect of this matter. Reports by commissions of inquiry and the interdepartmental committee have already been submitted. Here I have in mind, for example, the Cilliers Report which indicated in the early sixties that more than R60 million had been drawn by people without their resigning and without a death taking place; in other words, they obtained their pension money in ways other than those for which the pension scheme was intended. There is no time to go into all the recommendations of the inter-departmental committee at this juncture.
In conclusion I want to comment on the idea of a State lottery that has been suggested. The Government has just abolished the system of bonus bonds and we understand that it was done on the insistence of the Church. In answer to a question put here, however, we found that that scheme was not so profitable, because more than 50% of the revenue had to be paid in draws and interest, and that did not even include the administration costs.
The CP therefore does not support the principle of a State lottery. In our opinion it is definitely rejected by the Bible, which we accept as the guide and norm for all expressions of our national life.
My time is up. The State should rather encourage diligence. We are not, therefore, in favour of a State lottery, and it is for that reason that we moved this amendment.
Mr Chairman, I listened with some interest to the speech of the hon member for Pietersburg and I read his amendment very carefully. I regret that, although in some directions it is similar to our own, we cannot support it for two primary reasons. The one is, of course, in respect of the State lottery and the other is in respect of the principle that he accepts of the aged being the responsibility of the Department of Health Services and Welfare.
We in this party do not accept that they are the responsibility of the Department of Health Services and Welfare. We accept that they are primarily the responsibility of their own families. It is only thereafter that they become the responsibility of State welfare if the family falls down and does not or cannot do its own job.
The hon member for Edenvale made an excellent speech with which I was most impressed. I really thought that it was a good speech. Regrettably he spoiled it at the end with his amendment calling for a commission.
We have already had several commissions on this little lot, and the results have been tabled. Unfortunately, one has a commission with a grand scheme, but it does not come to fruition because nothing seems to materialize from this type of commission. I cannot help but believe that when one does not know what to do one calls for a commission and wastes a little more time. This seems to be the problem. Nevertheless, the hon member made an excellent speech.
I believe the hon member for South Coast overstepped his time, but nevertheless, he did make some points. One in particular must be answered and that is the one in respect of the Venter Commission and its recommendations for higher density etc to allow for granny flats. I think he put the question to the hon member for Durban Point. He asked, I think, if we, in the light of our local option policy, would make it compulsory.
This is not a simple question to answer. However, I will do my best. Local authorities are getting wise to the current issue and I believe that if it is put to them that they can benefit from permitting a higher density in that the service costs will be subsidized and that the State will make a contribution towards them, it will not be necessary to put pressure on them. Most local authorities will in fact go along with that.
The hon member also appears to have the same attitude as the NRP and myself in that there is a family responsibility to look after the aged before it is a State responsibility. With that I cannot quarrel.
The hon member did not indicate whether he had changed his policy about a State lottery. He conveniently left that point aside. Nevertheless, generally speaking the hon member made the same sort of address from that side of the House as he would have done from this side of the House. I therefore find it difficult to quarrel with him.
There are three aspects that I wish to touch upon. They were touched upon by other hon members to a degree. The first one is for increased tax remissions. I realize that it is not the function of the hon the Minister of Health Services and Welfare to do it, but that of the hon the Minister of Finance, but possibly a little pressure from the hon the Minister would help.
The second point is the creation of a compulsory contributory pension system. As we know, there have been commissions galore which investigated this question. There are all sorts of options open to the Government, from using existing pension funds as a basis, which was also pointed out by the hon member for Edenvale, and developing from that, but ensuring that all people are members of a contributory pension fund.
The third point is the encouragement of the construction of what are often referred to as “granny flats”. In these days of massive inflation—I do not think anybody can deny that we do suffer from massive inflation— what used to be a very good pension after a lifetime of work and one which was related to a person’s income at the time he retired, is no longer a very good pension. Similarly, those who were prudent enough at the time, knowing that their pension was not going to be adequate, to make investments to supplement their pension, are also experiencing difficulties in making ends meet. Even those who own their own homes are in a somewhat parlous situation, because inflation has caused the valuation of their homes to go up, including its rating value. In many instances the rates people have to pay on their homes are far in excess of what they had to pay in bond instalments when they bought their homes. In my own instance, this is also the situation. The rates I pay are approximately three times more than I originally paid in instalments on my bond.
I would like to suggest that this question of tax remissions or reductions in respect of pensioners is something which should be seriously considered. As it stands now, a person over the age of 60, whether he is a pensioner or not, does get a certain tax remission. I think it is 10%. To me there is no reason at all why pensioners should not get an increased remission, particularly in the light, as I say, of the massive inflation. I realize that they have to pay taxes, because when they were contributing to their pension funds, those contributions were not taxed. I therefore accept that they have to pay some tax. Nonetheless, I feel that at the time they were paying, many years ago, they did not have the massive inflation and they did not think they would have to contend with it. A remission should be considered and I believe that from 60 to 65 bona fide pensioners should be given a 20% remission instead of the 10% they get at the moment. When they are over 65, I believe the remission should be doubled again. This would allow for inflation and so on.
I agree with you.
The hon the Minister must then be 65, although he does not look it.
I would like to suggest that this question of remission is very serious. Existing pensions are not rising at anywhere near the rate of inflation. Rising costs and GST have taken an enormous bite into peoples’ pensions. I would like to give an example. From experience I find that when it affects people themselves, they think about it a little more seriously. May I just remind hon members of other hon members of this House who retired in 1981 with a pension of R23 000 per annum if they had the full 15 years’ service. After 25% tax, they were left with about R18 000. With inflation running at the rate it has been over the last four years, the purchasing power of that R18 000 is now R9 000. I want to draw hon members’ attention to the fact that most of them will probably be retiring in four years time. Perhaps the pension will be R43 000 then. Four years later, they will be suffering the same sort of situation. So I find that if people have it brought home to them how it will affect them and that they are not going to be able to come out very well on their own pensions, then perhaps they will be a little more sympathetic to other people’s pensions problems.
I know that people say that the money has to come from somewhere. I concede that if one does not take the money away from people, it is the same as paying the money out. However, I will say this: The State has made an awful lot of money out of fiscal drag. I do not think that these small amounts, relatively speaking, will make much difference to the State as it has already had the benefit of this so-called fiscal drag. We in this party have for years had hon members in the House who have punted and pushed for a contributory pension fund. I do not say that it has to be a national fund, as I said earlier, but every citizen in this country, Black, Brown or White, should be a member of a contributory pension fund. I can assure you that in due course, if all citizens do not become members of a pension fund, the day is going to come when we will have a colossal group of elderly people living in a state of absolute beggary. They will not be able to survive because the State will not be able to pay them. This is as certain as night follows day.
Some years ago—I think it was in 1980—it nearly got off the ground that we had a compulsory pension scheme. What happened, however? There was not anything particularly wrong with the system that the State was going to put into effect, but there was an awful lot wrong with the public relations side of it, as has been mentioned by other hon members. The result was that it fell by the wayside. I feel that this must be resuscitated in the interests not only of pensioners but also in self-defence of the State itself. Once there are huge numbers who are unprovided for or inadequately provided for, the State will have an awful lot of trouble on its plate.
Finally, I come to the situation of the so-called granny flats. Townplanners and city councils have objected to these for years and have not permitted them to be built. The argument always seems to be one of aesthetics or the overloading of municipal services. Well, the question of aesthetics in the average residential area, is one of which one ought to say: To blazes with it! It is more important to give people a roof over their heads than to have things looking pretty. I like to see residential areas looking attractive, of course I do; no reasonable person does not like that. However, I believe it is essential that we give attention to the question of granny flats. I am very pleased to say that the City Council of Durban put a note in the February issue of the little newsletter they send to all ratepayers, permitting granny flats. It reads:
This will probably be of great interest to the hop the Minister of Local Government, Housing and Works. This is one of the few things that the Durban City Council has done lately with which I agree. Nonetheless, I am very happy that they have done this. I would further suggest that where they are needed and practical subsidies should be given for the addition of these flats. As it is, the State pays out 75% of the costs of many of these elderly people. It is far cheaper to build these little granny flats than to bear the enormous cost involved, per person, in housing these elderly people.
Finally, Sir, I say that serious consideration must be given to a more economic and practical way of helping the aged and their families to look after themselves, instead of the State having to do, and being expected to do, the lot.
Mr Chairman, with reference to what the hon member for Umbilo said, on 7 February I gave notice in this House of the motion:
I do just want to emphasize today that the State has already furthered the free enterprise system by transferring the right of ownership of half a million State-financed houses to the various occupants. The State has therefore acted. The private sector, in co-operation with thousands of people in the State, has already formed an association through which the available sources from all sectors can be utilized to the optimum.
I want to emphasize that houses for the aged and underprivileged have already been built with the co-operation of church bodies, welfare organizations and utility bodies. Private undertakings have also realized to an increasing extent that the Government alone is unable to solve the problem of the shortage of housing.
The advantages of private home ownership ought to be emphasized a great deal more strongly in the private sector. A roof over one’s head assures one of one’s right of ownership, for future generations as well. It provides a buffer against inflation. One’s capital is fixed, and one’s house appreciates. It gives one security with a view to future loans. It ensures that one can live better and more purposefully. It also promotes one’s family ties.
One need only look at the companies that have listened to the appeal to do something for their workers. Have they not fostered better labour relations by doing so? Have the workers not become more stable and established? Has there not been a reduction in staff turnover and have the costs linked to staff turnover and recruitment not been eliminated to a large extent?
Is it not the biggest bonus one can receive if one’s workers are loyal and satisfied and show their gratitude by their productivity?
Consequently, local authorities, the private sector and public bodies, as well as companies, must no longer be indifferent to this matter concerning the elderly. With their personal spirit of enterprise they must propagate the free market system in such a way that it can catch on in a world which is being threatened to an increasing extent by socialism.
I also want to refer to what the Johannesburg City Council is doing. Since August 1982, the Johannesburg City Council has been financing economic and subeconomic housing to the value of several millions of rands out of its own development fund. This was achieved by way of foreign loans. They obtained loans from overseas, and this year alone at least R110 million from loans obtained from overseas will be utilized by the Johannesburg City Council. In the field of housing, they should be able to provide for as many as 7 000 people. That matter will be settled as early as this month by way of the tenders that have been awarded. Why can local authorities not co-operate better with the State in this respect?
I want to tell the hon member for Durban Point that I won the Rosettenville constituency in 1977 with the votes of the aged. I won that seat again in 1981. Last year, Mrs Camerer, as the Provincial candidate, gained a majority of almost 2 000. We shall win through again in view of the problems to which I have referred. At present I am in the process of convincing the Johannesburg City Council to acquire site 1202 at South Hills. Three hundred and fifty houses for the elderly can be erected there at a cost of R14 million. Opportunities therefore exist.
Mr Chairman, I am very impressed with what the hon member for Rosettenville has achieved with the NRP aged in Rosettenville. I only hope he will also be able to beat the NP MPC in the next election.
†Mr Speaker, I would like to assure the hon member for Durban Point that we on this side of the House will support point 7 of his motion where he pleads for a State lottery. I practised for ten years in a country— Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe—which had a State lottery. I therefore had a great deal of experience of the great benefit to the sick, the aged and very many welfare organizations due to contributions from the State lottery. It was amazing—I am thinking of horseracing in South Africa—that, in spite of a State lottery, there was not more moral decay in Zimbabwe. Neither was there greater financial deprivation there because of the lottery than there has been financial deprivation here because of horseracing. I find it amazing that a country which allows betting and gambling in respect of horseracing does not allow a State lottery, even with all its benefits. [Interjections.]
I would, however, like to tell the hon member that I do not think the Government will accept that. Take, for instance, the performance of the hon member for South Coast. He was a State lottery hawk and he has now become a State lottery dove, just by crossing the floor. I do not think his example is really the answer to the problem of the hon member for Durban Point. [Interjections.] I would suggest, however, that if we need the money—and I would like the hon member for Durban Point and the hon member for Brits to support me now—we have to obtain it from another source.
We have a wonderful opportunity to collect even more money than we need, by taxing products that cause ill health. [Interjections.] If the Government will not allow something as “sinful” as a State lottery, why will they not allow increased taxation on something as “sinful” as smoking and the drinking of alcoholic beverages? I would be very interested to hear the hon the Minister’s reply to that. We can easily increase the revenue needed to look after the aged simply by taxing tobacco and alcoholic beverages. I think it only right that these products which result in chronic ill-health, poor work performance, loss of work, premature ageing and retirement, and the inability to provide for retirement should be taxed. The contributions drawn from this revenue could then be used to compensate for the harm that these products cause. I would, therefore, like the hon member for Durban Point to support us in our plea for increased taxation of these products. [Interjections.]
You have two chances, and you know what those are.
In the very short time I have left I would like to discuss with the hon the Minister a problem that is becoming increasingly evident. This has to do especially with civil and also private pensioners. Inflation is eroding the value of their savings. Most of these pensioners are elderly people who are often frail, in poor health and in need of hospitalization, or who have to attend hospital as outpatients. I would like to read to the hon the Minister from a circular that one of these civil pensioners received. The circular came from a superintendent and reads as follows:
That does not only apply to outpatients, but also to inpatients—when they are discharged they get private scripts. During the 17 years that I practised medicine full-time, one of the most fulfilling aspects of my treatment of patients—whatever their colour, creed or age—was the knowledge that I could give them the best medicine without ever having to worry about what it would cost them. Now here I have a letter—and I have many others—from a pensioner who writes that he is chronically ill. He has a heart condition and needs drugs continuously. His wife is chronically ill. She has an ulcer. Owing to her medical condition, however, she is not allowed surgery. Thus he has to go to the outpatients every month. This morning I costed his medicines and found that they cost a total of R231 per month. This cost has to be borne by a man with an income of R750 per month. One may well say: “But this man belongs to a medical aid.” Yes, this man does belong to a medical aid fund, but the medical aid has a limit of only R700. Therefore, once the medical aid fund has contributed that R700, this poor pensioner has to pay R25 per month for his and his wife’s medicine. Furthermore—the hon member for Yeoville and I have mentioned this before—an amount of R23, representing sales tax, is included in the account of R231.
In my opinion, the man who has worked all his life, who has always paid his income tax, tried to save some money and who now retires, should have the confidence that when he is ill, the State will support him. It can be argued that pensioners can make a special appeal to the hospital superintendent. That is so, but it is not easy to make these appeals. However, as the hon member for Durban Point pointed out, one only has to speak to people waiting in the queues at hospitals to find out what misery this anxiety in regard to the cost of medicines has caused. In my experience it has resulted in insecurity in regard to medical care. Pensioners are anxious that they will not be able to meet the extra costs and therefore do not go for proper medical and dental attention. Indeed, according to dentists fewer people now come for dental care.
Finally, pensioners deserve the security of proper medical attention, and I believe that the State should do away with the limit of R750 and that all pensioners should enjoy free medical treatment.
Mr Chairman, whilst listening to the hop member for Parktown, I could not help thinking of the absurdness of his suggestion that we should impose a much higher excise duty on alcohol and tobacco than is the case at present. If we were to do so, we would firstly be driving the farmers off the land. Secondly, we would be forcing the public to smuggle, since people will look for alcohol and tobacco until they find it. Thirdly, such a step would completely eliminate what the hon member wishes to achieve, viz to obtain extra money.
In the short time at my disposal, I should like to associate myself with a principle regarding the care of individuals in general, which has already been accepted by the Government. I am referring to a very sound practice, viz that of foster care. If a family is prepared to take a child from a broken home or an orphanage into their care, the Government subsidizes such a family by way of a grant. The child is then given the opportunity to be taken up into a family where he can enjoy the security of family life. He then becomes part of the family’s church and everyday life and is assured of proper care.
This afternoon’s debate concerns the care of the aged, and it has become apparent that the economic facet is one of the most serious problems the elderly have to face. I therefore want to plead that we apply the same principle to the aged as is applied in respect of foster care. There are many children who would like to have their parents with them in the home and to care for them, but they cannot afford to do so. The Government, as well as the welfare services would like to do more for these people, but economically they are unable to do so. I therefore suggest that the principle that applies to foster care for children should also be made applicable to the aged, since it is a fantastic system.
The infrastructure for such a system already exists. The social workers who have to see to it that no malpractices develop, could keep foster care for the aged on the right path, on the same basis as they do in the case of foster care for children. I am sure there are thousands of families and individuals who, if they were given the opportunity to be subsidized to accommodate a couple or an individual at a nominal fee of R200 per month, for example, would do so. Having pleaded for this today, certain facts have to be borne in mind. To build an old age home for 100 people, for example, costs at least R1 million. If one makes provision for R200 per person per month, with the infrastructure that already exists in society, one can make provision for 50 000 people in society per month and still keep them in society. The advantage is that we can utilize those old age homes to the maximum for those elderly people who are infirm, who, in my opinion, are really the people the State should be looking after.
However, it is very clear that we will have to stipulate a few conditions. The first is that the means test should not be made applicable to senior citizens who have landed in this new category as far as housing is concerned. In addition, individuals should not be prohibited—as was suggested here this afternoon—from fitting out a second kitchen elsewhere on the premises or the smallholding where they live. Thirdly, I want to ask that when the aged in this new category of housing become infirm, they must be able to compete on an equal footing with any other elderly people from old age homes for a bed for an infirm elderly person.
In conclusion, I want to reiterate what I have said in this House many times, and which the hon member for Edenvale also said this afternoon, viz that we in this country will not solve our social problems until we have come up with legislation whereby every person, blue, yellow, pink or black, male or female, and irrespective of his or her religion, is compelled as soon as he or she starts working to belong to a contributing pension scheme. It must also be provided that that pension scheme may not be terminated and that the principle of transferability will apply if such a person should change their occupation. Until we have come forward with such a law, we will not find a solution to the basic problem of the care of the aged in this country.
I want to thank the hon member for Durban Point for moving this motion in this House today, as well as hon colleagues who participated. I also want to express my gratitude for the privilege of having been able to try to take up the cudgels for the aged of South Africa today.
Mr Chairman, the hon member for Brits made several points, one or two of which had some merit, in regard to the supply of accommodation in existing residential areas which is not allowed today in terms of urban regulations. There are indeed certain aspects which can be looked at.
I would like to come back for a moment to the purpose of the motion as put forward by the hon member for Durban Point. It is really a multi-faceted approach to the plight of the pensioner in the current economic situation in South Africa. It is an attempt to look not simply at one aspect but at all the areas in which some form of relief could be given on an organized, campaign basis rather than by way of little ad hoc measures which simply get lost in the enormity of the problem which these people face.
Since it is the Government who have been in control of the country for far too many years, namely over 30, and since it is they who have created the economic climate in which the old people have to exist today, I must say it disappoints one when one hears hon members standing up and simply reiterating how much money is spent each year, and so forth. The hon member for Stilfontein, who I see is not in the House now, did nothing but that. He did not have a speech of his own at all. All he told us was how wrong the hon member for Durban Point was and how hard-working the Government has been. I must say that it is sad to hear the hon member for South Coast acting as an apologist for the Government, saying how much was spent, etc. They must go and tell the pensioners those things, and see what their reaction is. Those people are the ones who will in fact react adequately to the enormous amounts which the Government is misspending. If that sort of money is being spent and results are not forthcoming, then I submit that the motion of the hon member for Durban Point is extremely relevant in the times in which we live. It demands an approach which sees exactly whether the money which is being spent is of any use whatsoever and is getting us anywhere. It would appear—and I am certain that it is the case—that the pensioner is in fact losing ground all the time.
The hon member for Edenvale made mention of a series of commissions which have all resulted in no definite action being taken. We consider that the points enumerated in this motion are the areas in which the Government must take concentrated, concerted action in order to bring about alleviation of the circumstances in which the pensioners find themselves across the board.
A particular point of interest is of course the question of the national State lottery. As I have already said, the Government have been in control of the country’s finances for 36 years, and therefore I do not believe that they can blame anyone else for the circumstances in which the man in the street finds himself today. It is quite remarkable how some extraneous factor always comes along and rescues the Government. They stand there and ask what anybody else would have done about the drought, the gold price and the exchange rate. That is not really the point, however. South Africa’s economic situation was on a downward slide, progressively accelerating, and along came these extraneous factors which resulted in a sudden further drop in the graph which the Government now conveniently uses as an excuse for the situation the country finds itself in. However, it is not so. The fact is that we have been spending more and more of the GDP through the State coffers, we have been taxing the man in the street more and more, and we have not been spending the country’s resources in profitable ways which allow us to get on top of our socio-economic and development programmes.
When it comes to attempts by the Government to ease in a national State lottery as painlessly as possible, it managed to persuade the Church, which has been defending everybody against this horrendous communist onslaught, that it was in the interests of the country that it should bend a little and allow for the national State lottery.
It was not a lottery.
I am told now it was not a lottery. It was a bonus bond scheme.
It was an investment.
It was an investment and that was great. [Interjections.] If that is the case, then we are all for having investment, as called for by the hon member for Durban North, on a similar basis for providing pensions, old age homes, and the like— that can be decided by the needs and the priorities of the day, but creating that additional source is important.
I think that the hon member is absolutely right. It was not a lottery. It was an investment. It would be an investment for the people to deal with the needs of the aged in a manner which is a far cry from the old biblical concept of gambling away in some evil and sinful and orgiastic manner. [Interjections.]
You know the feeling, do you?
One likes to be reminded of it occasionally. What really happened? The Government managed to persuade the Church that the scheme was in the interests of the defence of the country. Then, however, the worst of all blunders occurred. That money was placed in the General Revenue Fund. That was simply fatal because the Church was no longer convinced that it was meant only for defence purposes. The result was that the Government had to do some kind of backtracking. I should like to suggest that at their next congress the National Party consider redesigning their crest by way of removing that very useful and historic “kruithoring” and replacing it with a twisted and bent old screw; something that is really rusty and which does not work any longer. If there is one thing the Government can do it is screw things up. [Interjections.]
Their first attempt at instituting a State lottery was eased in beautifully. It worked well because it was aimed at assisting in the defence of the country. Things were working really smoothly and everybody seemed to be getting over this dreadful fear of the sinfulness of participating in a lottery. Then—lo and behold!—along comes the ex-Minister of Finance and makes it known that those moneys are in the General Revenue Account. Horror of horrors! Of course, the Church can now no longer support this scheme.
I should like to suggest that, in view of the movement of reform in South Africa, the time has now arrived when the Government can no longer persist in clinging to one Church as being the only Church which can take valid decisions in connection with the morals and the mores of a society as varied and as diverse as that of South Africa. Hon members are free to choose not to participate in such a State lottery, as I know was done with the Irish Sweep, the Rhodesian Sweep and other similar lotteries. Of course they all refrained from participating in those lotteries at all, and also in the football pools. Refusing to participate is of course quite commendable. They can carry on doing so. There is absolutely no need for those hon members who find lotteries repugnant to take part in them. To continue, however, to impose the will of a minority group on the whole population of a country with such differing standards and such varied approaches, as the Government is indeed doing now in relation to the question of whether or not a State lottery is good for our people in their old age or is in the interests of the welfare of our people is, I believe, really rather arrogant. I believe the Government must accept the fact that that is indeed no longer justified as far as the majority of the population of South Africa is concerned. The Government cannot any longer impose on the total population adherence to those standards which are accepted only by the majority of its supporters. It must now accept the fact that it will be in accordance with the standards of a far greater majority in this country to allow the introduction of a scheme such as this, which will redound to the great benefit of all.
Furthermore, Mr Chairman, I should like to remind hon members of the fact that not so many years ago—I think it was in 1965—what is known now as the Gambling Act was debated here in this House. The Bill debated here at the time was basically supposed to be a consolidating measure. Whilst that measure was being discussed here in the House, in the interests of the defence of South Africa, we were at the same time actually drawing lots in order to decide who would render national service and who not. Just think of how horrific that was! We actually drew lots, the outcome of which caused some men to be called up for a year’s national service, while others got off scot-free; many of those lucky ones going to university without ever doing any military service at all. That was the situation until the relevant legislation was amended to the effect that all are now liable for military service, even if they only perform part-time service in the commandos.
But that is a different principle altogether.
Yes, of course. You know it as well as I do. [Interjections.]
That was the drawing of lots to decide whether or not people were to do military service or not. It determined whether a person was going to have to give away a year of his life. [Interjections.] Mr Chairman, the principle that applies in this instance is exactly the same principle that applies when deciding whether someone is to do military service for his country or not, involving, moreover, the very real possibility of losing his life in the process. I would suggest it is a very relevant principle.
While we were doing that, however, the Post Office was at the same time wasting something like 2 000 man-hours on opening envelopes and removing cheques that had possibly been posted by people who wanted to take part in some lottery or other. At one stage the Post Office actually decided to confiscate that money. They did not send it back to its original owner. That is the silly sort of stage we went through. We came out of it with the bonus bond scheme and we were moving into—I hesitate to say the 20th century—perhaps the late 19th century and actually getting somewhere when the Government crunched the whole matter.
I want to suggest that it is once again incumbent upon the Government to take its courage in both hands and go back to the drawing-board and see what it can produce. The Government must not say: “Nee, ons kan nie weer aan hierdie ding vat nie; die mense is nog te seer”. The Government now has the experience of the bonus bond scheme and it has information about other schemes in other parts of the world. With all this hindsight and the knowledge of the acceptability of the bonus bond scheme it can now develop something uniquely South African, purely for the benefit of welfare services.
There is no way in which one can call a scheme like this sinful, where a participating person knows that, even if he does not win a prize, his money goes towards a good cause. There is no way in which one can tie this voluntary participation to sin, and I do not care what any ecclesiastical fundi has to say about it. That is a warped concept of what the Good Lord said when he spoke about gambling. In this day and age it is far more important to solve these financial problems than to have a very narrow and rigid approach to biblical injunctions because one is afraid of an incorrect interpretation.
The point concerning State lotteries in the motion put forward by my colleague the hon member for Durban Point is favoured by the hon members of this party. I believe that 90% of the members in this House are in favour of it and if one adds the other Houses as well, the figure is probably more than 90%. Unfortunately, government members are all dumbstruck because no one has the guts to stand up and say it is time to renew our approach.
Are you also in favour of pin-up calendars?
The multi-faceted approach of the hon member for Durban Point to the problem is a very practical one, as were some of the suggestions made by the hon member for Edenvale. If the Government were to consider these points we believe that it could bring about an immediate improvement in the situation of old-age pensioners.
Mr Speaker, I wish to thank the hon member for Mooi River for the calm and collected way in which he argued his case. This was in strong contrast to his leader who got very emotional and made a most emotional speech about an emotive matter. I was surprised at the way he carried on.
I am not going to advance any arguments about the question of a State lottery. The Government’s attitude towards this is very well known. I was rather surprised to see that when the hon member attacked the Government about its attitude towards a State lottery he received a great deal of encouragement from the hon member for Rissik. He was actually very pleased about it. They are the people who profess to be against State lotteries, but let me start at the beginning.
I cannot understand why the hon leader of the NRP got so emotional over this issue. With the exception of point 7 of his motion, we on this side agreed to a greater or lesser extent with everything that he said. I do not know why he carried on the way he did. If there is really one subject that we should be calm and collected about in this House, it is that of the aged and their problems. We all know that the social pensions that they are receiving at present are certainly not adequate. However, one has to be realistic about this when one speaks about these old people. Compassion and emotion are not going to provide the wherewithal to pay these higher pensions which we all wish we could pay. That is why I find it strange that this hon member was so emotional about this. Nobody alleges that R166 per month is adequate. However, that is all we can afford at the moment. I do not think that the hon member was very serious about abolishing the means test altogether. I shall grant him that perhaps we can alter the means test. We can look at the means test and we shall certainly do so. However, it is really out of the question to abolish it.
Do you want me to unscrew it?
I shall unscrew you if you are not careful! [Interjections.]
I wish to thank the hon member for Edenvale for his most positive contribution and the knowledge that he displayed about these pensions. He illustrated very vividly where this problem is going to end if we continue at the rate we are going at the moment. It is really a vexing problem to which we shall have to seek a solution very soon. We are not a welfare state and we have no intention of becoming one.
*I also wish to say at once that a social pension should not be viewed in isolation. A social pension is actually intended to supplement the provision which each individual should make for his care in his old age. Social pensions have never been regarded or held out as the sole source of income for the aged. They are merely a supplement. By this I am not implying that the payment of pensions is an evil and that it should be discontinued. One should merely accept reality. The hon member is sympathetic and compassionate towards these people but that does not produce money with which we can pay pensions.
In 1979 the HSRC conducted an inquiry into the minimum standard of living of the various population groups. Since then this minimum standard of living has been projected annually and at present the R166 per month old age pension comprises 92% of the projected minimum standard of living for the White population group. This represents considerable progress in this field.
†The hon member for Edenvale made a very positive proposal which I am certain we are going to look at. He asked whether, where pensioners still occupy houses, there is not a way that we can waive the means test as far as those properties are concerned. That is a matter that can certainly be looked at.
*Time does not permit me to reply to all members individually. None the less I wish to express my disappointment again in the hon member for Pietersburg who has made another abortive attempt here to turn pensions into a political matter. If we start politicizing pensions, old people will in truth receive no benefits whatsoever. Why is this necessary? There are many debates on finance in which the hon member can participate, but he has selected the motions on pensions to come with allegations on the handling of the economy.
You are afraid of politics.
You be quiet because what you know, or what the hon member knows, about pensions is dangerous! I would not permit his academic knowledge even into my back yard. [Interjections.]
I shall deal with this motion point by point. In the first place there is the question of rental buildings. The hon member for Durban Point knows that, in his electoral division, we have by means of State funds …
Order! I am not saying the hon member Mr Theunissen and the hon member for Rissik have to like what the hon the Deputy Minister is saying, but they should permit him the opportunity of saying what he wishes to say in conformity with the rules of the House. The hon the Deputy Minister may proceed.
Sir, my thanks for your protection, but I really do not require it against that hon member. [Interjections.] He is a man who, during the referendum last year, went round my electoral division talking about how old people would find themselves together with Coloureds in homes for the aged this year. Those are statements he made in my electoral division. The notice I take of him is therefore minimal.
It is the policy of the Department of Local Government, Housing and Works, depending on the availability of funds, to grant loans to welfare organizations and to local councils, etc but not to private individuals. It would be dangerous for us to extend that principle to private individuals as well. The State itself does not buy up buildings to provide for the aged. I am merely explaining current policy. The Government does not interfere in the sphere of private welfare organizations. That is the sphere in which welfare organizations, municipalities and other organizations should venture. I have a long list of buildings here already purchased with State aid in Port Elizabeth, East London, Brakpan, Germiston, Johannesburg, Durban, Rustenburg, Somerset West and numerous other places.
Why do you not buy up the rest as well?
That is not the function of the State. If the State were to fulfil all the welfare functions of the country, it would simply have to appropriate the entire budget for that. I agree entirely with the hon member for Brits who said the State’s primary responsibility was the aged in need of care. We cannot even comply with the demands they make but listen to what we do: We grant a monthly subsidy to homes for the aged. I can give the hon member the categories as well but unfortunately I do not have the time at present to enumerate everything. In any case, a category A home receives R133,14 per month, a category B home R201 and a category C home R382. The State therefore fulfils its duty regarding that. We also provide a subsidy on furniture and equipment. We give a subsidy once only of 75% of the actual purchase price to a maximum of R400 per sub-economic aged person. Special grants are also made.
We subsidize service centres. They are reimbursed for current expenses at 75% of approved expenditure to a maximum of R200 per annum on average attendance. Rental and redemption are subsidized at 75% of approved expenditure to a maximum of R100 per year per enrolled member. As I have already said, we grant a subsidy on furniture and equipment. Clubs for the aged are also subsidized. Oh, there are numerous things we, in fact, subsidize.
I wish to say, however—it has already been mentioned—that in this country we have the highest number percentage-wise of persons above 65 in homes for the aged in the world. They are welcome to this but it tells us a tale, namely that communities are no longer as involved in the care of the aged in their midst. They prefer to isolate the aged and keep them apart.
Or they are unable to.
Or they are unable to? I have great compassion for those sub-economic cases and I also say it is the State’s duty to care for those people. Nevertheless I say today there are hundreds—if not thousands—of people in homes for the aged who should be cared for in the community, either in their children’s homes or in their own homes or in the granny flats to which the hon member for Umbilo also referred. If we look at the percentage of persons in homes for the aged in most Western countries, we will see the figure ranging from 3% to 6%. Against that we already have about 8% of people above 65 in homes for the aged in South Africa. We shall have to examine this specific problem.
The second point made by the hon member for Durban Point was that provision should be made for all members to share fairly in the accumulated assets of pension funds. In principle I am in agreement with this motion but members should bear in mind that sound financial administration of the funds is a primary requirement. We cannot merely increase pensions because the rate of inflation has risen. We are obliged, as is every pension fund, to be able to guarantee the continuance of the payment of pensions already granted. Secondly, we also have to be able to guarantee the payment of benefits to all members who will be entitled to them in future. Thirdly, we have to be able to bear the costs of paying and continuing to pay pension increases granted in the past and to be granted in future. That is why pension funds should be managed with great care and prudence.
Each member shares fairly in the assets of funds administered by my department. Older retired persons receive more than just a fair share as their pension increases are partially financed from the stabilization account to which they have made no contributions and partially from the State Revenue Account. That is a great concession, Sir. I am not whitewashing our policy as the hon member claimed. I am merely giving him the facts. We do what lies within our power and what the sound financial management of the funds permits. If the persons to whom I have just referred were to receive only their entitlement from the pension funds, their current pensions would be considerably smaller than in the past. On retirement each civil pensioner receives an adequate pension taking into account his contribution to a fund and the length of service to the State and from time to time that pension has to be increased—with consideration to the availability of money—to compensate in some measure for the rise in the cost of living but without coming down to the indexing to which the hon member referred. No member is arbitrarily excluded from increases.
I wish to refer to the position since 1973 as mention has been made of this. In general, one may refer to two far-reaching changes in civil pension funds, namely the new scheme put into operation as from 1 July 1973 and the payment of benefits on final salaries after 1 April 1981. In both cases a special increase was granted as regards pensions already payable when the new benefits became operative. Please note: Those people had not contributed to the increased pensions. We granted them an increase to compensate for the rise in the cost of living. On 1 July 1973 all pensions payable were increased by 10% and on 1 April 1981 by 12%. Simultaneously the contribution rates for members were increased to cover improved benefits. This does not apply to people already receiving pensions, but only to new members. In addition to the special increases of all pensions, the pensions of those who retired under the old scheme before 1 July 1973 were also increased by an additional 10% on 1 April 1980. There can therefore be no question of any members of civil pension funds administered by the department being arbitrarily excluded from increased benefits.
Nevertheless a few pensioners sometimes expect to be civil pensioners and to be treated on an equal footing with people now holding down those posts. This cannot be done. Those people did not make the same contributions as the people employed at present are making.
I wish to say a word on the question of granny flats and I really wish a better word than “ouma-woonstelle” could be found. For lack of a better word we use “oumawoonstelle”, however. The Venter Commission found that it should be permissible to recommend to town planners etc that these granny flats be permitted. The department informs me that these recommendations are already being implemented in all four provinces and the approach of the executive committees concerned may be summarized as follows, and I quote:
That is why I am also grateful to the hon member for Umbilo for his contribution in connection with this matter.
The fourth point of the motion asks us to provide “capital loans to families which provide such accommodation for qualified social pensioners, on a similar basis to those granted to welfare organizations which provide accommodation for the aged”.
This motion is inherently a good one, but it is highly questionable whether it would be advisable for the State to grant loans of this nature to individuals. To enable the aged to remain happy and integrated members of the community for as long as possible, it is necessary for the community to be aware of the specific needs of the aged, to be sympathetically attuned to these needs and to effect practical adjustments in the community in general so that even persons with the defects of age may retain their place in the community as far as possible.
I now get to the question of tax remission but unfortunately this is a matter resorting under the hon the Minister of Finance. Concessions are already being made to pensioners. The hon member for Umbilo referred to this, but hon members should bear in mind that the SABC and many municipalities and especially the Department of the hon the Leader of the House, namely the Transport Services, also grant pensioners certain concessions.
Let there be no misunderstanding on this matter: The Government is not in favour of the institution of a State lottery. I hope the hon member for Pietersburg will take note of this. I am stating this categorically because he wished to create the impression here that we were afraid to do this.
What about a bonus scheme?
The hon member is aware of our attitude in that respect and I am not prepared to compromise the Government on it. A national contributory pension scheme is not the alpha and the omega of all our pension problems but the Government is prepared to go into this entire question and appointed a select committee for this purpose last year. Unfortunately I do not have the time to read the entire mandate to you but the hon the Minister soon intends proposing to this House the reestablishment of that committee with a specific instruction to reinvestigate this whole question of a contributory pension scheme. The committee commenced its work last year but this had to be suspended because of the institution of the new dispensation which became operative.
Mr Chairman, I want to thank hon members who participated in the debate for their participation. We disagreed on certain points, as well as in our approach to the problem as a whole in certain respects. I only hope that some of the seeds members on this side of the House have sown will take root and that some good will come out of this debate for the aged.
Business interrupted in accordance with Standing Order No 30 and motion and amendments lapsed.
In accordance with Standing Order No 19, the House adjourned at