PARLIAMENT created the National Social Security Authority (Nssa) to provide social security schemes as directed by government. It currently runs two funds, the Pension and Other Benefits Scheme (POBS) and the Accident Prevention and Workers Compensation Scheme (APWCS). Apart from paying benefits such as retiree pensions, Nssa is responsible for promoting occupation safety and health to its members and towards this, the Authority recently launched its SHE Policy. Senior business reporter Tatira Zwinoira (TZ) caught up with the acting general manager, Dr Charles Shava (CS), on the side-lines of the event to discus this and other issues pertaining to operations at Nssa. Here are the excerpts:
TZ: What did you launch and how will it affect the industry?
CS: Today Nssa launched SHE policy, a framework that will allow the Authority to put in place systems to protect the health, safety and welfare of the staff. This is best practice, to lead to ISO 45001 certification, the internationally recognised system of managing safety and health in the workplace.
TZ: Why now?
CS: A journey of a thousand miles starts with one step. This journey began when Nssa was formed, but an increased emphasis came in 2021. From my experience working abroad, I have come to appreciate the importance of protecting the health and safety of workers. The procedures have been there, what we have done is operationalise it, and officially launch the policy.
TZ: Is this a signal to the market to encourage formal businesses to adopt these policies?
CS: Yes, we are the national regulator of OSH (occupational health and safety) so it was anomalous that as the regulator we did not have such a policy. We are taking this very seriously and we are going to increase our campaigns to make sure all workplaces have OSH policies in place, risk assessments, and accident prevention processes. We are showing the market that it can be done and now we expect them to do it.
TZ: Is there any timeline for businesses to have adopted these policies?
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CS: We already have the national OSH policy that was launched by the Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, Professor Paul Mavima, last year in December and this is the national framework that requires every employer to have these policies. There are several legislative issues that give some employers the ability to get away with these requirements, so there is a new proposed OSH Bill that will tighten that legislation and incorporate everybody.
CS: We have two legislations currently in use, the Factories and Works Act plus the Pneumoconiosis Act. There’s also SI 68 of 1990 which established the Accident Prevention and Workers Compensation Scheme.
TZ: Concern about Nssa links to corruption, have you seen areas that need an improvement?
CS: I joined Nssa in 2021 as director OSH, and some allegations were placed on officials hence I was requested by the ministry to act in this capacity. Yes, I am aware that the market is uncomfortable with Nssa due to some issues, many of which are just allegations. We are trying to restore Nssa to where it needs to be. We are trying to rationalise our investments to make sure they give returns. We are being prudent and plugging leaks.
TZ: Would you not say the challenge could be in there being too many managers who have access to funds?
CS: No, the NSSA Act provides for the Accounting Officer, who is the GM. Whenever funds need to be expended, they go through an approval process from the bottom and depending on the threshold, all the way up to the GM, so I don't think there is a problem there. We are also guided by our Investment Policy that ensures necessary approvals are sought from responsible authorities.
TZ: The challenges within NSSA don't lie in management, but lie within the investments, is that correct?
CS: What we as management decide to invest on is the problem. Investments are made after the core business of the two schemes has been conducted. Only the surplus is invested. The purpose of investments is to ensure the long-term sustainability of our funds so that those contributing today can enjoy their benefits when the time comes.
TZ: Can you say how much that surplus is?
CS: Because of inflation, I cannot say. But nearly 90% of the money is going to pensioners as can be seen by constant increases in pay-outs in the past few months. For POBS, long term investments are needed, and for APWCS, short term investments are needed because that money can be called upon at any time.
For the economy to grow, you need healthy workplaces. Nssa and the constitution talk about a safe working environment for all.
TZ: Are you working towards getting United States dollar contributions because of inflation?
CS: We are getting USD contributions if an employer is paying their employees in USD but it is a small percentage.
TZ: So, you are not able to tell me how much has been collected by the two schemes this year?
CS: The actual figures, no. Even if I were to tell you, they wouldn't make sense because of inflation. It may appear a big figure, but in real monetary value, it is not much.
TZ: Which sectors are you confident in investing in?
CS: Generally speaking, as a social security organisation, we are interested in national development. That being said, we want to invest in every sector of the economy to make sure there is general economic development. We tend to have most of our investments in real estate to preserve value and to protect from inflationary pressures. We also invest in the money markets and in equities. We are one of the biggest investors in the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange (ZSE), more than 30% of listed companies. We want to concentrate in real estate and have 75% of investments there. We have a number of land banks; we will build malls and residential units like in the Dzivarasekwa housing scheme that was done through NBS. Agriculture and Renewable energy too.
TZ: Which direction is Nssa heading into for the coming year?
CS: Going forward, we are going to make Nssa a big player in the economy as it has always been. We want to concentrate on our core business by making sure we pay decent pensions to our pensioners. We are also going to be visible on the ground in terms of accident prevention. We want to invest in assets that will help improve our schemes.