OMBABA – A pensioner who lives in squalid conditions has accused her relatives of grabbing her monthly government old-age grant, and leaving her with too little to care for herself.
“They said my social grant belongs to the family – it is not mine. They warn me not to touch it, threatening to report me to the police if I dare to use it. I don’t have shoes. I do not have jerseys for winter time. My relatives come to my house every month and collect my money.” This is the heartbreaking statement of 73-year-old Helaria Mbutu, whose social grant money has been grabbed by her nieces and nephews while she herself is living in abject poverty.
Mbutu claimed that she has never enjoyed her social grant from government, like her fellow elderly people. Ever since the day she started receiving it, she depends on her husband.
She lives with her husband, and the two of them do not have children of their own.
When New Era visited her at their homestead at Ombaba village in the Epembe constituency of the Ohangwena region, she narrated that her nephew and niece, who are also pensioners, come to her house each month and take at least N$900 from her.
She is, therefore, left with a mere N$400 to spend on herself.
Her niece allegedly tells her that they are going to buy livestock since there are no cattle in the family.
“We only use my husband’s money to buy food. His social grant does everything, including the ploughing of our mahangu field and threshing,” she explained further.
Also speaking to New Era was her husband, 78-year-old Jonas Hailonga, who said he is not happy with his in-laws.
“I spend all my money on everything in the house. My wife cannot even buy herself a loaf of bread from her social grant because she is always scared. Once we get our grant, she comes home with everything and waits for her family to come and collect it,” he lamented.
Hailonga also spoke about an allegation that his wife’s family wants to separate them.
“They said my wife should go and stay at their houses. They are disturbing our peace because I have been staying with my wife since 1990 when we got married,” he added.
Hailonga said his in-laws want to take his wife to their houses because they want to be able to rob her freely.
Sylvia Mwashekele, a niece of Hailonga, who together with her brother are accused of grabbing Mbutu’s money, denied the allegation.
“It is my brother who collects money from our aunt, not me. I used to take her money back sometimes, and I still have it in my bank account,” she told New Era.
But Mbutu’s neighbours said Mwashekele is not telling the whole truth.
“Meekulu Helaria comes to our houses every now and then, seeking help. She cries all the time that she does not enjoy her money because it is being taken away by her relatives. This is the reason why we reported the matter to the councillor,” said one of the neighbours.
Minister of gender equality and child welfare Doreen Sioka said what Mbutu’s relatives are doing is unacceptable, and her office will never tolerate such abuse.
Sioka thus urged constituency councillors to always report issues of this nature to her offices in the regions.
“Our ministry is always ready to act. Those who are doing so will become an example to others,” she stated.
Sioka also implored pensioners and all those who receive social grants to ensure that they report the ‘robberies’ and abuse to their neighbours.