WHEN the Zimbabwean government established the National Social Security Authority (Nssa) in terms of the Nssa Act of 1989 [Chapter 17: 04], to provide social security, it was widely thought it would protect workers against vulnerabilities, risks, and deprivation in times of need.
The provision of social security is a public policy measure intended to protect an individual in life situations or conditions in which his or her livelihood and well-being may be threatened by sickness, workplace injuries, unemployment, old age, retirement and death.
It is based on the principle of social solidarity and pooling of resources and risks, involving drawing of savings from periods of employment, earnings and good health to provide for periods of unemployment, old age, invalidity and death.
At the moment Nssa is administering two schemes: Pension and Other Benefits Scheme and Accident Prevention and Workers’ Compensation Scheme, although, in an endeavour to provide a more comprehensive social security package for the Zimbabwean society, groundwork for the introduction of more schemes is underway. Instead of being famous for protection of citizens against vulnerabilities, risks, and deprivation in times of need, Nssa has become notorious for corruption and waste of pensioners’ funds.
Nssa is always lurching from one corruption scandal to the other. Only this week, Nssa general manager Arthur Manase — who is the boss — was put on leave of absence to facilitate a “comprehensive investigation” into corruption allegations at the organisation. Director of occupation safety and health Charles Shava has been appointed interim general manager.
A number of top executives have recently been removed and some suspended at the institution. This came amid revelations of a scandal in which Nssa executives are accused of looting millions of dollars in hefty loans, allowances and benefits from underpaid pensioners living in abject poverty.
Detailed social media leaks on Nssa, for instance, recently said Manase had received a US$750 000 housing loan and was continuing to get a monthly US$2 500 housing allowance to service the loan despite the fact that he already owns a home.
A fleet of luxury vehicles was allocated to him. Top executives got loans ranging from US$60 000 to US$100 000 and top-of-therange vehicles. The Nssa board, which pays its members hefty allowances including exorbitant school fees and US$15 000 yearly holiday allowances, was recently entangled in a storm over wasting pensioners’ funds after it went on a holiday-like strategy meeting in Mombasa, Kenya, which was also exposed in the recent social media leaks.
The Mombasa retreat is now widely referred to as the “Kenyan trip of shame”. One Nssa executive, Prudence Mutsvangwa, got a housing loan for US$500 000 and an-other one for US$100 000 to buy a car for her husband, while pensioners receive a pittance, the leaks say.
While pensioners with more than 20 years of service are paid a pittance ranging from ZW$14 025 to ZW$34 000, the leaks say Nssa directors and former directors are reportedly paid yearly holiday allowances of US$15 000 per person, as well as high school fees allowances running into millions of United States dollars per year. The leaks also say Manase appointed a number of his cronies to key positions at Nssa, mostly in acting capacities, and in different companies where the institution has investments to establish a patronage network to consolidate his position and control the organisation.
The names of officials that Manase has removed, forced out and appointed in acting and substantive capacities are provided in the leaks.
There are also several tender scandals at issue, including the Dzivaresekwa Housing Scheme and happenings at the Nssa-owned National Building Society (NBS) where corruption was exposed by The NewsHawks last year.
Acting NBS managing director John Mapiye was forced out last year for resisting the Dzivaresekwa tender scam. Mapiye resigned in November last year after being victimised by Nssa executives and the bank’s board. Public Service minister Paul Mavima, who is accused of protecting Manase, has said investigations are underway at Nssa amid allegations of mismanagement and corruption in critical departments that include audit, finance, investments, procurement and property.
“There have been several social media postings and articles with allegations and counter allegations on what is going on at the National Social Security Authority,” Mavima said.
“I wish to assure all our stakeholders and the general public that and indeed the entire Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare are concerned with these allegations.
“I have immediately tasked the board of Nssa to fully investigate all matters that have been raised and take appropriate and decisive action where wrongdoing is detected. But above all, we want Nssa to get back on track and resume the impressive turn-around trajectory the authority had planted.”
The Zimbabwe Anti-corruption Commission has been camped at Nssa for the probe, as first reported by The NewsHawks recently.
Furthermore, the Corporate Governance Unit within the Office of the President and Cabinet and the National Economic Conduct Inspectorate in the ministry of Finance have also been dealing with Nssa issues. Until his suspension, Manase was reportedly being protected by Mavima.
The minister actually blocked his initial suspension some weeks ago until he relented under pressure from the Office of the President and Cabinet, and his own permanent secretary. President Emmerson Mnangagwa recently highlighted the problem of corruption at Nssa.
Due to all these things, Nssa is now synonymous with stealing from the poor to give to the rich. In the process, it has abandoned its core mandate of protecting citizens against economic uncertainties and misfortunes through social insurance and security.
Zimbabwe has experienced several economic challenges that robbed social security recipients of their social security entitlements and these people did not have any legal recourse against their service providers.
The country experienced macro-economic instability between 1998 and 2008, which reached hyperinflationary levels of 231 000 000% by 2008, resulting in citizens losing life savings in terms of insurance policies and retirement pension benefits. Social security recipients blamed the government for failing to provide policy and regulatory guidance to the insurance and pension industry at the time of conversion, during inflation and when local currency was debased in 2006, 2008, and 2009, resulting in its demonitisation.
As a result, citizens who could no longer fend for themselves and their dependents due to old age or any other form of incapacitation were exposed to socio-economic challenges. One study found out that the government was blamed for failing in its obligation to protect citizens as enshrined in the national constitution which recognises the need for the state to extend social security to citizens.
The constitution requires the state “to take all practical measures, within the limits of the re-sources available to it, to provide social security and social care to those in need”.
The social security savings that were lost included investments in pension funds and shares of publicly quoted companies. Generally, there was a systematic downward movement in values of retirement benefits which pensioners could receive when they re-tired.
This largely volatile and unstable economic environment that was experienced in Zimbabwe from 1980 required that the country undertake a complete shift in order to develop an efficient system to achieve viability of social security schemes, build confidence in society, and improve the social security governance system, the study said.
In the end, Nssa has become a tragic case of stealing from the poor and lavishing the rich.