THE collapse of social security nets as a result of the decade-long socio-political crisis has worsened the plight of underprivileged people who are wallowing in poverty, and has also exposed government’s maladministration, analysts have said.
Most social safety nets, among them pensions, medical aid and educational grants, are of no benefit to the majority of people due to the declining economy characterised by hyperinflation and partial dollarisation.
Lloyd Sachikonye, a former professor at the University of Zimbabwe’s Institute for Development Studies, said the collapse of the safety nets was a result of poor governance, although government insisted that sanctions imposed by the United States, Britain and its Western allies were to blame.
Sachikonye argued: “There are no sanctions on social services and wages. The collapse of the social security is an issue caused by an economic crisis as a result of poor governance. The national social security agencies have not performed up to expectations while the Zimbabwe government’s polices have failed to deliver.”
He said wages and salaries have been eroded significantly due to the deepening economic crisis.
“Most people’s take home pay is less than or equivalent to US$1 and this means that they cannot make ends meet on salaries.
Those who would have worked for 20 years or more cannot be pensioned off because of the hyperinflation.
The security is gone. Medical aid cover has also been affected and the ordinary person is left with no access to hospital, treatment and drugs,” Sachikonye said.
He said Zimbabweans no longer have food security because production has declined over the past seven years and to date over five million people were in dire need of food.
“Half of the population has no food security except access to food aid which is very limited,” Sachikonye, the author of several books on social development, said.
After Independence, government pledged to protect orphans, old people, the disabled, and the unfortunate in life by providing food, shelter, clothing, security and emotional care.
It implemented policies meant to alleviate poverty through the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare and other institutions. Â
The Social Welfare ministry, which used to be consistent in paying school fees for a number of children as well as provide assistance to the needy, has for the past few years failed to deliver.
Government introduced the Basic Education Assistance Module (Beam) and college students used to get loans and grants. Informal social security schemes like Zunde Ramambo (chief’s granary) and burial societies, which were most common in high density and rural areas, were also supported by the Social Welfare ministry.
The government also had the Enhanced Social Protection Project, which included Public Works, Children in Especially Difficult Circumstances, Essential Drugs and Medical Supplies, and the development of a longer-term Social Protection Strategy to assist the underprivileged.
According to a proposed economic recovery package drawn up last September, government said it was assisting 613 000 food insecure households through the public works programme.
The assistance was in the form of cash that enabled the households to purchase grain from the Grain Marketing Board and other essentials such as cooking oil.
However, most of these policies and schemes have been abandoned and analysts have blamed the government for failing to ensure an enabling environment for economic activity, appropriate education, health care and social security as a final safety net for the downtrodden.
A social commentator who asked for anonymity said the government has failed to provide services for its people so that they have emotional support or moral guidance as some of the services have become too expensive or simply do not exist any more.
He said: “The unemployment rate which is currently more than 80% and the high inflation rate have deprived most families of the means to support themselves. Private security systems such as insurance and pensions no longer fulfill their expected functions. Health insurance is too expensive and requires unaffordable payments for most procedures.”
He said life insurance, funeral insurance and education plans that were once efficient were no longer viable.
“The runaway inflation has destroyed the benefits of such insurance schemes, so that a life insurance policy designed to keep a family for months, if not years, after the death of a bread-winner doesn’t even pay for the funeral.”
He said the government shot itself in the foot due to its weak polices and should not blame sanctions.
The National Social Security Authority scheme, incepted as a compulsory pension scheme for workers, has been rendered useless by the economic situation.
Their motto “taking care of tomorrow today” has turned out to be an advertising gimmick with no substance. President of the Insurance Institute of Zimbabwe Edwin Moyo last year said the insurance sector had shrunk by 60% in the last five years because most people could no longer afford premiums.
He said cash collection was a big challenge and insurance companies had initially reduced the credit period from brokers to 30 days from 60, and to reinsurance firms from 45 days to 15.
The payment was scrapped due to economic challenges and strict cash collection policies were enforced.
Moyo said: “Individuals are only taking out motor cover insurance, and that’s only because the law requires that of them.”
BY WONGAI ZHANGAZHA