Pensioners’ payment process can be made comfortable

Lawi Joel

JUST recently I made a surprising discovery about retirement. To many people it is as scary as death and those who are scared of it have reasons to be. But really, they should not be. In 2014 my office sent me to Morogoro to undergo a course on how to handle retirement.

We should have been three officers, but one opted out. That fellow, a man called Jerome, had considered the opportunity negatively and looked at the course as the hangman’s noose.

He became so scared of the course one would think he were being told to put his head in the mouth of a crocodile because, ostensibly, the reptile was polite enough and would not bite it off. “Oh, no!” Jerome, who reportedly was a reverend, cried out loud. “I am not yet that old to go to Morogoro for the course.

I am not sixty yet!” No matter what they did or said to entreat him to attend the course, telling him that it was normal and just a means by the government to prepare its civil servants for the vagaries of life after employment, Jerome stuck to his guns.

The whole basis of the course in Morogoro was that life after employment in the civil service was more enjoyable if you only knew how to use it. One does not need to be employed to live, they told us.

There is always plenty of work to do around. All one needs is good planning of how to use that time. Consequently, there could even be more work to do after retirement. The bottom line was only to face life after retirement with a cool head.

But just after the Pass Over Anniversary this year, a long holiday that threatened me with lethargy, I went downtown to the New Post Office in the centre to settle the question of my post office box. What met my eyes was a sorry case of old men and women who had retired, people whose group, willy-nilly, we all will join one day. Jostling to get ahead of each other, they struggled to get to the counter.

They had come to take their monthly retirement pay, but what a mess! Whatever orderly arrangement there was to facilitate their mission, it was badly beaten by the space available for them in the office.

They presented their payment cards at one counter on one side of the office and waited on the other side for their pay. There was a security officer who announced their names all over the place and the pensioners had to be all ears.

But some of the oldies were dozing where they sat others were too tired to remain on their feet while they waited. They went to the other part of the office to look for seats.

I was already in this city in early seventies when the New Post Office was being built. At that time the city had a population of just over a million, if I remember right and more than once I wondered loudly why the dickens the authorities were constructing such a huge building for a post office.

But the authorities had seen far. Today, I can see I was shortsighted then because just the number of retirees, who turned out on April 28 to pick up their monthly portion of pension flooded the office.

Given my mission of the day at the office, I would be with them for a while and so I was able to monitor the progress of their case and comfort. Now and then a name would be called and a man or a woman would shuffle to a counter to pick up their pay.

To some of them that short journey only five or so metres to the teller, was laborious indeed and as they proceeded in their journey to the counter, there was no doubt their government or they had made the right decision to retire. Their gait was slow, measured and visibly painful.

There were no seats for them to sit on and wait for their turn to make that glorious yet painful trip to pick up at the counter the sweet residue of their civil labour.

Some of them, and they certainly were the bigger portion of the lot, must have been waiting for long because, the door which separated the two groups, suddenly flew open with an outburst of impatient and no doubt outraged old pensioners querying what on earth was happening to keep them waiting for so long! “Why don’t you call my name, aah!” asked one, trudging in, nodding his head like some monster out of a western movie?

“I have been here for so long, almost two hours but my name has not been called, what’s the matter?” “What’s your name?” the security officer asked to help him. “They call me Ngedere Karanga,” the man said, pushing his way through the mass of people, closer to the counter. Whoever named the man Ngedere (monkey) the son of karanga (groundnut), must have wanted to send a message.

He had a head with a shape between an oval and a round figure. His eyes were small, round and sunken balls which blinked rapidly as if he were suspicious of his surroundings. His nose was a stub with no dorsum or bridge and no columella.

The nose may have a tip, but it had no alae, giving the man resemblance of a primate close to man in appearance. Pleas of another man who claimed he was called Andrew Kirage were drowned by shouts of another man who wanted to know why they did not want to call his name. “And what is your name?” the lady behind counter number four asked aloud.

“Sitake Nikae!” the man shouted. “Who?” a man responded as a matter of a question. “Sitaki Nikae!” the man shouted. Tempers may be high on account of what appeared to be a lethargic pace of post officials’ working, but the name was comical and a roar of laughter swept the room.

The pensioners were mostly old tired people and they needed quick service, which unfortunately, they did not get. They varied much in their constitution as they differed in their names.

There was a Rajabu, a Swalehe and a Mwita. But when one complained that he had not heard Pesa Kibao called, heads turned. “Who is Pesa Kibao?” the security officer asked.

“That’s my name, the man said. The lady behind Counter Four said she had called Pesa Kibao several times, to no avail. “I called that name four times, but nobody answered,” said the lady. Pesa Kibao was given his pay, but the message of the day was clear.

The hassles pensioners go through to collect their pay make prospective pensioners fearful of their days after employment. Surely, the payment process for pensioners can be made more friendly than it is in many places today.

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