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It’s deja vu for Zimbabwe pensioners as savings vanish yet again

As the country’s economy spirals.
Many pensioners have had to sell their assets, take in lodgers or depend on remittances from their children, who’ve emigrated to find work. Image: Bloomberg

As hundreds of pensioners line up outside a bank in central Harare in the hope of collecting their pensions, military veteran Elias Nyabunzi has a sense of deja vu.

If there is cash available, he will collect the equivalent of just $26, down from the $400 he was getting a few months back. A decade ago when he went to collect the lump sum he was also entitled to after 25 years in the army he was given just $1. The rest had been eaten away by hyperinflation, he was told.

Read: Zimbabwe state employees are too poor to go to work, union says

Zimbabwe: Heading backwards again and fast

“It buys nothing,” the 62 year-old says of the pension as he stands under a purple blossomed jacaranda tree wearing a faded England track suit.

Pensioners in Zimbabwe, who are estimated to number about 500 000, are among the hardest hit in an economy that’s stagnated for almost 20 years, a result of a botched land reform programme and a profligate central bank printing press. Abrupt changes in the currency system have wiped out savings twice in a decade and, according to the government, the economy has halved in size. While pensioners have little choice, in total about a quarter of the population of 16 million has left.

This June the authorities suddenly banned the use of foreign currencies and reintroduced the Zimbabwe dollar, which has since plunged almost 60% against the US dollar. That’s a problem in a country where almost everything is imported.

In 2009 the opposite happened when the Zimbabwe dollar was abolished after a bout of hyperinflation.

Now, many pensioners have had to sell their assets, take in lodgers or depend on remittances from their children, who’ve emigrated to find work.

Those with no other financial lifeline live from hand to mouth.

“I live like a destitute,” says Patrick Nyanhewe, 78, a former waiter who spent 36 years at the country’s leading hotels.

He has asked a lobby group, the Zimbabwe Pension and Insurance Rights Trust, to fight for what he believes he is due.

The group estimates that the national pension industry is worth $22 billion. The Insurance and Pensions Commission, the industry regulator, says its worth about a third of that. The commission didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

It is “to justify the low benefits that they are paying through understating the size of the industry,” Martin Tarusenga, ZIMPIRTs general manager, said in an interview from his office in Harare’s city center.

Currency changes and an inflation rate that was estimated at 300% by the International Monetary Fund in August, aren’t the only threats to pension value, says Tarusenga. The pension industry is riddled with poor management, use of improper accounting methods and a lack of proper record keeping, he added.

The pension trust has sued the government over its decision to halt the publication of annual inflation figures and has objected to the value of the pensions being switched to Zimbabwe dollars from the US currency.

Tarusenga’s comments jar with those of national president Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Destitute, hungry

In a televised state of the nation address on October 1, Mnangagwa promised that parliament would pass the Pension and Provident Funds Bill.

“It is designed to ensure compliance with international standards,” he said. “The ultimate objective is to protect policyholders and pensioners so that they fully enjoy their rights and benefits.”

That’s cold comfort for Morgan Moyo, who fought as a guerrilla in Zimbabwe’s liberation war in the 1970s and later served in the army.

“We never thought that we would be suffering like this,” the 65-year-old said. “If you see a person who looks destitute, hungry and with worn-out shoes and clothes, you know that it’s a pensioner.”

He and Nyabunzi were among those lining up in the early hours of the morning outside a branch of the Central African Building Society where elderly women huddle under blankets before the 8 a.m. opening of the bank.

When the doors open Elizabeth Msengwa, the branch manager, breaks the news that cash is in short supply. Only the first 500 in the line will be handed numbered cards by the bank’s security guards, and given Z$80, the equivalent of just over $5, mostly in coins.

“We have to try and make sure everyone gets something,” she says.

© 2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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I follow Magnus Heystek on Twitter. There are a number of people who don’t like what Magnus has to say, about not investing in SA. I wonder how many of these people read articles like the one above? Just prior to independence, a Rhodesian dollar was at parity to the British pound. The Zim dollar eventually ended up at 40 US cents for one trillion Zim dollars.

They read it. They would prefer/hope it never happens here. I’m trying to neither care whether it does/doesnt happen here through offshore diversification because it could happen anywhere (see Germany). However, it’ll hurt a lot if it does happen and most people will rather wish it away. It isn’t helpful to read bad news, it’s more helpful to have a plan.

Reading bad news is helpful because it motivates one to create a plan for ones self. If one only reads good news one thinks that nothing will ever go wrong. Also having a plan is no use if one does not implement it and once again the more bad news that is read the more one is motivated to take any sacrifices that are associated with implementing the plan one has chosen.

No remorse for the Zim people. That voted for Mugabe for years and had a big party when land were taken without compensation.

Will South Africa follow? If you listen at the speeches of the EFF and most ANC senior leaders… Yes!

Will the Rand be used as toilet paper in the next 10 years? Hopefully not IF Cyril Ramaphosa stays in charge…

And they also took up arms against the Smith government, while they had enough to eat, unemployment was low and their pensions were not in danger. Yet they refuse to do the same against the ZanuPF regime. I have no sympathy for them, because they are clearly happy to be oppressed. People truly get the government they deserve.

Also, they own all the land now. Surely they are living in a socialist paradise? I invite all current illegals residing in SA to go and join their brethren in the socialist paradise north of Beit Bridge. This is what you and your parents struggled for, after all.

The land they owned now probably turned into desert

I feel sorry for those that voted against Zanu but still got lumped with them. Just like I feel sorry for those that dont vote for ANC here. Its really tyranny of the majority.

I also feel sorry for the majority of poor south africans that have nothing and think that politicians can give them a better future.

Oh goodness, yet another brainwashed individual who honestly believes that free and fair elections exist in the world.
Guaranteed if nobody pitched to the voting booths ANC and Zanu PF would still win their elections..
Amazes me how people talk openly about how corrupt Africa is and then cry about how you should vote people into power. Yes, because there can;t [possibly be corruption when it comes to elections.
Wake up sheeple!

@Oracle2. Oh dear….you have your hopes pinned down on ONE person! Think of the odds anything bad that may happen to CR. What then?

And bunches of them are still voting Zanu PF.

Talk about turkey’s voting for Christmas

Where are all those liberals who fought and shouted for freedom of the Zimbabwean people? Their situation is so dire now, but I hear no one coming to the rescue. Were they all just pseudo-liberals making popular noises? Never really cared for the people, did they?

It is called propaganda… Been in use since before the Roman empire!

I would have to think back to around the year 2000 for Zimbabwe not to have been spiralling downward.

That would be why we have Zimbabwean tenants, and a Zimbabwean au pair and a Zimbabwean gardener working for us.

The ANC use Zimbabwe and Cuba and Venezuela as models for where they want to head in terms of “liberating” South Africa from the supposed shackles of western powers.

Cyril has to wear two hats. One to try to keep those who hold the money and assets (the westernised in South Africa – both white and black) happy and the other hat is to keep the ANC looters-in-waiting happy by allowing them to get trickle feeds of stolen funds in the mean time.

It isn’t an accident that Eskom is the biggest looting scheme that South Africa has ever known. It’s the easiest channel through which the ANC can loot from the state to keep funding it’s campaigns to stay in power while keeping their comrades-in-looting well-dressed in western brands.

The conflict is that the ANC has to keep in power by promising the poor, uneducated fools on the ground liberalisation and change – supposedly from the conditions that they are in now, while living the most hypocritical lifestyle possible by stealing from everyone in South Africa to be as western as possible.

The question is, who will be president once Cyril goes?

Look who make up the ANC NEC. Read the ANC policy plans.

Do you really think things will improve?


Make your decisions and plan now for what will inevitably come.

Deep down you all know that it’s going that way.

SA imploding eskom is exporting power to bankrupt zim – i would like to actually see that the sold electricity to zim is getting paid straight into the eskom bank account – no other types of book entries.
RE:”Morgan Moyo, who fought as a guerrilla in Zimbabwe’s liberation war in the 1970s and later served in the army.” – almost 50 years later and they still can’t deliver a better life style in zim than the life style standard they took the old zim over from – just shows one: easy to be a guerrilla fighter, get trigger happy and make 100% empty promises, to run a country successfully is a total different ball game

Where are all those liberals who fought and shouted for freedom of the Zimbabwean people? Their situation is so dire now, but I hear no one coming to the rescue.

End of comments.





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