Mukonoweshuro said this in parliament on Wednesday when he was responding to a question by Bulawayo South MP Eddie Cross on what government policy was on payment of pensions in Zimbabwe and when his ministry would resume payment to pensioners outside the country.
The minister indicated that his ministry would resume paying Zimbabwean pensioners outside now that the country was using hard currency after the introduction of multiple currencies.
“With the introduction of the multiple-currency system, the provision started to be made by the Ministry of Finance so that we can meet our pensioners’ obligations,” said Mukonoweshuro.
“Currently, we have about 5 600 pensioners who are spread across the globe from Australia, New Zealand, UK, Canada, with a single pensioner in Poland. The payment of external pensions has been stopped because of the financial problems around March 2003.”
He added that no pensioner would be prejudiced of their pensions that accrued during the period when the state could not pay out in foreign currency due to economic difficulties.
“We have been putting the money into an escrow account. There will be no prejudice because the money is accruing in the account,” he added.
The minister further stated that the process of identifying pensioners and proving that they are still alive was daunting as most pensioners were unwilling to give their details online.
“We have embarked upon a process to solicit for life certificates which should give us indications as to whether these pensioners are still alive and if they are, where we can transmit their payments. We did hit a snag in that exercise because a number of pensioners have been reluctant to send us that information because they are afraid of identity theft,” the minister said.
The ministry has since asked the country’s foreign embassies to assist in collecting information from pensioners as only 1 300 of the 5 600 had responded to their call.
In February 2009, the British government offered its citizens living in Zimbabwe a resettlement package to escape the economic and political problems in the country. The offer was assumed to have been taken up by 360 British pensioners living in Zimbabwe out of a possible 5 000 who had their pensions and investments wiped out by the ravages of hyperinflation.
Most pensioners in the country are receiving less than $50 monthly, an amount not enough to meet their basic requirements in a country where the poverty datum line for a family of six stands at $500. Those in the diaspora went to live with their families or other relatives after working for the state, including the railways, during the Rhodesian era with many participating in the Second World War on the British side.