We are starving – NSSA pensioners petition Parliament over measly pay-outs

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By Anna Chibamu

NATIONAL Social Security Authority (NSSA) Pensioners Advocacy have demanded an immediate upward review of their monthly pay-outs saying they have been denied their right to life.

The pensioners receive a paltry US$50 monthly pay-out which is not enough to cover necessities.

In a petition to Parliament, the NSSA Pensioners Advocacy representatives told a Public Service Parliamentary Portfolio committee this Monday that they were suffering and needed urgent redress.

“We have no money to go to hospital, no money to buy food, no money even to get transport to the bank to get the little that is available at the end or beginning of the month,

“What we are faced with is in a sense, a national disaster because at the end of the day, while we are suffering like this, we have the youth, we have people that are working, that will have the same challenge when they go on pension unless something changes and change drastically,” NSSA Pensioners Advocacy representative Denford Mangwiro said.

Mangwiro further explained the recent meagre pay-outs that pensioners receive are not enough to cover healthcare services let alone their families.

“Pensioners are starving and their legal dependents are failing to access reasonable health services and their dependents are being chased away from school and failing to pay school fees which is contrary to Section 75 of the Constitution- the right to Education and Section 76, the Right to health care. Pensioners have been denied their right to decent accommodation too.”

He alleged that NSSA management was abusing the pension fund.

Mangwiro told the committee the allegations he alluded to were based on the Forensic Audits that exposed gross mismanagement of the funds.

However, Public Service Secretary Simon Masanga defended NSSA adding that the government pension insurer was not solely responsible for the pensioners’ predicament.

Masanga said NSSA was the only government entity which had been able to cover pensioners as most had collapsed.

“There have been many occupational pension funds and some have folded and at some parastatal where l used to be a board member, the pension fund is now nowhere to be seen.

“I am happy that NSSA continues to swim and we continue fighting for the situation to improve the pension payout,” Masanga told the Parliamentary committee.

NSSA acting general manager Charles Shava argued that NSSA, at one point, used to pay a minimum pension of up to US$100 saying the figure fell to around US$30 but was now growing back from between US$30 and US$40 a month to current figure of around US$50 a month.

“Our pensioners are demanding immediate pension relief, for the past two years, we have been revising our payouts from January 2022 to about September 2023 every month taking into account the inflation that was going on. We only review our payouts upwards once we feel we have enough resources,” Shava said.

Regarding complaints about its investments, Shava said these were very limited and a very low investment income which has now been pushed up to 15%.

“We respect the right to life of our pensioners but the scheme is not the main pension.

On the allegations of abuse of pension funds by management, Shava responded, “I can confirm that those allegations of abuse of NSSA contributions by management are taken very seriously.

“In cases where these have been proven, some people have been prosecuted and some have been jailed. Law enforcement agents have also done their part in investigating the allegations. We take a no-nonsense approach to corruption.”

NSSA has allegedly lost millions of USD due to corruption mainly involving former Cabinet ministers, and its top management in recent years.

NSSA was established in 1990 due to a gap in social security. Currently, NSSA is operating national social security schemes which are the Pension and other benefits schemes and the Accident and Prevention and Workmen’s Compensation scheme, a workers’ protection scheme.

Shava stated that NSSA was trying to address current challenges to make sure the pensioners get the benefit of their contributions.

“When the NSSA pension scheme was designed, it was done in such a way it would coexist with other pension schemes. It is not the ultimate pension.

“NSSA contributions are very small compared to other deductions on one’s pay slip. You can only get a NSSA pension if you already have an occupational pension which goes for 20 percent.

“We only deduct 9% as NSSA,  4,5% from the employer and the other half from the employee on the cap which is currently US$700. It is called a Partially Funded Pay As You Go Scheme; meaning we pay benefits from the amount we collect every month. We also pay our pensioners from investments’ income, meaning we can increase our payouts if we have a surplus,” Shava told the Parliamentary committee.