Njundu Drammeh

The Social Security And Housing Finance Corporation (SSHFC) saga or rather phony war…. From what I have read on Facebook and heard from interviews by Manjang, Camara and others, I am tempted to ask “whose interest is Manjang or Camara/staff fighting for?”

Modou Camara, from all indication, seems to be fighting for the “interest” of his colleagues. I don’t know what “interest” these are; though I know they want Manjang out as their MD. Some allegations of administrative malfeasance or abuse of office. But whose interests really are they fighting for?

Manjang, whose “interest” is he is fighting for? I know he is protesting his innocence of the allegations against him. Sufficiently? He claims the protesting staff are opposed to his austerity measures, the plugging of abuse of pensioners’ funds. Argued he is making profit for the corporation. But these aren’t sufficient to dismiss the allegations as vendetta or frivolous.

Who’s right? The jury is still out, I guess. The State is dragging its feet; can’t resolve the impasse which has become intractable. When State House, the seat of power, is overwhelmed by this “fraternal” squabble and is wallowing in indecision, then you know something is fundamentally wrong with the foundation of the State.

I take no side in this saga. It not about the fight for freedom or human rights or good governance or fight against State impunity or seizing of democratic space. It is not about the rights of the contributor to the funds of SSHFC, the ultimate shareholder and for whose interest the Corporation is set up to protect and fulfill.

My belief is that SSHFC has never really served the purpose for which it is set up or is supposed to do for the contributor, the active worker in the public and private sectors, and the retiree or pensioner. I ask these questions:

What has SSHFC done for the contributor to its funds in real terms?

What social security in real terms is it providing for the contributor? What social protection is it giving the contributor at the lower rungs of the ladder; what cushioning against the devastating effects of poverty, ill health, unemployment, exclusion, etc.?

What housing schemes is it providing or has built for its various categories of contributors so that they have a roof over their heads and wouldn’t have to worry about rents or shelter after retirement? The last time I checked the minimum cost of empty plot of SSHFC land is D100,000. Which categories of contributors can afford them? Visit their estates and see who live there: middle level managers, petty bourgeoisie, professionals, diasporans.

When is the last time you as a contributor receive your statement of contributions from SSHFC? Do you even know that it is supposed to provide you such? The contributor has to go their to request for the statement. What can be responsible for this from entity with hundreds of staff on its payroll?

How easy is it for a pensioner or retiree to receive his benefits from SSHFC? The bureaucratic rigmarole, the running from pillar to post. Curse your stars if the contributor died in active service and you are the next of kin or following it up on behalf of the family?

You wonder why credit unions are in some corporations and unions? Apart from “credit”, they also provide social security services to their members, a cushioning against hard times.

You wonder why real estates are mushrooming all over the place? Aren’t they also filling the gap that SSHFC ain’t doing for the low income earner or contributor?

Nothing bad to make profit, to have bigger portfolio. The SSHFC is not set up to make just profit on our contribution. It is to provide society security and social protection; it is to ensure the contributor is cushioned against the effects of poverty and its attendant problems. Is it fulfilling its raison d’etre?

Workers of the Gambia, Unite. We have to demand accountability and responsive, quality services from our service providers, SSHFC being one such major provider. Time to use social accountability means.

I empathise with both camps and won’t deride the staff for picketing. It is a right they have. The fight of Manjang and the Staff is just not about me or my rights which SSFHC ain’t fulfilling to expectations. Sorry.