An East London prison warder diagnosed with terminal cancer says he is struggling to make ends meet after he has not been paid his pension following the approval of his ill-health-based retirement.
Charles Swart, 53, said he was initially diagnosed with prostate cancer but it had spread to his bones.
In March 2016 he was diagnosed with terminal cancer and the doctors told him he could no longer work. He was then immediately placed on temporary incapacity leave.
“Doctors told me they could not cure me but they could only attempt to prolong my life. Because of the nature of my work as a prison warder I cannot work when I am weak because it is dangerous and I would not be able to defend myself.
“I have even been in a wheelchair for about five months. In December the doctors asked me to apply for early retirement and it was approved by the national department in January,” he said.
Even though he had not been physically at work for almost a year, his official last day at work was February 28 2017.
His last salary was also in February and he is yet to receive his monthly pension, meaning his family, which had been falling into debt as his illness took hold last year, ran into deeper debt in March and April.
“I have had to sell my car, household items like the fridge, TV, computer and a play station just so we can pay our debts.
“My family and I are living inside the property of West Bank Prison and we are unable to pay rent and they said they would be kicking us out if we do not pay soon.
“I owe my medical aid more that R12000 in monthly installments,” Swart said.
Department of correctional services regional commissioner Nkosinathi Breakfast said there was never a situation where the department had refused to pay Swart.
Breakfast said that in fact Swart was paid R26000 for gratuity leave in March.
Swart confirmed receiving the R26000 but said it was not enough.
Breakfast said: “The payment of the pension fund of Mr Swart was checked on April 18 2017 with the [Government Employees Pension Fund] GEPF and they indicated that they are still busy with their processes. That process is not under our control but we are assisting members.
“I directed the office to follow up with processes of the medical aid. Unfortunately there are processes that must be completed during service termination.”
GEPF had not responded to
e-mailed queries from the Dispatch at the time of writing.