Anomie is a sociological term, which refers to societal instability resulting from a breakdown in moral values, as well as widespread personal feelings of uncertainty and alienation.
Examples of social anomie historically deduced by researchers in developed economies include (but are not limited to) increases in suicide rates, and increased levels of deviancy in the forms of violent crimes, prostitution, drug abuse and other types of deviant behavior.
The interesting thing is that there arguably is a link between economic circumstances and anomie.
Although anomie sometimes accompanies rapid modernization, generally, anomie occurs when socioeconomic circumstances change for the worse.
As I write this, I would like to think that anomie is visible in Zimbabwean society.
Since the turn of the century, a mixture of events have contributed to the moral decadence we see among us today which includes a surge in drug abuse, prostitution, and violent crime in Zimbabwean society.
I would even go as far as to say that the surge in the cases of rape and abuse of infants and minors point to anomie and the erosion of our moral values.
Now, although we might be going through a rough patch as a country, I believe that it is important for us to realize that the only practical way to deal with this anomie is through institutional mechanisms.
I make the argument here that NSSA should play a critical role in this regard, by restoring the fundamentals of social security. .
Social Security in Zimbabwe
The institution of NSSA that we see today, and other Social Security entities in countries across the world are inspired by the belief that everyone should be equipped with the means to procure basic needs and services.
This is enshrined in article 22 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
I am of the view that where there is adequate social security in a society, anomie diminishes. However, where there is inadequate social security, anomie increases.
Now, I have written before, and I will repeat here that when the National Social Security Authority (NSSA) Act was first promulgated in 1989, global economic circumstances, and indeed the economic circumstances within Zimbabwe were different from what they are today.
Back then, the country’s developmental design was pinned on the idea of mass employment of working age citizens who would gradually contribute towards various social security related funds and schemes through NSSA.
The idea was that workers would make monthly contributions over years primarily in order to provide a relatively cushioned retirement for them, and also to provide insurance for them in case they were seriously injured while performing their work duties.
Now to bring this back home, I was quite surprised the other day, when I came across a NSSA Compliance Inspection Sheet at our farming operation near Wedza.
According to the document, a certain amount in the thousands of dollars was payable to NSSA within 7 days.
The Compliance Inspection Sheet is essentially an estimation of unpaid NSSA contributions and premiums dating back to dollarisation in 2009.
After studying the document, I went and read the NSSA act and did further research on social security in different parts of the world before I reached the conclusions laid out below.
Despite the fact that the NSSA act was promulgated with noble intentions, there are a few contradictions existent within our society today, which our lawmakers and the officials at NSSA should perhaps take into consideration.
Firstly, the retirement age in Zimbabwe is generally 60 years according to the National Pension Scheme (NPS). Yet, the average life expectancy is around 50 years.
It therefore does not make sense for workers to contribute towards a pension fund that they may never benefit from.
In this light, perhaps NSSA should change the nature of its packages, and offer contributors something tangible as a payout after every five to ten year period.
For example, NSSA could provide a package where after 10 years of contributions, a contributor becomes entitled to either a cash payout or a NSSA house in his or her rural area.
This would make more sense than for a worker to contribute to NSSA for years and still fail to reach the age of retirement, and consequently reap retirement benefits.
The second matter that NSSA should seriously consider is that NSSA as an institution does not inspire the same levels of trust from the public that it did twenty years ago, owing to a series of looting reports and allegations involving NSSA officials over a period of years.
In this light, employers and employees alike are skeptical of NSSA, and are concerned that this new wave of NSSA fundraising through the wanton issuance of compliance sheets will again promote the profligacy of NSSA top management and board members.
My suggestion therefore, is that NSSA introduces practical and tangible packages and services that benefit contributors immediately.
The fact is that people would rather have healthcare today, housing today and education today, rather than after say twenty years of contributing to a Pension Scheme.
Therefore, as an incentive to contributors in both the formal and informal economy, NSSA should collaborate with private health service providers and avail cheap and affordable healthcare to its contributors.
This would mean that a person making monthly contributions to NSSA would for example qualify for health services at any GenFin affiliated clinic.
The obvious benefit is that this would reduce pressure on the public health system and concurrently offer incentives to employers and employees alike to make their contributions to NSSA.
That is just one simple example of many packages and services that NSSA could introduce to provide social security for Zimbabweans today and not after the age of 60, which many contributors will not reach.
There are numerous other examples in China, South Africa, Brazil and India showing how government institutions like NSSA are taking steps to provide social security for their citizens in agriculture, health, housing and education.
If NSSA looks at those examples, and offers practical and relevant social security packages, then people will not have a problem with paying towards those schemes, and ultimately NSSA will play a role a rectifying the social anomie we presently see.
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