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The Plight Of Pensioners Amidst Covid & Financial Policy Inconsistency

Tariro Guwira

Mutare- With the Statutory Instrument of Pension and Provident Funds Regulations of 1991. (S.I. No. 323 of 1991). a little hope was brought to laid-off workers who are experiencing massive and intense suffering from the National Social Security Authority (NSSA) pensions funds which they are supposed to collect monthly from local banks.

Due to lack of transparency and accountability NSSA is failing to account for millions of dollars, which has led to the arrest of former minister Prisca Mupfumira, while beneficiaries are getting less than ZWL $1000 (USD 10.00) a month.

Yesterday, It was windy with small clouds visibly seen scudding in the blue sky in Mutare, Zimbabwe’s fourth largest city and a grandmother of twelve, Josephine Duri (83) was seated on the pavement of a local bank waiting for the security guard to instruct the elderly to enter the banking hall after she’d slept at the pavement on the previous night.

In An interview with Duri, as she lament over the small amount of money given it was her second day sleeping in the city of Mutare’s pavements waiting for her pay cheque while she looked tired and hungry with no hope of getting served as it was way after lunch with banks closing at 3pm.

“Yesterday i slept in the alley in a bid to get the first spot today and i am not sure if l will be able to get my money today” She said.

Duri among other elderly people travels to Mutare every month to collect her $600 (USD6.50) pension which is not even enough to cover her day to day expenses.

“My two way transport tickets cost about $840 (USD9) which is far below the money I want to collect from the bank,” she added.

Getting old as a course of nature, the elderly have succumbed to chronic diseases and Post On Sunday captured another male adult, Josphat Marume, who was seen queuing at the bank to check his bank balance after having walked all the way from Chikanga with his crutches.

“The money is not enough to buy my medication, I am Blood Pressure patient and prices of pills are pegged in US dollars” Said Marume.

Zimbabwe is experiencing its worst economic crisis in decades with hyperinflation, high unemployment rate and shortages of basic commodities including electricity and fuel and Inflation rate has surpassed an annual of 800 percent as of July this year, according to the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency.

John Mangudya, Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) governor in his mid-term monetary policy in August scrapped the payment of salaries and wages through bulk payments and mobile money agents as part of measures to curb illicit transactions.

Pensioners who were receiving their pensions straight from the National Social Security Authority (NSSA) via mobile money will have to go to the bank to collect in person after submitting bank details to NSSA.

With travel restrictions imposed by the President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration to curb the spread of the global Coronavirus pandemic, some pensioners are stuck in their homes failing to collect their NSSA payments from their nearest banks even to open an account.

It has come to light that pension funds are no longer being done through mobile money platforms and until they submit bank account details.

Economist, Luckmore Chivandire, said “the timing of the RBZ directive is wrong considering the current restrictive travel bans, this directive has no place in the 21st century because it militates against the tenets of financial inclusion,”

He further highlighted that pensioners’ pensions had been eroded forcing many to wallow in abject poverty.

Insurance, Pension and Provident Funds commissioner, Grace Muradzikwa speaking at a virtual launch of the Insurance and Pensioners Commission and NSSA, Insurance and Pensions journalists mentorship 2020 programme said due to low uptake of insurance products-a recent Baseline Survey revealed that only 34 percent of the population in Zimbabwe have insurance of some sort, 76 percent of which are in respect of funeral assurance policies.

“Many potential pensioners have lost confidence mainly owing to loss of value as a result of hyper-inflationary. The period 2009 and 2019 resulted in loss of value for the insurance and pensions industry following the conversion from the Zim dollar to the USD and vice versa respectively,” she said.

Arthur Manase, NSSA acting general manager, speaking at the same meeting said they were working tirelessly to make sure that no one falls into abject poverty.

“We are keen in offering safety and security to avoid poverty at all levels and making sure that everyone is covered,”said Manase.

Few words from elderly woman from Mutare, Josphen Duri she said “The money is not enough for my grandchildren and I. Prices are going up on a daily basis and it is becoming hard to make ends meet as we survive on hand to mouth”