'Political will vital for Sadc'

HARARE - Political will can significantly turn around southern Africa’s narrow social protection framework, which has left the majority of its people unable to contribute to national development, social security experts have said.

George Mpedi, University of Johannesburg (UJ) Faculty of Law Vice Dean said Sadc, with its rich resource base, has greater room to manoeuvre and change its narrow scope of social protection which has made it a bad example.

“The problem in the Sadc region is that social protection systems are either un-developed or under developed. You find systems where not all branches of social security are covered,” said Mpedi on the sidelines of a Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) journalists’ summer academy in Johannesburg last week.

Mpedi added that: “Unemployment is one of the schemes that are widely not covered in Sadc and in some instance we see a lack of political will in the extension of social security coverage where people hide behind the lack of sufficient resources.

“But that is not the point, the issue is that you need political will and the intention to progressively extend social security coverage. You do not have to provide to everyone but you can do it progressively but a lot has been happening in the Sadc region,” he said.

In Zimbabwe, an estimated 80 percent of the citizens are not employed while at least 6 out of every 10 households are living in abject poverty, a report by Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency recently revealed.

The elderly and children are littering the country’s cities as government and communities fail to provide for the weak.

According to the experts, the situation is synonymous in many Sadc countries.

Mpedi said if the region re-aligns its priorities, nip corruption in the bud, then it would be able to guarantee the right of its poor millions to a dignified existence.

“We need to concede more bilateral and multi-lateral issues of social security. I think we need political will, resources will always be an issue, but how can you make use of the little that you have to start improving people’s lives, he said.

He went on to say; “If we invest a lot of money in arms, we might as well invest money in people’s lives by providing for poverty alleviation measures. If we build unnecessary buildings, if there is corruption and fraud and wasteful expenditure then really ask yourself that should not government have used this in a more meaningful way. Resources are an issue but it’s a matter of prioritisation and progressive extending coverage to the marginalised.”

Post-doctoral research fellow at UJ Faculty of law Mathias Nyenti said social security in the Sadc region, is still largely for formally employed people while the risks covered are still very narrow.

“We need to grow the economy, the more the economy grows, then more and more people would be able to contribute taxes. Then those who are not working will be in the minority and resources by government will be used to cater for those,” Nyenti said.

Range of risks covered include; retirement, public service pensions, limited maternity and worker’s compensation.

Comments (3)

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GALLERYCARTRIDGES - 31 March 2014

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Sinikiwe Shumba - 1 April 2014

You have hit the nail on the head Mr Mpedi. Our leaders lack that sense of priority. Some of the things they wish for are beyond the priorities of the suffering masses. For instance, A minister wishing the government to buy him/her an expensive latest 4 x 4 land cruiser whilst the poor masses are failing to get transport to GMB due to poor roads. Where is our priority ?

ndizvo - 1 April 2014

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