EMCOZ, ZCTU cry foul

Source: EMCOZ, ZCTU cry foul | The Financial Gazette May 19, 2016

Alois Vinga
IN yet another rare occurrence, the country’s labour and business sectors are singing from the same hymn book.
In the latest confluence of thought, Zimbabwe’s business community, represented by the Employers’ Confederation of Zimbabwe (EMCOZ) and labour, represented by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), have disapproved the National Social Security Authority (NSSA)’s planned massive housing project.
They are accusing NSSA of failing to accommodate the bulk of Zimbabwe’s employees who earn salaries and wages that are below the poverty datum line of around US$500.
In March this year, the two groups came together for the first time to condemn government’s proposals to establish a National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS).
EMCOZ and the ZCTU cited the country’s prevailing economic conditions as not conducive for an NHIS, a legally enforced health insurance scheme that insures a national population against the costs of health care.
With the government getting more and more desperate for solutions required to revive the country’s economy, labour and businesses are increasingly narrowing their areas of conflict, and tackling government jointly. EMCOZ and the ZCTU’s latest concurrence was triggered by NSSA’s recent announcement that the total price of each housing unit would be US$15 000, which would be partly paid through monthly installments of below US$200 for a period of over 10 years.
NSSA’s subsidiary, which would spearhead the housing project, the National Building Society, has indicated that the predominant beneficiaries of the housing scheme would be those in need of accommodation.
ZCTU secretary general, Japhet Moyo, however, dismissed the assertion by querying the housing scheme’s credibility, arguing that the relevant stakeholders were not duly consulted.
“The ZCTU is a major stakeholder of NSSA, as history confirms that employees played a very critical role in the establishment of the social authority. It should also be borne in mind that, as employees, we contribute our money to NSSA, but despite this symbiotic relationship the powers that be, at the social authority, have not bothered to consult ahead of the housing project. This alone indicates that the proposed scheme will not benefit the employees since their opinion was not sought for,” he said.
The trade unions leader questioned why NSSA embarked on the construction of the housing units that are priced beyond the reach of the majority of employees in the country and hinted that the scheme could be used to benefit politically connected individuals.
“The media reports confirm that the housing units’ total cost is US$15 000 and the minimum salary for one to qualify is US$5 000. A lot of people who are seriously in need of accommodation will not be able to access the scheme because the majority of employees earn salaries that are below US$500.
“This leaves us thinking that there is a politically-connected target group which has been identified and NSSA wants to portray the project as if it will benefit the common employees,” said Moyo who further hinted that if the purchasers were to default payment of the stipulated installments the pressure would cascade down to the pensioners who then end up not accessing their payouts on time.
“When the housing project beneficiaries fail to pay their monthly instalments, owing to late payment of salaries and job terminations (that are) rampant in our economy, the pensioners will not be able to get their pension payouts. There is need for the housing scheme to be strictly scrutinised before its take off and information on the scheme must be made available to NSSA’s strategic partners,” he explained.
Reacting to the proposed NSSA housing project, EMCOZ president, Josephat Kahwema, expressed displeasure over the NSSA initiated housing scheme.
“We are disappointed that NSSA is pitching its service at the level currently serviced by profit-making commercial banks and building societies. We were looking at NSSA to serving those who are covered by collective bargaining agreements and this time the average wages being paid are less than US$250 per month.
“EMCOZ believes NSSA should focus on low-cost accommodation for the ordinary worker and not for employees in management positions. Low cost accommodation will result in many workers securing a roof over their heads,” said Kahwema, further suggesting that NSSA should, instead, build blocks of flats for young workers to rent in order to give them space to save their own capital. This would enable the workers to approach building societies for loans to build their own houses, thus freeing the flats for other beginners.
Contacted for comment an official from NSSA, Farai Mwakutuya, said comments on the housing scheme would be made at a press conference to be held soon.