(formerly IRIN News) Journalism from the heart of crises

Pensioners struggle to cope with soaring inflation

[Zimbabwe] Elderly women waiting for food distribution
Obinna Anyadike/IRIN

Pensioners are among those most affected by Zimbabwe's ongoing economic crisis, as soaring inflation continues to erode their ability to provide for themselves and their dependants.

David Banda, 74, living in the capital, Harare, retired from the army in 1990 and has a monthly pension of Zim $80,000 (about US $14.30).

He used to receive it through a commercial bank, but the high charges forced him to move his account to the post office, where all transactions are free of charge.

His 60-year-old wife, his daughter-in-law and her five children depend on his pension. "The high inflation has reduced our pensions to worthless pieces of paper, because the little money that I get as pension is not enough to sustain me as an individual," Banda complained.

He told IRIN that the added responsibility of looking after his grandchildren had forced him to find a means of generating additional income, which he does by selling vegetables and cigarettes.

Wellington Chibhebhe, secretary-general of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), said with the poverty datum line pegged at Zim $1.5 million (US $267) per month and inflation at 314 percent, pensions were no longer enough to sustain retired people.

"The minimum pension being paid out by NSSA [National Social Security Authority] is Zim $80,000 a month, but it is not enough for some people living in remote areas to get to urban centres to cash their cheques."

The National Social Security Authority (NSSA) could not provide statistics on pensioners.

He said a ZCTU survey had established that, in order to keep track with inflation, pensioners ought to have been getting monthly pay-outs of Zim $1 million (US $178) from July this year.

"When the majority of people retire they would have reached old age, and this means they would require more medical attention, which is also very expensive," Chibhebhe said.

According to a Consumer Council of Zimbabwe (CCZ) survey in September, a lower-income urban family of six people required about Zim $1.5 million (US $267) a month to purchase basic commodities.

"During the month of September there was a 6.6 percent increase in basic and essential commodities, such as sugar, meat, cooking oil and milk. The CCZ is concerned that basic commodities continue to be priced beyond the reach of many consumers," the survey noted.

Banda also depends on infrequent remittances from a son working in England. "Once in a while he sends some money home, but he cannot do it regularly because he also has to look after his family in England. Life for pensioners is very difficult. We cannot make ends meet."

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