Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Honour thou Elders that thou days may be long

(First appeared in New Era 28 January 2015)

The past week my father called me from South Africa to come and assist him with his pension pay-outs he has to receive now that he has turned 65. My father was born during the apartheid era (in Walvis Bay) and had completed his schooling in the Cape Province of South Africa. After school and a few years I the private sector, he had chosen the army as a career and was enlisted in the South Africa Coloured Corps. This was his job and not just the normal two years stint (conscription) that was expected of every citizen. He spent several years serving in the army, including doing duty in the northern parts of the then South West Africa.

When I grew of age (being 18), there were many arguments in our house as I was an active member of the student organisations protesting against the South African occupation of Namibia. Having been born in Windhoek, I feel I am a citizen of Namibia even though my father felt he was on the side of the South Africans.

After Independence, it took a few years for the arguments about politics to eventually also accept reconciliation as a reality. For me the turning point was in 2004 when my father was declared disabled and unfit to continue employment. It was at that time that the Bible’s commandment of “Honour thou Mother and thou Father that thou days may be long” really struck me.

At that time in 2004, my father was fighting the banking system that refused to accept his disability and were threatening to auction his house as he was not able pay his mortgage. This despite the fact that he had an insurance policy (taken out by the bank) that was supposed to cover him in the eventuality of death or disability. The bank in question insisted that his disability was a “previous condition” and thus not covered by the policy. After a year-long battle with me at his side, we were able force the bank (yes, we had to force them to meet their obligation) to accept the medical reports of experts and have the insurance policy pay off his mortgage.

This lesson of what businesses do to avoid giving satisfaction to their customers (and thus making more profits) is what led me to becoming the consumer activist I am today.
As consumers we have started to have culture of “consumer social responsibility” towards our elderly as we willingly allow pensioners, pregnant women and people with disabilities to be served first when there are queues.

I would like to see our businesses in Namibia also take this attitude and provide their corporate social responsibility through discounted prices for the elderly, and not only on groceries, but also public transport, electricity, water and telecommunications. Would it not be wonderful if our elderly could receive up to 50% discount on their water and electricity and perhaps even completed amnesty from paying rates and taxes to the local authorities? It would be gladdening to my heart (and, according to the Bible, add years to my life) if the government owned enterprises would also provide a minimum number f credits or products and services to the elderly as a way of honouring for their many years of service to our beautiful, peaceful country? These state-owned enterprises and agencies include MTC, Telecom, Namwater, Nampower and even the local supplier of Coca-Cola, Namibia Beverages to name but a few.

On this topic, would it also not be a sign of a mature country to provide sufficiently for our elderly with a state pension of at least N$ 1,200 per month? If we give this a little thought, perhaps we too can honour our mothers and fathers that our days on earth might be long.

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