Pensioner appeals must properly be channeled for effective resolution

In a very short space of time since the media reported the Zisco pensioners plight, the media is again reporting that the Cold Storage Company Pension (CSC) Fund is in exactly the same problems. In another report, pensioners of the National Social Security Authority Pension and Other Pension Benefits Pension Fund (NSSA Pension Fund) are even appealing to the President of the country to intervene to have the NSSA benefits increased to a sustainable level — quite unaware that the President has issued a statement requiring pensioners to be compensated for various prejudices and that this compensation was entrenched in the 2021 National Budget.

It is apparent in all this that pensioners and other members of pension schemes are unaware of channels that should be followed in demanding for their rights in the pension schemes. In consequence those responsible for honouring their rights in pension schemes are left unaccounted for, in spite of the pensioner’s noises. More specifically it is apparent that these complaining pensioners are unaware that pension funds have rules that stipulate the quantum of their benefits at any given time, and how these benefits should be calculated.

Pensioners are also apparently unaware that these benefits are always set up to be worthwhile, when the pension funds were set up, some many years ago, and that the benefits should regularly be reviewed to ensure they remain worthwhile. They are unaware that these benefits should be secured in various ways including by Acts of Parliament, by Government practices of regulating the operation of these pension funds (as provided for in the Acts of Parliament). In turn the Acts of Parliament and the Government regulations provide for pension fund controlling bodies such as Boards of Trustees and other boards — all to be set up in good corporate governance, equitably taking into account all stakeholder interests (pensioners and pension fund member interests in particular).

This means that the Boards of Trustees must have sufficient (equitable) representation of the key stakeholders. In turn the representative Boards of Trustees have the responsibility of making certain that pensioner benefits are well secured by pension fund assets accumulating from contributions made by members. The Acts of Parliament therefore provide for various techniques to be applied competently, transparently, with accountability in the management of pension fund assets, relative to the benefits that members accrue over their working lives. In the latter regard, Pension Funds therefore typically contract various competent experts to apply the said pension fund management techniques.

Given these pension fund management techniques, it does look like the appeals being made by the CSC pension fund member, the Zisco pensioners, the NSSA pensioners and indeed many other pension funds that have frequently been reported in the media, are not being channeled properly and effectively — for the pensioners would long have had their problems resolved. It is not for instance apparent that the CSC and Zisco pensioners approached their Boards of Trustees for resolution of their problems in terms of the Pension and Provident Fund Act.

Otherwise their Boards of Trustees would have competently resolved the problems at hand, failure which the Trustees competence would have been called in question, and appeals made to the incumbent regulator, Insurance and Pension Commission (IPEC), and to the Minister of Finance in turn. It is further not apparent that the NSSA pensioners through their NSSA pensioner forum, approached the NSSA management, the NSSA Board if the management failed, and the Minister of Labour, if both NSSA Management and Board, failed.

The upshot of these pensioners’ misdirected noises are that the pension management, Boards of Trustees or other boards, and the incumbent Ministers, have been given the leeway to keep quiet while the relevant pension funds are mismanaged and the pensioners being prejudiced.

In so approaching these designated authorities, it is critical that these complainant pensioners can succinctly articulate their problems to the authorities. Due consideration must be given that pensions jargon is not everyone’s cup of tea. Pensioners cannot for instance just say that their pension benefits are not adequate without specifying the quantum of the adequate benefit, and the rationale for why the quantum is considered adequate. This is where pensioners also need expert advice such as provided by pensioner organisations such as the Zimbabwe Pensions and Insurance Rights Trust (ZimPIRT).

Pensioner problems can be resolved sooner if their complaints are properly articulated and channeled.

Tarusenga is general manager of Zimbabwe Pensions & Insurance Rights — email, martin@zimpirt.com; telephone; +263 (0)4 797 020; Mobile; +263 (0)772 889 716