We usually get US$20 – say pensioners on NSSA’s US$29 bonus payments for Christmas, New Year 

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By Leopold Munhende | Chief Correspondent

PENSIONERS received US$20 and ZW$92,000 from the National Social Security Authority (NSSA) in November last year as their thirteenth check, has been told.

ZW$92,000 translates to US$9.20 on the more popular black market and US$15 using government-regulated inter-bank rate to total US$35.

NSSA usually inverts payments between months, alternating payments in the local and valueless currency with US$20 payments.

For November, the measly amount was an upward payment, which pensioners said was insignificant considering Zimbabwe’s galloping inflation.

“We usually get US$20 per month or ZW$92,000. NSSA alternates payments in US dollars and the local currency.

“We got our yearly bonuses from NSSA last December comprising of US$20 and ZW$92,000 to make it just about US$29 on the black market.

“No one can go through a month on that amount, no matter how much you try to save. There is little we can do about it.

“This money is only meant for me to buy my electricity (voucher), a bit of food and hope for the best,” said a pensioner who requested anonymity.

With Zimbabwe’s food basket hitting US$250 by August last year, pensioners and their dependents are some of the country’s poorest.

An equally unpredictable economic climate, rampant inflation including for goods priced in the American dollar and general profiteering highlighted by the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe (CCZ) have all contributed to making their survival hard.

CCZ noted that shops were deliberately hiking prices over the festive season, which consequentially shrunk pensioners’ already meagre income.

“In some shops, a 250g packet of value bacon with a shelf price of US$3.00 becomes US$4.85 at the till, if paid for in RTGS, and 4,5kg chicken cuts marked at US$16.50 becomes US$25.00, paid at the prevailing interbank rate,” CCZ Executive Director Rosemary Mpofu said.

Zimbabwe has some of the most underpaid professionals in the world, with average monthly salaries not exceeding US$500 while the government is still battling a two-decade-long economic meltdown that has it on its knees.