Zunde leads pensioners’ rights fight

A Selous-based farmer and retired Harare City Council employee, Getrude Zunde, has come out of retirement and embarked on a crusade to fight for pensioners’ rights.

Getrude Zunde: Government should set up a pensioners’ bank.
Getrude Zunde: Government should set up a pensioners’ bank.

Zunde, one of the founding members of the Zimbabwe Progressive Pensioners Trust, was forced to retire from HCC due to ill health.

“I worked for City of Harare for 15 years since 1990 as a clerk in the treasury department and retired in 2004. After realising that Zimbabwean pensioners are reduced to destitution by the current system in their own motherland, after having worked for it for many years, I decided it was time to fight,” she said.

Together with other pensioners she established an organisation to stand for this vulnerable group. Her husband, Wellington, has been the trust’s chief executive officer since its formation in February 2013. Mrs Zunde is chair of the nine-person board.

“Our target group is any pensioner, individual or institution that supports our aims and objectives. One of our major objectives is to alleviate the poverty that crushes pensioners due to unfair treatment from employers,” she said.

Mrs Zunde said she was one of the few women who benefited from the government’s land redistribution programme in 2002. She got a 60 ha farm in Selous about 60km south-west of Harare along the Bulawayo highway.

“I started farming for both sustenance and commercial purposes. My husband and I ventured into poultry and built up infrastructure that can accommodate 500 birds. But due to limited resources we have only managed to rear 200 birds at a time and can only put 10 ha of the land under cultivation during the rainy season,” she said.

The couple used some of the profits from the farm to establish ZPPT.

Mrs Zunde said both government and the private sector were neglecting pensioners in the country.

“Pensioners are one of the most vulnerable groups, just like women and those with disabilities. Government and companies should adopt a paradigm shift towards this group. It includes orphans, widows, those injured at work and senior citizens,” she said.

“The main problem we are facing with private pension companies like Old Mutual, First Mutual and Fidelity is the composition of their boards. Members of these boards are also major shareholders of the same organisation, while pensioners are not represented at all. So they prefer to pay commutation fee (a onetime payoff pension) and forget about the pensioner,” she said.

Mrs Zunde urged the incoming government to consider having pensioners’ representatives in government and in the private sector. “Government must also set up a pensioners’ bank, which would grant loans to these people as commercial banks are reluctant to give us loans,” she said.

She added that the National Social Security Authority Prescription policies must be repealed as they were impinging on pensioners. A prescription policy is where a NSSA beneficiary or pensioner does not collect his/her money in time for a year, the organisation does not pay back but starts from current. If the money is not collected for a period of five years then the pension is cut off.

“Most people are not aware of this, especially when the pensioner dies and the family is not aware of such policies. It means by the time they realise about the pension the money has been scrapped. Besides, the $20 that is given by NSSA is very little and they should try to give useful money considering that these people are bread winners who have children to look after,” said Mrs Zunde.

The Trust offers training to pensioners in life skills, so that they can start income generating projects like ready to drink juice production, soap making, poultry, mushroom and beekeeping. The training is available countrywide in conjunction with training institutes.

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