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‘Queuing of pensioners at banks cause for concern’

BY VENERANDA LANGA/ HAZVINEI MWANAKA MPs have expressed concern over continued suffering of pensioners who queue at banks for the whole day just to receive their paltry COVID-19 allowances of US$30. Pumula MP Sichelesile Mahlangu (MDC Alliance) last Wednesday asked the Finance deputy minister Clemence Chiduwa to explain policy measures put in place by government to ensure that pensioners who throng banks on scheduled paydays get their cash without having to endure the long queues. Chiduwa claimed that pensioners were given priority by banks to collect their pensions. “But what is happening is in line with our monetary policy, in terms of the cash injection that we are putting in the economy,” he said. “We are following a drip fed policy. We are not injecting a lot of money since it will result in inflationary pressures.” He said in light of COVID-19, government was encouraging mobile banking to reduce queuing at banks. Chiduwa further said Treasury had communicated with banks to ensure that every bank had a specific teller to dispense cash strictly for pensioners. But Marondera Central MP Caston Matewu (MDC Alliance) said the US$30 paid to pensioners was not only ridiculously low, but also incurred huge bank charges. “What we have done is to make sure that the pensioners get their full US$30,” Chiduwa said. “Treasury should absorb all the costs for the ATM cards and any related costs to ensure pensioners get their full US$30. Anything outside that arrangement means that we need to engage our banks.” Kambuzuma MP Willias Madzimure (MDC Alliance) said the US$30 paid to pensioners attracted a US$1,50 fee per every US$10 transaction from a nostro account and was too much for pensioners to absorb. Meanwhile, the Insurance and Pension Commission (Ipec) has revealed that about 153 000 pensioners have not claimed their benefits to the tune of $196 million. The list has been accumulating over the years, with a marked increase observed in 2009 and a spike in the first quarter of 2020. In an interview on Friday, Ipec director of pensions Cuthbert Munjoma said unclaimed benefits affected the pension sector as pension funds would have to continue to shoulder the responsibility of consistently trying to trace these members and ensure that the unclaimed retirement savings are secure and keeping up with inflation. “The pensioners and the beneficiaries may be living in poverty while their benefits are lying unclaimed at the pension funds or in the Guardian Fund,” Munjoma said. “This may lead to low confidence in the pension sector.” He said some of the factors that make members not to claim their benefits included members not being aware of the fact that they were supposed to make a claim from the pension fund. Lack of communication between trustees and insufficient member details, he said, also made it difficult to trace members.