REVELATIONS in Parliament that the Public Service Commission owes pensioners $101 million in arrears owing to the delay in releasing money by Treasury, made very sad reading.
In fact, it is a sad reminder of how much poor governance by successive Zanu PF regimes have done to throw our respected old folks into penury. One would have been mistaken to imagine that the New Dispensation was going to improve things following the disaster that ex-President Robert Mugabe’s regime was before his ouster.
It is, indeed, not only disturbing that people who worked for the well-being of this great nation for many years, giving away the best of their lives and energy during their prime time, now struggle to access what is due to them timely.
Never mind that the pensions they get are often “peanuts” due to the under-performing economy.
A lot of these people, especially the elderly among them, have to deal with a raft of ailments such as hypertension and diabetes, which often stalk old age. Clearly, this means they need to access their money on time to purchase their medication and other basic daily necessities.
With the rate at which prices for basic commodities are sky-rocketing, by the time many of these pensioners get their annuities, it would not be enough to purchase even the very basic of their needs. It is important for President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government to prioritise this group of citizens. If institutions such as banks see the importance of treating senior citizens with the respect they deserve, then surely, the government should be able to do more.
The failure by Treasury to ensure that pensioners get their pay-outs on time is an attack on their dignity, as they are often forced to find other ways to get the money, including borrowing and begging. At 76, we do not want to believe that Mnangagwa himself would feel comfortable to fail to get his allowances when he retires.
Remember, Mugabe himself even demanded his pension in hard cash at a time the country is going through foreign currency shortages.
It is quite unfortunate that these pensioners are often paid last when government pays its workers in batches, when the conditions of their lives actually demand that they should be paid first.
We couldn’t agree more with the sentiments captured in the Public Service and Social Welfare Parliamentary Portfolio Committee report that such a situation is tantamount to depriving a living to these former workers, who dedicated their lives to serving the government because the payment of pensions, like salaries, is more contractual and, hence, should be honoured.
Many such people now belong to the vulnerable group, and government is duty-bound to ensure that their lives are as comfortable as possible. It is important to ensure that their dignity is protected and their rights upheld. The soul of a society is revealed by how it treats its elderly.