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Pensioners in the northern Mozambican city of Nampula, many of them elderly and frail, are being obliged to queue up for hours outside the provincial offices of the National Social Security Institute (INSS) merely to prove that they are still alive.
Every year, people drawing old age or invalidity pensions from the INSS are obliged to submit to a “proof of life”. This means they must go to the nearest INSS office in person, and are threatened that, if they do not show up, their benefits will be cut off.
The only exceptions made are for those who are bedridden, or are otherwise unable to leave their homes. In such cases, the INSS will come to them, and make home visits.
The scene at the INSS offices in Nampula is chaotic, since the queues are badly organised and so what should be a simple procedure can take many hours.
Pensioners who spoke to AIM expressed their frustration at standing in apparently interminable queues, which creep forward at a snail’s pace.
These lengthy queues have been in plain sight since the first day of the exercise, yet INSS officials brush the complaints aside. The interim INSS provincial delegate, Arcelina Maringue, told AIM that pensioners do not have to come to the Nampula head office, since teams have been sent to offices in the city’s six administrative posts. She suggested that the pensioners go to the office in the nearest administrative post.
But the pensioners told AIM this information had not been made available, and they only found out about the offices in the administrative posts once they had made their way from the periphery of the city to the INSS headquarters in central Nampula.
Pensioner Momad Adamo said “I’ve been here since the first day, but at 10.00 they sent us away, and told us to come back the next day. I did that, but I found a queue and it wasn’t moving. So this is the third day I’ve come here. But if I’d been properly informed I would have done the proof of life in my home neighbourhood”.
Maringue promised that the information about where people should go for their “proof of life” will be improved, so as to reduce the suffering imposed on the pensioners, who are mostly old, ill or widowed mothers accompanied by young children.
She admitted that, unlike previous years, the pensioners had turned up en masse for the proof of life – but had found that the INSS was not prepared to receive them. “The brigades have been sent to the previously identified places”, she said, “and in our district offices too, we shall publicise the information”.
She declared that anyone who goes not provide proof of life risks having their pension cut off as from May (the month following the end of the proof of life exercise on 10 April).
Maringue said the INSS has 9,890 pensioners on its books in Nampula. 6,400 of these are receiving old age pensions.Source: AIM