BY HARRIET CHIKANDIWA
UMZINGWANE legislator Levi Mayihlome (Zanu PF) has urged government to pay pensioners including war veterans a minimum of US$200 in monthly pensions to cushion them against the high cost of living in the country.
Mayihlome’s call for US dollar pensions comes hardly a month after a group of disgruntled ex-combatants were arrested after protesting in central Harare demanding an upward review of their monthly stipends.
In his contribution to a motion in reply to the State of the Nation Address (Sona) and the presidential speech on the official opening of the Fourth Session of the Ninth Parliament, Mayihlome said ex-combatants and other pensioners were living like paupers.
“The pension should at least be reviewed upwards to a minimum of about US$200 per month for all pensioners, including war veterans so that at least they have a decent life,” Mayihlome said.
“I would want to talk about the National Social Security Authority pensions. My plea is that the Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare ministry needs to review these pensions,” he said.
“They reviewed it upwards from US$15 to US$45 and now it is going to be US$60 per month per individual, but who can live on US$60 per month?
“These are people who have contributed to the development of this country. They worked hard all their lives. They toiled making major investments, some of which have been the pride of this country, yet we expect them to live on US$60 per month. It’s not fair.”
Civil servants have been pushing for US dollar salaries, a demand government has rejected citing unavailability of the greenback.
Instead, government has promised to periodically increase their salaries.
A fall in value of the local currency due to rising costs of goods and services has left civil servants desparate.
Mayihlome added: “Let us honour them for what they did for this country, for looking after us, for bringing us to this world, and for building this country to what it is now. They are living like paupers and cannot afford things like medication, housing and electricity, which is expensive.
“My plea is for these pensions to be reviewed upwards, let us look after our own.
“There is no one who will come from another country to look after our pensioners and war veterans.”
Last year, government adjusted pensions for the former freedom fighters to cushion them against the rising cost of living but inflation has left many failing to afford basics.
On November 14, 1997, the late former President Robert Mugabe succumbed to pressure from ex-combatants and paid them a lump sum of $50 000 each in unbudgeted gratuities.
This resulted in the country’s currency falling 72% against the United States dollar. The day, now commonly referred to as “Black Friday”, marked the beginning of troubles for the Zimbabwean economy, which have persisted until to date.