SCORES of pensioners yesterday thronged banks in Bulawayo to receive a portion of their monthly payout in foreign currency.
National Social Security Authority (Nssa) recently announced that pensioners will from this month be paid a portion of their monthly payout in foreign currency to cushion them from ther volatility of the exchange rate.
Long winding queues were the order of the day at the National Building Society (NBS) banking hall between 8th Avenue and 9th Avenue along Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo Street in the city centre as pensioners waited to collect their money.
For several hours, the pensioners stood in meandering queues, moving at a slow pace and often characterised by chaotic scenes as some tried to jump the queue. Police had to be called in to control the queues.
An Econet outlet located at corner Jason Moyo Street and 9th Avenue also had a long queue as the elderly made a beeline at the banking hall to withdraw their forex payouts.
Chronicle news crew spoke to some of the beneficiaries and they commended Government for the initiative, saying they were hopeful that the forex component would be enough to cater for the basics.
“This is what a listening Government does and we are hopeful that this money will go a long way in addressing our plight in light of the prevailing economic environment where prices of basic commodities and other goods in local currency are being increased daily due to the depreciating value of our currency,” said Mr Vulindlela Ndebele of Magwegwe suburb.
Another pensioner, Mrs Margaret Dube said the introduction of the forex component will cushion her as she will be able to buy basics whose prices are low when one buys using forex.
“Although this is not much, it’s a good start and we want to commend Government for this.
The prices in local currency are skyrocketing and beyond our reach as the elderly. Most of us are taking care of our grandchildren,” she said.
Mrs Molly Khumalo of Mabuthweni suburb said the money will enable her to buy medication.
“Medication was beyond the reach of many of us given that many pensioners are suffering from chronic diseases. Some of the drugs we are taking are not just expensive but are sold exclusively in foreign currency,” she said.
Mrs Khumalo said her hope was that after buying her medication, she will be left with some money to buy a few basics.
She said even informal traders were now demanding forex for tomatoes and vegetables.
Mrs Khumalo said there is an urgent need to address the problem of congestion at the banks by opening centres in different suburbs where pensioners can withdraw their money.
“As it is, we have been in the queue for hours. I arrived here before dawn and I still haven’t been served. The service is slow because there are many pensioners,” she said.
Mr Babesi Cheza from Magwegwe suburb urged service providers to categorise clients.
“We are too old to be standing in queues and we urge Government to address this urgently because this might force some of us to sleep in queues,” he said.
In a statement last month, NSSA said the payments will be made through banks or Ecocash.
“NSSA beneficiaries will receive a portion of their monthly pension in US dollars for the month of June 2023. Beneficiaries with Econet lines will have the choice of receiving the USD component through Ecocash, or their usual bank accounts,” read the notice.
NSSA said it intends to rope in other mobile money service providers in order to bring the services closer to the pensioners.
Last year pensioners petitioned Parliament seeking a review of their monthly payouts, saying they were living in abject poverty due to the rising cost of living, inflation and depreciating value of their pension in local currency.
Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Professor Paul Mavima yesterday said he will engage the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) over the challenge of long queues.
Public Service, Labour, and Social Welfare Minister Professor Paul Mavima
“What I suspect is that banks are facing challenges of cash flows. I will find out from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe. I am not in the country at the moment and I have not received a report on what is exactly on the ground,” he said.