There is growing concern over recent amendments to legislation on social security that effectively bar employees from enjoying their benefits before they reach retirement age.
Most people airing their views online, through a popular network, argue that the changes to the law benefit the government at the expense of deserving social security scheme members.
They say the government borrows hefty amounts of money from social security funds but does not repay it in good time, and hence the delays in making requisite payments to eligible retirees.
Tanzania Teachers Union president Gratius Mukoba suggested in a phone interview yesterday that the government routinely takes money from social security funds for investment in long-term projects.
“Social security funds are playing with workers’ money…,” complained Mukoba, adding that some of the projects take up to 100 years before the returns trickle back.
“Look at the Machinga Complex in Dar es Salaam, he said, adding: “The government, through the National Social Security Fund (NSSF), invested 31bn/-. With that money, one could construct six Mwalimu Towers.
Legal and Human Rights Centre executive director Dr Hellen Kijo-Bisimba meanwhile said she was convinced that the law as amended would not work “since most employment is on contract basis anyway”.
She said there was little difference between the law as it now stands and the one previously in use which allowed employees to enjoy their benefits before retirement and which she said was much better because it allowed them to invest their money in projects of their choice before they retired.
“This law humiliates workers. I have already received complaints from people in Geita and from my voters in Nzega,” said Nzega Member of Parliament Dr Hamis Kigwangala.
He said he had telephoned the minister who oversees security funds, Gaudensia Kabaka, “who said the amendments were tabled in Parliament back in April and endorsed and are now awaiting presidential assent”.
According to the MP, Kabaka explained that the government did not intend to give social security fund members a raw deal but amended the law “to prevent frequent withdrawals that tend to leave security schemes short of funds”.
“The minister stated that the government would have the opportunity to express its good intentions when employees lose jobs and need the funds from their social security accounts,” noted the MP.
He promised to work on the concerns of the aggrieved workers “and everything will be settled before the Labour ministry’s budget estimates are tabled next month”.
Social Security Regulatory Authority (SSRA) director general Irene Isaka said in communication to African Barrick Gold that laws on social security funds and laws guiding authorities were amended and approved by the National Assembly on April 13, 2012 and sent to the President’s Office for presidential assent. The withdrawal benefits that benefit workers who opt to quit their jobs have been cancelled until the retirement age of 55 years and 60 years, explained the letter.
“We still have some benefits that remain for miners such as, that on disability and the injury,” she reassured the miners, promising that SSRA officials would visit mining workers across Tanzania in the first week of next month to elaborate the changes and what should be expected.
Section 30 of the Social Security Regulatory Authority Act No.8 of 2008requires all employers to give newly engaged employees the opportunity to join a social security fund of their choice.
The amendments open the doors for competition in membership registration and additional products are offered as stated by the ILO Convention 102.