Saturday, 2 November 2019

URBAN POOR TO GET HANDOUTS : PENSION PAYOUTS INCREASED


THE National Social Security Authority (Nssa) has approved a pension payout of more than 200 percent that will be paid this month but backdated to October, Sunday News has established.

According to a notice from the authority gleaned by Sunday News, pensioners will now receive a minimum monthly payout of $240 up from $80 while the maximum payout has been increased to $6 041,97 from $2 013.99. According to the schedule, a pensioner’s widow/er will now receive a minimum $159,99 from $53,33. The maximum payout in the category has been increased from $1 498 to $4 494.

Although Nssa could not readily confirm the adjustments, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, Mr Simon Masanga, confirmed the increase but referred questions to the Minister, Dr Sekai Nzenza.

“They are being revised upwards but the minister will give you more details in regards to that. They are revised as from October 2019 but effective from November. Nssa on the other hand has been sensitive to the plight of the pensioners and they will get an increment,” he said.

Dr Nzenza also confirmed the increase but said it was awaiting approval from the Treasury.

“I am currently reviewing the board proposal for pension’s increments. I will then consult Treasury. I am positive that we will have an increase in Nssa pensions before end of the month,” she said.

The schedule viewed by Sunday News, also showed that dependants’ payouts will be increased from a minimum allowance of $17 to $51 while the children’s allowance has been increased from $15 to $45. Constant Attendant Allowance will be 80 percent of minimum pension. Nonetheless, despite the 200 percent increase, the lower end of payouts still remain significantly low for pensioners due to continued increase of prices of basic commodities. Before the increase some of the pensioners had stopped travelling to towns to access the money because it was no longer enough even to cover for transport costs. Meanwhile, as part of continuously cushioning the aged and vulnerable members of the community, the Government has stepped up efforts to increase food distribution in urban areas. Last week, Sunday News witnessed food distribution in Mahatshula, Bulawayo where people were given 50 kilogrammes of maize. The programme is being spearheaded by the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare. Initially such programmes were targeting rural people but the Government discovered that thousands of people were food insecure in urban areas. 

Dr Nzenza said that the programme was targeting a total of 25 237 beneficiary households collectively, disaggregated as 12 968 and 12 269 beneficiaries in Bulawayo and Harare, respectively. Priority, she added, is being given to high-density suburbs that have a “high concentration of poverty” according to the country’s poverty map. Government childcare workers are identifying vulnerable children from vulnerable households in schools.

Residents of Mahatshula South told Sunday News that they were appreciative of the efforts by the Government.

“We are grateful to the Government to help us at a time when most people are suffering due to price increases. The maize meal is there but it is very expensive and this maize will go a long way in helping me and my family,” said Mr Luke Ndlovu, a beneficiary of the programme.

Another beneficiary, Mrs Loice Nyathi, however, said there was a need to monitor the exercise as there were some allegations of corruption.

“We applaud this initiative but what we also discovered is that we have seen some people who are not from this suburb receiving the maize while intended beneficiaries who are registered are failing to access it. Everyone needs the maize so officials must be transparent,” she said.

President Mnangagwa has assured the nation that no one will starve and the Government will continue to import maize to ensure that people have access to the staple food.
  
Meanwhile, the Sunday Mail also reports that more than 60 000 households living below the poverty line countrywide will start receiving cash payments this month to cushion them against the rising cost of living, while targeted communities in urban areas have also begun receiving grain supplies to make them food-secure. Payouts amounting to $40 million were set to begin in September but the need to register beneficiaries on EcoCash, the flagship mobile money service of Cassava Smartech, which won the tender to make the disbursements, delayed the disbursements.

The cash transfers — administered through the harmonised social cash transfer programme (HSCT) — had been discontinued in 2016 owing to cash shortages. Government then took a decision to make disbursements through electronic platforms.

Dr  Nzenza also said  that the electronic cash payments would help ease the burden faced by vulnerable families.

 “As a means to complement the urban feeding programme, during the month of November, Government is also going to scale up the cash transfer programme by necessitating a migration to the electronic payment system through beneficiary registration on the EcoCash platform,” Minister Nzenza said.

The facility especially targets families that do not have able-bodied members capable of gainfully working. Latest figures from the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (Zimstat) indicate that the poverty datum line for a household of five people rose to $2 192 in September from $1 827 in August. Sunday Mail

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