Last month, the National Social Security Authority (NSSA), a government controlled pay-as-you-go pension scheme, appointed Arthur Manase (AM) as its new substantive general manager, after serving in an acting capacity for a year.
Manase, a lawyer by training, replaced Elizabeth Chitiga, who was fired in 2018 for alleged maladministration and abuse of public funds.
Prior to his secondment to NSSA, Manase was an executive director at the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe.
He also served as an executive dean at the University of Zimbabwe before moving to Air Zimbabwe as head of secretarial and corporate affairs.
He holds a Master of Laws from Cambridge University, Bachelor of Laws and a first-class Bachelor of Laws, all from the University of Zimbabwe.
Our Investigations Editor, Tinashe Makichi (TM), this week, caught up with Manase, who shared his vision, including the plan to unveil a set of non-monetary benefits to pensioners and the building of a new NSSA that will stand as a regional and international standard bearer in terms of provision of social security products and services.
Below are excerpts of the interview:
TM: How will the introduction of a new NSSA corporate identity going to chart a new path for the state -controlled pensions’ scheme?
AM: Rebranding is meant to communicate a new NSSA that is driven by a culture of excellent performance from three perspectives – efficiency, resource stewardship and responsiveness.
Our corporate identity marks a transformed organisation.
Our new logo is simple and inviting; with a curvy font that represents ingenuity, diversity, continuous and progressive transformation.
The orange circle is a depiction of the sun – with NSSA you can always look forward to bright and sunny days during and after your working life.
NSSA has come a long way since it started operating in 1994.
Over the past 26 years, NSSA has had its fair share of accomplishments and setbacks.
More notably the recent past has seen brand NSSA being associated with corruption, incompetence, and other vices, thus inflicting a lot of damage to the organisation’s corporate identity.
Throughout these years, the NSSA corporate identity has remained static leading to some concluding that the lack of investment in the brand reflects failure to adapt to changing times, lack of ambition, or outright stubbornness.
The rebranding journey, which started in January last year, saw us invest a lot towards the rehabilitation of brand NSSA, starting internally through interventions that are designed to create an emotional attachment between the organisation and its number one resource, the people who drive our business strategy.
We have also worked tirelessly to disseminate correct information about NSSA, our products and services as well as to communicate our vision to create a new NSSA that is anchored on transparency, honesty, and accountability.
As a result of the interventions taken, NSSA is now enjoying drastically improved internal relations and a better appreciation of NSSA as evidenced by the generally positive media coverage and cordial stakeholder relations that the Authority enjoyed throughout 2020.
Last year we bagged over 10 awards from various entities.
This is unprecedented in our history and it clearly demonstrates the effectiveness of measures we are taking in our rebranding journey.
This positive trajectory convinced us that the time was ripe to excite the market by introducing a new NSSA corporate identity, one that reflects our ambition and communicates the direction in which we are going.
We want to reinvigorate NSSA, to reconnect with our stakeholders and to create a sense of pride about NSSA.
The rebranding is not just a cosmetic exercise but symbolises a new NSSA determined to deliver value to its members and stakeholders.
TM: You have divested from ZB and plan to divest from First Mutual and Turnall. What is the new strategy like?
AM: A key objective of our strategy is to invest in companies and projects that generate substantial social and economic impact on a commercial basis.
Towards this, NSSA is refocusing its business strategy by moving into new areas.
TM: How are you going to handle the perceived political pressure and interference at NSSA?
AM: The issue of good corporate governance is of paramount importance to NSSA and our Minister and Board are fully aware that the fortunes of the Authority are dependent on this.
Therefore, we have anchored our business approach on transparency, honesty and accountability.
This is not just for NSSA employees, but it starts with our leadership – from the Ministry, Board, management, and employees. We would also want all our stakeholders to embrace such a philosophy for the benefit of our country.
NSSA’s success is anchored on the observance of good corporate governance. We will brook no undue influence.
TM: NSSA recently announced plans to invest in goat farming project. How has the uptake been?
AM: Our mandate as NSSA is to provide social protection for our members and Zimbabweans in general.
The recent past has made us realise that the monetary pension can never be enough, so we need to back it up by empowering our pensioners through economic activities that generate sustainable income for them.
As part of this we are going to be embarking on a goat farming project in the Midlands, which will act as a seed to a programme that will be decentralised country wide.
This programme will not just provide meat for communities but is meant to provide a clear feeding line to NSSA, which will then export goat meat to the Dubai market.
This in turn will generate forex for the farmers and the country.
TM: St Tropez flats have remained dormant asset for close to a decade now, are these on your agenda?
AM: St Tropez is a strategically positioned asset.After considering several proposals, the authority has resolved to inject resources into the facility to spruce it up and transform it into a commercial income generation venture for NSSA.
TM: In the past NSSA has been financing agriculture projects. Are there plans to pursue such projects?
AM: As part of the transformative journey, NSSA has earmarked the agriculture value chains as part of its impact investments strategy.
To ensure the success of this new thrust, NSSA is establishing a unit within its investments division that will focus on agriculture.
The agriculture sector is a highly profitable and lucrative multi-billion-dollar industry with potential to contribute towards income, growth and impact pillars of NSSA’s investment philosophy.
One of the key objectives of NSSA is to invest in companies and projects that generate substantial social and economic impact on a commercial basis.
Agriculture is one such critical cog to the economic emancipation of Zimbabwe.
Investing in agriculture will contribute towards the improved supply and stabilisation of prices for basic commodities that form a significant portion of the food basket for the average Zimbabwean thereby contributing towards the welfare of contributors and pensioners.
This will generate substantial social impact on the standard of living for the general populace, including NSSA’s contributors and pensioners.
TM: The current pension payouts have been described as peanuts. Are we going to see an improvement to that?
AM: NSSA administers a social insurance scheme, underpinned on the principle of social security solidarity.
As a national social programme, the Authority aims to accord all pensioners a decent living.
Setting of a minimum pension is meant to achieve this.
The minimum pension threshold ensures the protection of most pensioners as it results in raising all falling below the minimum, which was reviewed to ZWL$1,000 in October 2020.
The next review of benefits pay-outs will be done after an actuarial valuation set for the first quarter of 2021.
NSSA is constantly looking out for possibilities for enhancing the welfare of its members, who include pensioners.
As a result, we are working day and night to improve the welfare of our members.
In addition to constant reviews and discretionary bonuses that we’ve been paying we will soon be unveiling a set of non-monetary benefits that should put a smile on the faces of our pensioners.
Going forward, we will also be implementing a self-adjusting mechanism on insurable earnings, which is expected to improve the contributions income thereby allowing the Authority to review benefits pay-outs levels in line with changes in the economy.
TM: How are you going to deal with the issues around corruption and abuse of pensioner funds that significantly damaged the image of NSSA in the past?
AM: As you have rightly put it, it is the past; a past that is dead and buried.
This was one of the major issues that we had to address in our rebranding that has given birth to a new NSSA founded on transparency, honesty and accountability.
The effectiveness of our interventions on this front was demonstrated by the accolades we received from various organisations in 2020.
We, however, shall not rest on our laurels because we know this is a life-long journey, one that compels us, as stewards of the fund, to leave a better NSSA for future generations.
TM: Now that NSSA is divesting from banks. What is the plan at hand for the National Building Society?
AM: NBS started operating just over five years ago, during which time it has managed to establish itself as a significant player in the housing space.
NSSA believes it is time to engage a strategic partner to broaden NBS’ product offering and enhance its capacity to deliver on affordable housing.
TM: And your parting shot.
AM: We are building a new NSSA that will stand as a regional and international standard bearer in terms of provision of social security products and services.
We want to create an entity that every Zimbabwean will be proud of. The new NSSA is committed to producing excellent experience for its customers and stakeholders.
This is what the new corporate identity communicates – with NSSA one can look forward to bright and sunny days.
That is our Lifelong promise to the people of Zimbabwe.TM: Thank you for your time.
AM: You are welcome.