By Prince Njagu
National Social Security Authority (NSSA) pension scheme ceilings on insurable earnings are hampering growth on individual earnings after retirement as funds obtained after retirement are not self-sustaining for retirees.
NSSA is supposed to be a safety net for pensioners but the monthly earnings being offered cannot sustain the life of a single beneficiary.
“The monthly earnings are an insult to a person who would have dedicated his youthful years working for the government”, said Tinotenda Chapanduka a NSSA pension beneficiary.
The US$60 which the pensioners are getting is below the poverty-datum-line and for most pensioners living in remote areas they can only access the money through banks which are in major towns and cities.
“After retiring I went to stay in Mudzi and for me to access my funds I have to travel to Harare were I have access to my bank…this means that I spend most of the money on transport and sometimes I get to the bank and the funds will not have been deposited into my account”, he added.
Pension funds have no exact date on which they are deposited into individual bank accounts and according to one pensioner the funds are deposited into their accounts sometimes during the beginning of each month, with no exact date being set.
Efforts to contact NSSA were in vain as the contact person was out of reach.
NSSA has a role of instituting public policy measures which protect an individual in life situations or after retirement and death; but the authority is giving pensioners insignificant figures as benefits for their service to the nation.
After spending their youthful years working in the public service; rendering the nation with the much needed work-force; the elderly retirees battle for survival in a fast dwindling economy.
The elderly men and women have to scrape for a living from a monthly retirement pension earnings of less than USD$60 as the other amount is collected as bank charges.
A pension expert within NSSA said, “Ceiling on insurable earnings has limited the growth of NSSA pensions and the currently pegged $200 insurable earnings means that the majority of pensioners get a monthly pension equal to $50 but if there was no insurable earnings ceiling; pensioners would get as much as $500”.
NSSA being a corporate body tasked by the Government to provide social security it has a duty to see to it that the citizenry are well looked after when they retire.
But how can NSSA be said to be providing social security when the elderly pensioners are getting a paltry US$60 as pension benefits.
“The figure which pensioners are getting is so absurd… one cannot even pay monthly rental charges with this money,” said the pensioners expert.
He indicated that the formula used in the calculation of a pensioner’s insurable earnings on retirement should be relooked into and the laid down accrual factor of 1,333 percent readjusted so that pensioners can get monthly earnings which are within the minimum monthly living wage.
The elderly men and women who are too frail even to support the weight of their bodies have to try and fend for themselves as they will be having no other source of income.
“When the economy was stable I didn’t bother much about the pension funds but now I am too old to engage in any informal business I am dependent on these funds but they are not adequate…I don’t see the reason for making these contributions towards the pension funds since the monthly benefits are so little’, said Gogo Chenai Chimutanda.
Pension benefits are meant to support and sustain the life of a retiree after having served the nation but in Zimbabwe pensioners’ are living in misery and the government through NSSA is doing little to address this issue.
“The pension benefits are so little and they are doing no good at all; especially with the current economic challenges in the country,” she added.
Life has not been so kind for these pensioners and these elderly people have endured the pains of a painful youth in the public service and are still suffering even at retirement.
As stated in the constitution of Zimbabwe; people over the age of seventy years have the right— to receive reasonable care and assistance from their families and the State; to receive health care and medical assistance from the State; and to receive financial support by way of social security and welfare; so as to achieve the progressive realization of this right.
So it is the duty of the State through NSSA to see towards the welfare of pensioners and other senior citizen in the country.
Rules governing NSSA and calculation of NSSA pensions are defined in the NSSA Act Chapter 17.04 of 1989 and the regulations are contained in Statutory Instrument 393 of 1993.
The government should re-look into the governing rules in as far as calculations of pensions and monthly individual earnings; since NSSA is supposed to be a benefit scheme for those that would have served the nation.