Feature: Social Grant Pay Points Turned Into Business Opportunities

01 Mar 2018 16:40pm
By Petrus Muronga
SHARUKWE, 01 MAR (NAMPA) – In efforts to stretch their resources to provide for themselves, some vendors in the Kavango East Region have turned old age pension and disability grant pay points into business opportunities.
These vendors sell a variety of products ranging from cooking oil, clothes, electrical appliances, vegetables and any other necessities grant beneficiaries living outside town might need.
One of them, Veronica Mutunga, a resident of Kehemu residential area in Rundu, told Nampa at the Sharukwe pay point recently it has become a way of life for her and her sister to sell their products at pay points.
“We follow them (paymasters) wherever they go. Even as far as Katima Mulilo (Zambezi Region), because we just don’t want to sit at home and wait for our husbands to provide everything while we sit idle,” she says while attending to a customer.
Epupa Investment Technology (Epupa Investech) has been contracted by Government to administer social grants since 2010.
Mutunga and her sister started their business in 2007.
“We sell food and other things here, because some of the pensioners often end up being robbed of their money when they go to town,” she says.
Depending on the village and the number of vendors, Mutunga and her sister can earn between N.dollars 1 000 and N.dollars 1 500 at a time.
She notes they also face fierce competition from some local mini markets in the villages that started selling their items on credit and wait for the pensioners to settle their debts.
Another vendor, who preferred to remain anonymous, said it is not about how much they make on a day, but about feeding herself and her family.
“What matters is at least you have sold something and you are doing something for yourself and your family,” she says while packing some of her wares into boxes.
The government through the Ministry of Poverty Eradication and Social Welfare (MPESW) is mandated under the National Pensions Act 10 of 1992 to give grants to those attaining the age of 60 years, and disability grants to those between the ages of 16 and 59 years who have been certified as disabled by a State medical officer.
According to the MPESW, a total of 170 346 pensioners are currently benefiting from the pension grant while 41 061 people are beneficiaries of the disability grant.
One of the pensioners at the pay point thanked the government for making sure the old and disabled are taken care of.
“This has relieved us from the financial burden we pensioners used to face, especially when you have grandchildren to take care of,” said Frans Sikeso.
In 2017, the pension and disability grants were increased to N.dollars 1 200 from N.dollars 1 100 in 2016.
The distribution of the money is generally regarded as smooth running by pensioners Nampa spoke to, however, some of the blues encountered include when beneficiaries forget their identification cards.
Without this card provided by Epupa Investech, and their national identity document (ID), beneficiaries are unable to get their grants.
One such unfortunate pensioner was Benedictus Siremo, who forgot his old South West Africa (SWA) ID at home. Siremo came with his Namibian ID, but he is only recognised by the old SWA document with which he registered, and he was forced to go back home without getting his pension payment as the paymasters proceeded to the next pay point.
According to Epupa Investech Managing Director Shalli Ben-Elunga, the company is responsible for beneficiaries who receive their grants cash; others receive their social grants through NamPost.
Epupa has a total of 178 068 cash recipients nationally and 28 480 of these recipients are from the Kavango West and Kavango East regions.