|Pensioners struggle to make ends meet|
|Tuesday, 26 February 2013 16:13|
Factmore DzoboMr Maposa Dokotela is a former National Railways of Zimbabwe employee. He is bitter that after dedicating 36 years of loyal service to NRZ until he retired in 1995, his retirement has become his worst nightmare.
“I am living at the expense of my children despite having worked all my active life and saving for my retirement. The money I am receiving as pension is useless and cannot buy anything. My entire life savings were gobbled up when the country switched over from the Zimbabwe dollar to the multi-currency system,” he said, wiping opaque beer froth off his mouth at Madlodlo Beer Garden, now virtually his second home.
He shares his predicament with countless other pensioners and retirees across the country. Some of them now spend most of their time downing opaque beer, and with it their sorrows at beer gardens. Others have come out of retirement to take up new, menial jobs as security guards, shop hands or informal traders. As their payouts are too little, pensioners have even stopped collecting them. The majority of them earn about $16 to $50 monthly.
Mr Nduna Luka Ndlovu, (66), a former clothing industry employee, who was promised $180 as his exit package after he had worked for 25 years, only received $40. He said at some point, he had to sell some of his small stock to raise money for transport from his rural home in Tsholotsho to Bulawayo. He did not get anything. He had no accommodation in Bulawayo, so he is staying with friends in Makokoba.
“I joined Rabica Clothing in 1978 and later joined Belmor Clothing in 2003 before it closed last year. I was not given anything for my 16 years of service with Rabica and the other nine years I spent with Belmor Clothing.
“I have been to the Clothing Industry Pension Fund several times, but I have been told different stories. At first I was told that all my benefits were eroded during the time of hyperinflation in 2008. Two years later, they promised me some of the converted money but to date nothing is forthcoming.
“It’s a sad scenario, right now I do not have money to go back to my rural area, and I am staying with a friend in Makokoba,” lamented Mr Ndlovu.
Mrs Sandile Dhliwayo of Number Two, Pelandaba, a widow, is letting her house and is staying at her rural home. She receives $25 as monthly pension from her late husband’s scheme at the National Social Security Authority (NSSA). She said she cannot even buy monthly groceries for her family or pay school fees for her children with the payment. She has since stopped collecting the cheques monthly, as the money she has to use for bus fare is much more than her pension.
Despite her sorry plight, Mrs Dhliwayo considers herself better off than other families, like Mr Simangala Sibanda’s who live on pensions. She says so because she, at least, has a rural home, unlike thousands of pensioners in the cities today who are living from hand to mouth, paying more on costly accommodation.
Mr Sibanda, who does not have a rural home, took an early retirement package in 2008, after working for 25 years at a local plastic manufacturing company.
He now regrets that move. His monthly pension of $15 from NSSA, which he says is a mockery, as he cannot even afford to pay city council rentals for his five-roomed house in New Lobengula. He also lamented that he cannot meet his medical expenses and dietary needs after he was recently diagnosed with ulcers and pneumonia.
“Life is now difficult. I am now surviving on letting my other three rooms and engaging in urban farming and vending,” he said.
Mr Mdala Mpofu of Old Magwegwe gets a monthly pension of $30 after having worked for the then Harris Port now National Foods for 36 years.
“When I retired in late 2008 I got a retirement package of Z$9 000 for all the years that I worked for the company and within a week it became manure as it lost its value due to hyperinflation. I failed to buy anything tangible with all the money that I saved for all my working years.
“The money was said to have been eroded by hyperinflation in the same year I retired. The switch from Zimbabwe dollar to the multi-currency system has greatly affected our pension contributions.
“What I am getting is not even enough to meet city council’s monthly rent and electricity bills. Ngiyadubeka mntanami (I am suffering),” he said.
The general socio-economic insecurity bedevilling pensioners has attracted interest from the working public, many of whom are dreading retirement.
Mr Joel Nyamunda worked for 36 years, but his pension was eroded by inflation at the time he retired in 2007.
He believes, considering the prevailing pension payouts, there is no point in one staying at one company for many years hoping for pension.
“Because of the high levels of uncertainty surrounding pensions, many employees no longer stay in the same job for too long.
“As a result many employees are now reluctant to rely on pensions, as was the case a few years back, when one would stay with one company for 10 years with a view to accumulating a sizeable pension.
“Pension is no longer an incentive to any employee who is serious about life,” he said.
Analysts criticise insurance and pension firms for paying little yet they used, and continue to use pensioners’ money to build multi-million dollar properties and other high-yielding investments.
“It is wrong for insurance companies to hide behind inflation to swindle the pensioners’ funds,” said economic consultant, Dr Eric Bloch.
“Insurance and pension firms have invested the pensioners’ money in several properties and they have made a lot of profits and they are still making some profits. They should increase the pensioners’ payouts commensurate with the current living standards. The pensioners should benefit from their contributions.”
Recently, Zimbabwe Pension and Insurance Rights Trust (ZimPIRT) general manager, Mr Martin Tarusenga said insurance companies were ignoring insurance policy contract terms, which is the reason why pensioners are suffering. He said his organisation was in the process of engaging lawyers to help its members’ claims to receive benefits commensurate with their contributions.
Mr Tarusenga added that they are going to appeal to the courts and the Insurance Pension Commission (IPEC) the regulator of pensions and insurance operations, for arbitration in the event that the insurance companies failed to abide by the practice, rules and regulations.