NSSA and wasted time

22 04 2013

One of the larger and newer buildings in Harare is the National Social Security (pronounced NaSSA) building. It was built in the Zim dollar days so they were making a fair bit of money then. This was not difficult given that it is compulsory to give 3% of the labour force’s salary, matched by 3% from the company, in one’s employ to NSSA on a monthly basis and in those days we had a reasonably robust economy.  So given the vastly reduced income base now that there is some 90% unemployment in the country, one could forgive NSSA being overly keen to ensure that dues are paid.  But I was more than a little annoyed last week to get a phone call from one of the NSSA inspectors requesting to see the wage returns.

“Is that Mr Roberts? This is Brian from NSSA, I need to inspect your returns”.

“But I had an audit last year in December, why do you want to see them again?”

“We are doing them every 3 months. When will you be back in the office?”

I said that he would just have to wait the 2 hours or so that I was going to be in town.

On getting back to the office I produced the required documentation.

“Why are you doing inspections every 3 months?”

“It’s our policy” (meaning there is nothing I can do about it).

“Why not do it every 6 months or a year and save on time, travel and costs?”

“You will have to ask my superiors that”.

This was a blind ally so I tried a bit of information gathering instead.

“How many of you do this in Harare?”


“And do you do anything else?”

“No, this is what we do”

This sounded like a job from hell so I persisted; “How many customers do you have to see a day?”

“Oh, about 10 to 15”

“And how long have you been doing this?”

“Two years” and Brian rolled his eyes.

I was beginning to quite like this guy despite the annoyance I felt at the incredible waste of resources used in the quarterly visits. NSSA does actually pay out pensions to retired and widowed people so I guess it does fill a function. Fortunately as I am over 50 I am exempt from having to pay dues. In the past some high-profile politically “connected” farmers have point-blank refused to pay the dues and so far as I know were never brought to book. I should have put this to Brian but I had other more pressing issues to deal with.

“So I guess I will see you or a colleague in another 3 months time to look at another 3 pieces of paper”.

“Yes”, he replied, giving me a wan smile and clumped down the stairs on his way to another appointment.

Taken on trust

29 06 2009

Phil is a banker so of course I had to ask him how it was going with CABS, his employer. He admitted that very slowly things were improving but a policy change could wreck everything. I knew what he meant; I have been banking some, but definitely not all, my cash takings. I mentioned that so far I’d had no problems withdrawing whatever I needed, but yes, I was a bit apprehensive.

In the past the Reserve Bank has put limits on the amount of cash we were allowed to withdraw and on at least 2 occaisions have raided the FCAs (foreign currency accounts) of companies with failed promises to reimburse the victims. While we all have FCAs these days (well, US dollar accounts anyway) there is no guarantee that they will not raid them again – so just one minor bit of silliness from the government and the trust that keeps the banks in business would be gone – permanently!

Nature of the beast

3 02 2009

It made it a little easier after the breakdown on the road to come back to a house that was actually lit up after another 4 day power cut. I dread storms. This one had come through on Thursday and had hit with some force; 20mm of rain in 15 minutes and wind to match. The power lines behind my office had been arcing onto each other but amazingly did not burn through but somewhere else a tree had come down or so I presumed. Anyway, I did get to hear the news before going to sleep and I heard “As Robert Mugabe prepares to share power…” – some chance. After 28 years holding total control he is now going to share? “… SADCC countries are wondering whether to appeal for a complete lifting of sanctions which will make life easier for Zimbabwe’s people” the newsreader continued. I have harped on about this elsewhere and it’s worth repeating; the sanctions are targeted against the ruling party elite and their cronies. A quick trip into town will show that sanctions have little or no effect on the majority of people. Want a Benz? No problem sir! Imported double door fridge with in-the-door ice-maker? Certainly madam! The current financial mess is entirely of the ruling party’s doing.

Also on Thursday there was a budget (we seem to have budgets presented several times a year here). This one was a little different because it was presented in US dollars, probably because no-one understands the words required for the equivalent in local dollars. An uncommon amount of common sense was shown and essentially everyone is allowed to trade in US dollars or any other currency now. This had one of my customers all cock-a-hoop and amazingly optimistic. He seemed to think that it was all but over now and we would see the long promised “turnaround” in six months or so. And yes for a moment I was caught up in his infectious mood. But it still does not answer the question about where the cash is going to come from. We are still a nation of traders and it is going to take a massive cash injection to get us back on our feet. This might be bad timing given what’s going on in the financial world. Yes, he was right on a number of concerns; the money traders will be looking for work, those “farmers” who were benefitting from fuel and fertilizer handouts are unlikely to have much to trade (one was trying to sell him 10t of urea and did not even know what it was for) but we have a very, very long way to go. Forgive me for being sceptical but we have promised this all before.

Austin at the gym is a fairly reliable fellow when it comes to the economic barometer; as well as being a sports doctor he likes to keep abreast of what is going on and the nature of his business keeps him in touch with a lot of opinions. Chatting to him yesterday brought me “up to speed”. Apparently the price for dealing in real money is that we all have to open an FCA (foreign currency account) at the bank and deposit all our takings there. Right. In the past the government has plundered these FCAs regularly and there are still companies owed millions of US dollars – the money is in the account but somehow they just cannot get hold of it. A large proportion of our budget will be funded by a revised Customs and Excise Act. Do they think that the customs officials at the various borders who have been pocketing some R1000 (about $100) a day will now enforce all the necessary duties so that maybe, just maybe, they will get a cheque from the government for say $200 at the end of the day? The list goes on and on – all the incredible lack of forethought that we have come to expect from this government. It gets better though. The MDC with whom ZANU-PF are supposed to be sharing power (it must come about within the next 8 weeks in order for international funds to be released) are supposed to be getting control of the finance ministry and as far as they are concerned this is all just a bit of paper which they may choose to use, adapt or tear up as they see fit! So don’t hold your breath anyone…

Business has picked up quite considerably for me over the past week. Whether this is some sort of optimism in the future I am not sure but it does raise a bit of an issue for me. I will have to spend money that I don’t have in the business for the input costs and to replace worn out equipment. Will I get it back? If this is really a light at the end of the tunnel I don’t mind doing it but is it?