Spare a thought for the poor pensioners

HARARE - The recent announcement by National Social Security Authority (Nssa) that it will from this month not pay close to 19 000 pensioners who have failed to register with the Nssa biometric system will for sure be condemning the already poverty-stricken elderly to destitution.

While it is good to introduce the biometric system so as to uproot ghost pensioners, Nssa should make sure all the deserving pensioners get their pensions.

The institution has its own internal investigators who should be able to establish why such a large number of pensioners have failed to register and there could be compelling reasons as to why.

The majority of these pensioners are domiciled in remote rural villages where information is so scarce and this development might be news to them.

It is my humble hope that Nssa carried an awareness campaign that not only targeted those who have access to radios or newspapers, but that it went overdrive to even alert, through the banks, which these pensioners access their pensions through, of the pending biometric registration.

The majority of those who receive these pensions are old, some cannot travel distances and without mobile registration in districts and wards, they would not be able to travel to the city for the exercise.

For other pensioners, travelling to the city costs them and without cash in banks, there is nowhere they can afford to raise bus fares at all.

Some of those receiving these pensions are widows while others are guardians of orphaned homes and for Nssa to just cut off their only form of livelihoods would be grossly unfair.

While NSSA has the right to introduce this new system — exploiting advantages presented by new technology — the biometric registration should not disadvantage those who genuinely failed to register and a second exercise should be rolled out while they still get their pensions.

Nssa, in conjunction with organisations like the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) and all banks should mount a massive inclusive awareness campaign.

Biometric registration centres should be set up within the possible reach of pensioners, most of whom cannot walk long distances.

As pointed out by ZCTU, Nssa must bear in mind that some of these people live in remote areas and might have no access to the media and therefore might not have heard about the

Nssa deadline to register under the system.

With the current shortages of cash, it is possible that some did not have bus fare to travel to registration centres.

And Nssa has to take into account ZCTU’s concern that this biometric registration deadline is not governed by law and therefore Nssa must make sure that all eligible pensioners are registered and continue to access their payouts.

It is prudent then that the ZCTU calls upon Nssa to reconsider its position and make sure that those who have not registered continue to receive their payouts while the registration process continues. Nssa must make every effort to ensure everyone is registered.

The good news is that those who have not registered yet are still allowed to do so although as of now they will not be getting their money.

Social Welfare minister Prisca Mupfumira is on record saying: “The biometric registration of current pensioners is ending on September 30. Any new contributors will, however, be allowed to register, but when it comes to payment of pension, only those vetted will benefit. We are encouraging all those genuine pensioners, who are yet to register, to visit our respective centres and register.

“From October 1, Nssa will increase pension payouts based on people who will be registered. Nssa had outreach programmes and teams that were moving around registering deserving beneficiaries. We want to move away from paying deceased people or non-existing people. Come the 30th of September, they will not receive any benefits if they are not registered biometrically. They might not be aware, ghosts or could have been double-counted.”

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