Hon Mbwatekamwa, rise up and show what NSSF is!

Well-known journalist, Joachim Buwembo, seems to have rubbed quite a number of people the wrong way when he equated the COVID-19 related demand for NSSF benefits payout to milking a dog when your children want milk. Truth be said, Buwembo’s analogy was too blunt for our people who are supposed to be humble and nice even when they disapprove of your behaviour. That is why we have this belief that you should never talk about the wrongs a dead person committed.

Also, Buwembo’s dog milk post came too fast after the MPs demanded that NSSF pay out a portion of the member’s savings because of the Coronavirus outbreak – it was as if he had just been waiting for them to make that remark, In the heat of the anxiety, it was probably not prudent to tell people the bitter truth so bluntly. Maybe Buwembo should simply have said that under the law, NSSF cannot pay out retirement benefits because of a pandemic, unless or until the law is amended. To say that asking for the benefits contrary to the provisions of the NSSF Act is like trying to milk a dog was a bit harsh to an audience that was emotionally anxious.

Otherwise, even our ancestors were aware of the need to restrict particular assets for the purpose they are intended for, and that is why they coined names and sayings like Mbwatekamwa. Yes, it is indeed unwise and actually reckless to convert the use of an asset without first adjusting it carefully. Attempting to milk a lactating dog is a very bad idea for it will certainly bite you, as it is not supposed to be touched that way but worst of all, you try to mess with its puppies’ food. What is more, the milk might do your human children more harm than good and could cause serious infection.

Maybe this is where Buwembo was right to come up with the annoying analogy, since Covid-19 jumped to human beings because of consumption of animal products. Even the dreaded Ebola is largely blamed to some people who consumed bats and monkeys. You may not be so reckless as to eat these zoological creature directly. But you can pick Ebola from eating a guava for example. A but sucks from a guava and goes its way but after leaving the deadly virus in the succulent fruit. You pass by and pick the attractive guava, do not see the prick mark where the bat sucked and eat its saliva. A few days later you are dead, but not before infecting others.

We currently have an honourable member of parliament called Mbwatekamwa, and he seems determined to live up to his name; that attempting to milk a dog is dangerous. Hon Mbwatekamwa could take up the cause of promoting financial literacy education among Ugandans, without antagonizing them the way Buwembo did. You can gently deliver a tough but necessary lesson without making your audience bitter. That is how President Museveni has gone about educating Ugandans on how to avoid catching the Coronavirus. You can really see why Museveni was being called ‘Mukubya byaayi” (one who canes using dry banana fibers) by the locals during the bush war – it was because of his being gentle while punishing innocent offenders.

“We will be lenient with the misled but very harsh with the misleaders,” Museveni used to say.
The people who are asking for their NSSF benefits because of Covid-19 are not so bad as to be given harsh lectures by the likes of Buwembo. They should be handled gently and explained to that NSSF contributions are a statutory requirement for employees in the private sector and their employers because they do not get gratuity and pension for life like their counterparts in public service who are catered for by the tax payer. The Ugandans need to be told gently that only 5% of their salary is deducted and they can/should save for emergencies like Corona from the 95%, another 5% if they wish. A very effective example would have been to tell them how the government would treat a request/demand by its civil servants that be paid part of their pension because of Coronavirus! This is an appropriate parallel because 66.6% of the NSSF money is not even contributed by the worker, but by the employer who is forced by the government to do so.

There are even better analogies than the one milking a dog in Buwembo’s language (presumably he is a Muganda) like okulya eggi kwesubya muwula (eating the egg instead of letting it hatch so you get chickens out of it). That would certainly be better than equating the demand for NSSF payment over Covid to primitive natives who are given maize seeds to plant and cook them instead of planting them to get a hundred times more in grain for cooking,  

This is a very good cause for Hon Mbwatekwmwa to take up, for there has not yet been any significantly impactful education programme to make Ugandans understand basic finance. Most people in our country who retire from salaried service die soon afterwards not because of boredom but because of frustration after misusing their retirement packages themselves, a consequence of not being taught financial management. Someone works for thirty to forty years and the money that have been accumulating for that long is given to them and after a couple of months they don’t know where it went. Yet they worked for it patiently for many years. Now what would happen if they ‘ate’ the money before even retirement, due to a Covid payout of benefits? Wouldn’t they be even more frustrated than those who get it after retirement?

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