The National Social Security Authority (NSSA) has lamented the low enrolment in social security schemes or failure to access benefits by most workers when they become eligible.
NSSA, Zimbabwe’s largest pension fund, said this is due to a lack of knowledge among a lot of people in the country that social security is their right.
The NSSA Acting General Manager, Dr Charles Shava, who was speaking at the launch of the 2023 NSSA and Insurance and Pensions Commission (IPEC) Journalism Mentorship Programme, said improved media coverage of social security issues may stimulate an increase in the number of people covered by the authority’s social security schemes.
Dr. Shava believes that if the pensions business can better convey its products and services to the public, it will foster greater trust and confidence, resulting in increasing demand for insurance and pensions products.
“However due to mix and misconceptions about social security many individuals either failed to realise that social security is their rights, hence do not enroll in our skills or simply do not access their benefits when they become eligible,” said the acting general manager.
Zimbabwe’s insurance and pensions industry is grappling with low confidence due to the low values that policyholders and pensioners received after adoption of the multi-currency system in 2009.
Dr. Shava indicated that NSSA now covers only over 1.4 million Zimbabweans in its social security programmes, despite a total labour force of nearly 4. 4 million, as reported in the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency’s (ZimStat) third quarter labour force presentation for 2022.
“Hence working with the media as our partners, we can realize the importance of social protection in not only ending poverty and in all its forms but in promoting sustained inclusive and sustainable economic growth and promoting equality among citizens of a nation ,of this nation,” Dr Shava said.
Dr Shava said NSSA remains focused on becoming a world class provider of social security services by 2030 and was constantly working on various initiatives at improving the livelihoods of current members.
“This also includes extending social security coverage to currently excluded groups of workers. We are now regularly reviewing pension levels so as to cushion our pensioners against inflationary pressures and hence preserve the power of their pensions,” he said.
“Secondly, as part of our mandate we are focused on promoting occupational safety and health in the workplace through teach-ins as well as health and safety assessments.”
The Acting general manager noted NSSA has e also embarked on a number of initiatives aimed at improving the resilience of our pensioners .
“The include the following: A revolving fund to assist pensioners and beneficiaries who are interested in embarking on income generating projects, discounted groceries at selected retailers and we recently increased our footprint to other towns across the country. Zero bank charges for our pensioners at NBS and NBS banks. Medical outreaches with the NSSA mobile clinic,” he said.
“We have established a clinic for our pensioners in Harare and work is in progress to establish the same in all regions. Goat farming out grower programme that is based in Kwekwe and a model scheme in Bindura and Gwanda. Providing suitable housing for grossly disabled pensioners under the Accident Prevention and Workers Compensation Scheme.”
Whilst the mentorship programme is targeted at enhancing journalists’ appreciation of the insurance industry, Dr Shave believes the benefits would extend beyond the journalists themselves.
“For instance, this programme will promote transparency and accountability in the insurance and pensions industry. It will encourage insurers and pension providers to be more forthcoming with information about their products, processes, and practices,” said the acting GM.
“This increased transparency will empower and benefit the consumers of insurance and pensions products. Through accurate and informative reporting by journalists, consumers will have a better understanding of the industry, enabling them to make informed decisions about the insurance products they purchase.”
Weighing on the matter, Labour Caucus in Politics (LCP) National Coordinator, Mandla Sibanda noted people lacked confidence in social security schemes because social security nets have failed not only in terms of successive pension loss of value but general decay of health and social services.
“Zimbabwean workers and citizens have undergone decades of suffering during the colonial, post independence and the post 2017 coup period in which incomes and pensions have successively been lost,” Sibanda said.
Nqgabutho Nicholas Mabhena, a socialist analyst who believes that all citizens must equally share economic resources, concurred it was not surprising there was low uptake on social security schemes because people had not forgotten that their savings and pension contributions had been eroded at the height of Zimbabwe’s dollarisation in 2009.
“The insurance and pensions industry, which is part of the financial sector, plays an important role in making sustainable growth by mobilising savings, directing funds into productive sectors, managing risks, allocating resources efficiently, and facilitating the delivery of products and services. However, in Zimbabwe, this rarely occurs due to mismanagement of how the financial sector operates, which scares most people away from investing,” he said.