The Oshakati Regional branch office of the Social Security Commission (SSC) has been a resounding success and has grown phenomenally for the past 16 years. The opening of the new state of the art SSC complex in 2011 is a testimony that growth is at all high.
The man in charge is Kleopas Shatona since 1998. He has seen it all, from an embryonic stage to where the Commission is today. The aim, to bring the Commission’s services closer to the people in the northern regions, is a plus for decentralisation made visible.
“We started very small, at the Regional Council office,in a very tiny office. I was there patiently in a tiny office, the space was just too small. At the same time the customers were growing, you can’t live in such a small building there. We moved to one building there in Frans Indongo yellow complex. We stayed there until 2009 when we came here,” he recalls.
The branch became the only one in the country with the adjacent street renamed after the Commission. This according to Shatona did not come on a silver platter but saw him ploughing tonnes of efforts to get approval by the local authorities, four years went in the effort, but it paid off eventually. This simply defines the person he is, hardworking, perseverance, high levels of energy and a never say die spirit.
Shatona is tasked to oversee the day to day operation of the Commission at the branch office which employs 21 people. In addition, the hardworking and energetic Shatona is also in charge of two other satellite offices in Eenhana and Outapi served by 11 employees in total.
Overall his hands are full as he has a full responsibility to manage the branch in the northern regions namely; Oshikoto, Ohangwena, Oshana, Omusati and part of Kunene. For him it is business as usual and he loves it.
With all these responsibilities squarely on his shoulders, Shatona’s key role is to make sure that the mission and vision of the Commission are taken ahead.
“I have to make sure that the office delivers efficiently and honestly according to the goals and strategic objectives we have set. Not only in the office but as an institution we have strategic objectives that we need to meet,” he says.
He strongly believes that the SSC has a crucial role to play in Namibia and that people in general and employers in particular must understand this role and register their employees willingly and voluntarily and hence pay up their contribution.
“It is very important for all employers to understand why they need to register themselves and employees with the SSC,” he stresses.
According to Shatona, he devotes a great amount of his time in stakeholder engagement seizing every opportunity which presents itself in order to help the clients understand their duties and their responsibility towards SSC.
“My role is to make sure that they understand their responsibilities in terms of registration, payments and benefits of their employees as stipulated by the Social Security Law,” he says.
The Social Security Commission has an important mandate as part of the publicly-funded social safety nets. It provides social security benefits under its maternity, sickness and death benefits fund.
Through a bouquet of various products the Commission is designed to provide relief to registered members who fall ill, to working mothers on maternity leave, as well as lump sum amounts in the case of death, retirement and disability of a registered member. In addition it offers employee compensation to employees injured or contracted diseases while performing their duties.It is also awarding bursaries and study loans to students, funding employment projects and training schemes through the Development Fund.
Shatona says it is vital for the clients to understand the development within the Commission – changes that are taking place so that they can respond in the manner as required.
“We are dealing with the lives of people, and each claim has as turnaround time at which it is being paid,” he says.
As a long serving manager who has seen it all, Shatona is satisfied with the progress made in improving the systems within the Commission as it has improved the turnaround period in processing claims. In addition, more branches and satellite offices are being added throughout the country thus making it convenient for people to access services without travelling long distances. Of course much has still to be done!
“We have very good and efficient systems in place. People can register for claims here and they will be processed and authorised here and not in Windhoek as before,” he said.
However, he added that some claims depending on their nature are still referred to Windhoek but it only takes one day longer to be processed.
“We have had many cases that our customers are very happy about, because they bring the claim today and the next morning the cheque is already here or is deposited on the account.”
Shatona emphasises that the presence of the SSC has relieved the burden of citizenry of Namibia.
“SSC has added value to the lives of our people, if there was no SSC paying these benefits, I tell you, more especially death benefits, most of our members would hardly have afforded a coffin to bury their families, afford to clothe and feed their babies, afford to maintain themselves whilst on prolonged sick leaves,” he warns. He regards SSC as an institution that puts up a ladder to step on whilst experiencing any condition that cuts a person away from their wages or salaries.
It is clear that Shatona is a team player who does not attribute progress made to him but to the entire team effort. He looks back with pride that the Commission has made its presence felt moving from a rented office to a multi-million dollar complex. Despite all these, he is not slowing down as yet as he is still looking for opportunities for further expansion and bringing services closer to the people.
Shatona stresses that it is important for one to be committed to something in life and do the best while they still can.
“While I am still here as manager, I will do what am supposed to do,even if I am no more here people will still say YES he was there,” he concludes. PF