The NSSA looting machine

via The NSSA looting machine – NewsDay Zimbabwe August 13, 2015 by Vince Musewe

The management of public funds in a predatory State is never about ethics or the people, but is always about politics and the entrenchment of comprador class that is corrupt, unprincipled, unethical and inscrutable.

Some years ago I wrote on the issue of the management of public pension funds in Zimbabwe and the fact that the National Social Security Authority (NSSA) was a political platform loaded with individuals solely there to apply public funds in the interests of Zanu PF and its cronies. I remain convinced that I was right then and remain so today.

The recent report by the Mail & Guardian left me sick to the stomach, especially after seeing the picture of an old lady in a wheel barrow going collect her measly pension fund of $60. That is disgraceful.

The responses given by the head of NSSA to very serious allegations of mismanagement were not convincing. After all, these funds belong to our mothers and fathers who saved their whole working lives with the hope of a decent retirement.

I can bet my bottom dollar that the head of NSSA and his managers all drive expensive cars to work and live in houses subsidised by the blood and sweat of people like the very same old lady in that picture. That is how sick our society has become.

Political scientists Michael Bratton and Nicolas Van de Walle have done a good job in describing neo-patrimonialism. Zimbabwe and its state enterprises reflect pervasive neo-patrimonialism, a culture that is costing the country lives.

These scientists contend that in neo-patrimonial regimes, the chief executive maintains authority through personal patronage, rather than through ideology or law. As with classic patrimonialism, the right to rule is ascribed to a person rather than to an office.

In contemporary neo-patrimonialism, relationships of loyalty and dependence pervade a formal political and administrative system and leaders occupy bureaucratic offices less to perform public service than to acquire personal wealth and status. The distinction between private and public interests is purposely blurred.

The essence of neo-patrimonialism is the award by public officials of personal favours, both within the State (notably public sector jobs) and in society (for instance, licences, contracts and projects). In return for material reward, clients mobilise political support and refer all decisions upward as a mark of deference to patrons.

For me, NSSA and most of our State enterprises remain organisations at the centre of Zimbabwe’s “kleptocracy” (a political system based on bribery and the theft of public property).

In my opinion, top management at NSSA are not only complicit, but must surely be amenable to rampant political manipulation in order to keep their jobs. I would strongly advise the parliamentary committee responsible to deal with this matter urgently and order a forensic audit in the affairs of NSSA.

Solving the NSSA issue is simple, we want to know how much contributions they have received in total, where the money has been invested and why and by whom, what returns (including losses) have been made and what has been the cost of managing the funds to the pensioner.

I have no doubt in my mind that such a simple and straightforward process will never happen because if we did that, we shall find that Zimbabweans have once again been robbed of their money and future.

We shall find that investments made do not make logical sense and where funds have been lost, they have neither been recovered nor those responsible brought to book. We shall find that the cost to income ratio is too high at the expense of pensioners. We shall find that in essence, NSSA is a cesspit of patronage, corruption, incompetence and political favours.

The culture of non-accountability, non-delivery, opaque management practice, tribalism, greed and a focus on narrow political interest at the expense of national interest is a virus which has spread to all our public institutions, including NSSA.

That is the truth.

In the Zimbabwe we want to create, we will have to deal decisively with such instances of abuse of public office and public funds which are criminal offences. This is exactly what happened recently with the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe debt which, by the way, has now been approved by the Senate. I shudder to think what will happen at the new Sovereign Wealth Fund whose board was recently appointed by Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa.

As long as there are no consequences for non-delivery in such institutions, the looting machine will steam ahead unhindered by any moral obligation to the people of Zimbabwe. We’ve got problems.

The first thing we must do when we take over this government is to clean up all State enterprises and instil a new value system. Zimbabwe has just so much underutilised talent worldwide. For example, we have very smart Zimbabwean fund managers in the Diaspora managing billions of dollars, who are doing a professional job out there. My hope is that they will eventually come home and help us to clean up the rot.

Secondly, pension payments are not a favour that NSSA is doing the public. It is the right of workers to receive decent pension payments and they must also be involved in the board at NSSA.

Apparently as we speak, workers are not represented on the NSSA board as required by the law. That is unacceptable and criminal.

I certainly am unimpressed and I hereby challenge the head of NSSA to a public debate on the above issues, but I will not hold my breath.

Vince Musewe is an economist and author based in Harare. You may contact him on


  • comment-avatar
    Johann 7 years ago


  • comment-avatar

    I remember telling my workers when NSSA was invented that it was just another Zanooo scheme to steal their money.

    And I was 100% correct, all those years ago

  • comment-avatar

    I can bet my bottom dollar that the head of NSSA and his managers all drive expensive cars to work and live in houses subsidised by the blood and sweat of people like the very same old lady in that picture.