Shepherd Sirewu Maphosa, a pensioner living in Harare, feared his life was over when he was forced to retire early due to illness in 2000 after a workplace accident.
His biggest concern was how he would provide for his family.
“When you become a pensioner, life changes drastically especially with the hyperinflationary environment,” he tells Standardbusiness while busy attending to his turkeys and ducks at Maranatha on Friday morning.
This is one of the projects he started after accessing a concessionary loan from the National Social Security Authority (Nssa) in 2021.
“So, affording things you used to get at work will become a tall order. So, these small projects come in handy and they take away your focus and divert your concentration.”
The father of four got a loan amounting to ZWL75 000 in 2021, about US$200 at the time, from Nssa through National Building Society.
He quickly started the project of keeping turkeys, road runners, and ducks to supplement his pay-out.
Currently, he has 44 ducks, 23 turkeys, 100 broilers and a few road runners.
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Even though the income from the project is not that much, the 50-year-old said it helped support his family. He is now looking forward to expanding his project.
In a bid to help pensioners supplement their pay-outs after retirement, the pension fund in 2021 introduced loans for income generating projects.
The loans, according to Nssa, are short-term and attract an interest rate of 10% per year. The disbursement is done through banks.
Nssa came up with these loans after the realisation that many pensioners were sinking into abject poverty shortly after leaving employment.
Some pensioners who have accessed these loans like Maphosa have engaged in income generating projects like keeping cattle, goats, piggery, poultry among others, according to Nssa.
Nssa chief investment officer Isaac Isaki told journalists during the fourth session of the journalists mentorship programme recently that to date, about 8 000 pensioners had benefited from concessionary loans.
“We do have loans that we offer to our pensioners as part of enabling them to invest in economic activities that enhance their income,” he said.
“We started this programme about three years ago and to date about 8 000 pensioners have benefited from concessionary loans where we provide banks with very cheap loans and then they lend to our pensioners at very affordable rates.
“In fact, we are now looking to increase the funding for pensioners to at least $2 billion this year.”
Pensioners who spoke to Standardbusiness said the loans were noble but the pension fund needed to avail them in United States dollar, given that suppliers of goods and services were now demanding the greenback.
“Yes, there could be some members who have actually received these loans, but these loans are given in our local currency, the Zimbabwe dollar, which is highly affected by inflation,” Zimbabwe National Pensioners Forum Trust chairman Winos Dube said.
“We would have really loved to see a situation where perhaps if only these loans that are given to pensioners are in hard currency, the US dollar. I have closely followed quite a number of those that have applied and have been given something under this revolving fund that Nssa is giving to pensioners.
“We are still negotiating, making sure that perhaps they could avail loans which are in US dollars which could really go a long way in assisting these pensioners.”
Maphosa also weighed in: “The money is not enough and because retailers often increase feed price willy-nilly, this becomes a stumbling block. If the fund becomes a revolving fund this will make us have a vision and prediction of five years to come.
“My proposal would be if the loans are available in US$, then the life of a pensioner would be made easy.”