By Irene Kalulu
The Insurance and PensionsCommission (IPEC) says that workers in the informal sector are in dire need of social security cover as they constitute the bulk of the labour force in the country. The informal sector, according to ZIMSTAT constitutes 94.5% of the labour force which is ahuge chunk of the population currently working without any kind of cover.
Social security is the protection which a society provides for its members through a series of public measures, against economic and social distress. This, in Zimbabwe is done through the National Social Security Authority (NSSA)where a percentage of a workers’ earnings is deducted monthly and this amount goes to a fund which they then have access to when they retire or when they fall sick depending on the type pf cover they would have opted for. It is a human right provided for in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the constitution of Zimbabwe compels the state to take measures to provide social security and social care to those who are in need.
Acting Chief Social Security Officer for NSSA Shepherd Muperi during the first breakfast meeting for the 2019 Insurance and Pensioners Journalist Mentorship Programmelast Friday, said that “without social security cover workers in the informal sector are vulnerable to poverty in the event of life contingencies like old age, death, sickness, access to health care, employment injury, unemployment and invalidity.” He went on to say that the overriding mandate of NSSA is to enhance the economic well-beingof members and their dependents. This, all in an effort to end poverty in line with Sustainable Development Goal number one which seeks to end poverty in all its forms everywhere through expanding social protection programsamongst other goals.
Over the years there have been outcries from members of the public with some workers claiming that they were failing to access their pensions after retirement. This can be attributed to unscrupulous companies that deduct funds from their employees on the pretext of remitting to NSSA whilst in actual fact they don’t. This was confirmed by IPEC Acting Commissioner of Insurance, Pension and Provident Funds. Blessmore Kazengura in a speech read on his behalf by his executive assistant Mr.Cuthbert Munjoma during the same meeting, saying that it was the workers duty to be vigilant and see to it that their employer was remitting to NSSA or else they would not get their pension benefits at retirement as NSSA would not have received them. Despite numerous challenges in accessing cash at banks due to the current economic environment and cash crisis resulting in old people standing in long queues trying to access their monthly pay-outs; there are numerous people who have benefitted from NSSA. Of particular mention is 72 year old Mrs. Banda whose husband died in 1999. After his death she was able to start a poultry business and was able to pay for her children’s’ education. Up till now she is still getting a small amount of from the pension fund. ‘I’m happy with the knowledge that I’m at least guaranteed that every month there is something for me at the bank,” she said.
Zimbabwe is signatory to the International Labour Organisation (ILO)Social Security Minimum Standards Convention of 1952, number 102 which calls for workers to have maternity benefit,sickness benefit,unemployment benefit, family benefit,medical care,old age benefit,invalidity benefit and survivor benefit.At the moment,NSSA only covers four of the branches of social security namelyold age,invalidity, employment injury and survivors benefits.