There are several officials in the ranks of government and government enterprises, seemingly still clinging to their jobs after they have reached the retirement age and this has not gone well with unemployed university graduates, who feel their time has come to replace these old hands.
Seeking for answers, New Era regional reporter at Rundu, John Muyamba approached the office of the Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila in his quest for some answers.
NE - There are reports that there are several pensioners clinging on to their jobs after they have turned 60 in the public service or government enterprises. How many of these people are there in the ranks of government and government enterprises?
PM - “The Human Resource Management in Government is done strictly in compliance with the Government’s Human Resource Policy, the Public Service Act and the Labour Act. These laws and policies provide for flexibility where it is in public interest for employers to extend an employment of an individual beyond the retirement age. The retirement age in the Public Service is 60 years. When a staff member reaches the age 60, he/she is deemed to have retired from the Public Service. However, in cases of rare and critical skills, a staff member may be given a maximum of two years extension by the government while a replacement is made. Such extension is done on the recommendation of the Public Service Commission.
Extension is only done when it is in the best interest of the government and not to accommodate personal interest or employment needs of the concerned individual.”
NE: “Why is government allowing these people to cling to their jobs at the expense of hordes of unemployed graduates who are supposed to take up these positions but unable to as some of those who reached the age of 60 feel they are still productive and refuse to retire?
PM: “The allegation of clinging to positions is incorrect. As indicated above, staff members actually retire at the age of 60. Extension is only granted by the government in exceptional cases, on the recommendation of the Public Service Commission. A staff member is not retained to accommodate personal needs, moreover, positions where these civil servants might have been retained, are very few and will make no difference in addressing the unemployment situation in the country. However, government has an internship program that help young people to enter the job market to be absorbed both in the public and private sector labour market.”
NE: “When is a person supposed to retire? And when can government flex its muscles to oblige people who have reached 60 to gracefully retire and make way for new blood?
PM: “The retirement age in the public service is 60 years as per the Public Service Act and as indicated, civil servants have no discretion to remain in the public service beyond this age.”
NE: Is there any policy that prevents government from enforcing the retirement rule?
PM: “There is no such a policy and we have no single case of a person who has refused to go on retirement upon the attainment of the retirement age.”
NE: Which ministries or government agencies have the highest number of people that have refused to retire or have yet to retire after having reached the age of 60?
PM: “We do not have staff members who refuse to retire because the public service does not allow a staff member to work beyond the age of 60 years, unless recommended by the Public Service Commission and based on a rare and critical skill the person may have.”
NE: Also share with us on average how many people willingly go on retirement?
PM: “As indicated above, retirement is mandatory.”
NE: There are some reports that some people have changed their birthdates so that they could remain in service. What is government doing to compel these people to retire?
PM: “The Office of the Prime Minister is not in possession of such information and such incidences if they exist constitute criminal actions and we are urging anyone with such information to bring it forth as a matter urgency for the law to take its cause.”
NE: The other year, you the Prime Minister hinted at reducing the retirement age to 55, what happened to that proposal as it would have created vacancies for the young unemployed youth?
PM: “No, the Prime Minister never hinted about that. What you might be referring to is an independent study done by a team of expertise which recommended that government should investigate the possibility of early retirement age from the current 55 years to 50 years.
That investigation is not yet concluded. It requires rigorous consideration due to its implications to the current law governing the pension framework in the country. For example, the Pension Act of 1956 and other relevant regulations will be affected. We also need to assess the financial implications to both the government and the economy as well as the impact on skills and experience. Overall, job creation is pursued and achieved by the government by creating opportunities for employment and not by forcing people out of their employment before the prescribed retirement age.
The latter is not only illegal and can be challenged in courts but it may also be economically and financially unsustainable. Pushing people out of employment before retirement age does not in any case solve unemployment in the country.
The government remains seized with efforts to make the economy grow in order to create opportunities for more jobs and improve skills provision for the young people to increase their employability and to enable them to become potential employers by providing them with funding and mentoring supports. The government has also adopted the Growth at Home Strategy through which support will be provided towards the development of local enterprises through improved access to markets including through public procurement, and by supporting value addition to the country’s raw materials, amongst others.”