Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

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Pensioners cry foul

Pensioners cry foul

Pensioners on Friday lashed out at pension funds accusing them of enriching themselves using their hard earned funds while they lived paupers’ lives. Scores of pensioners who turned up for the first public hearing by the commission of inquiry set up to investigate conversion of pensions from the decommissioned Zimbabwe dollar to the United States dollar told heart wrenching tales of how they were “duped’ by pension funds and were failing to make ends meet after years of faithful service to various companies. Stories were told of how pension funds promised them a good life after retiring only to be left to suffer at a time when, after retiring, they need their money the most.

Zimbabwe dumped its inflation ravaged local currency in favour of a basket of multi-currencies including the United States dollar in 2009. Pensioners and insurance policy holders felt the institutions meant to take care of them in twilight of their lives short changed them at the conversions from Zimbabwe dollar to the green back.

Pensioners told the commission, led by Retired Justice George Smith, that they had received ridiculously low pension lump sums at time of retirement while the monthly pay-outs they were getting were nothing to write home about. “When I retired I was told by my pension fund I would get a lump sum of $911 and $1,19c per month,” said one Henry Munjanja, a former bank worker.

“These officials never explain anything to you and they throw too many technicalities at you that you end up confused.” After conversion in early 2009, pensioners told the commission they went for more than six months without getting a dime from the pension funds and when they finally did, there were no explanations offered on the rate that had been used to convert their funds to the US dollar. One pensioner said the “lump sum” he was given at retirement was only enough to buy him a four plate stove after over 20 years of contributing to a pension fund.

A representative of the Zimbabwe Federation of Trade Unions said most pension funds had rushed to acquire properties when Zimbabwe dollarised. “We cannot allow a situation where assets bought using other people’s money are being used for the benefit of others while the owners of that money are suffering,” the official said.

The pensioners attacked most private pension funds, which they said must be thoroughly audited and some closed as their operations were not benefiting members at all. Most of the criticism was levelled against insurance giant, Old Mutual. The retirees, however, reservedly lauded National Social Security Authority (NSSA) for being a “better devil” in terms of its treatment of pensioners and pay outs.

“NSSA was established way after the Mining Industry Pension Fund but the little they are offering pensioners is way better than what we are being given by MIPF,” said a retired miner. NSSA is currently paying out $60 per month to pensioners. Commissioner Brains Muchemwa told the pensioners that the information they had submitted would be used when the commission comes up with its recommendations after completing its investigations.

The commission, which has nine months to complete its work, will be holding public hearings across the country until December 3. At the end of its tenure, it is expected to produce a report that will be handed to President Mugabe with findings on whether pensioners and insurance holders were prejudiced at the adoption of multi-currencies. – New Ziana.


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