An octogenarian who served five years had a nasty surprise when he was told that he could not claim his old age pension money that he thought was accruing whilst he was in prison. Government policy dictates that one loses the privilege once convicted.
“I was devastated to hear that I could not claim the pension money because of the conviction which landed me in jail,” said the grey head who asked to remain anonymous. “By going to prison, I thought I was being punished. Now it seems I am being punished again by being denied my pension money that I have always thought belonged to me and would be able to claim it when released from jail.”
The devastating news was relayed to him at his home village of Mochudi after he was released from jail. After his release from prison in August last year, he went to Mochudi to claim his pension for the month of September. After being told that he could no longer receive the money, he went from one office to the other in the Department but was always told the same story that it was government policy that one loses old age pension when convicted and jailed.
However, a Gaborone lawyer, Joar Salbany, concurs with Motswedi that it is unfair that such prisoners are not paid their pension.
Salbany said withholding pension money from a deserving pensioner because he had been convicted and jailed is unfair and can be successfully challenged in Court just as happened with public servants who have in the past successfully challenged the legality of denying convicted people their gratuities.
”In my view, this case is similar to the public servants’ case and I have no doubt if challenged in Court those concerned would win.”
Ombudsman Lepodisi declined to comment on the matter and said that the appropriate person to comment on this matter would be the Attorney General as she is the one charged with advising government on legal issues. ”I think it will be better if you talked to the Attorney general,” Lepodisi advised.
Efforts to speak to the Attorney General Athalia Molokomme were futile as she is reported to be in the USA on official duties.
Besides the reluctance by government to continue paying out pension money to convicted and jailed pensioners, prisoners serving less than six months and those on remand are still not being allowed to vote despite a recommendation made by former Ombudsman Lithebe Maine that they should be helped to vote.