The Department of Labour, Northern Cape appreciate the overwhelming turn-out of ex-mineworkers in the Namakwa District, who heeded the call to come and make applications for unclaimed benefits. The four days registration campaign managed to net 807 applications.
“As the Department we appreciate the overwhelming turn-out we experienced in the Namakwa District so far from potential applicants for ex-mineworkers unclaimed benefits. The new strategy deployed by our team to issue Bank forms during mobilization has also been fruitful in areas like Garies, Komaggas, Nababeep, Kleinsee and Steinkopf where there are no banking facilities. Labour reiterates its call for calm as we plan to cover the length and breadth of Namakwa District and serve all applicants. We also acknowledge the gallant effort made by our team to ensure that thousands of potential applicants are assisted during that extended period,” said Zolile Albanie, Chief Director: Provincial Operations.
The campaign, which is aimed at ex-mineworkers who left employment in the mines prior to 01 April 2002, has been successfully rolled out in the Namakwa District from 19 – 22 November 2018 targeting areas in the Namakwa District (Pofadder 19/11/2018, Garies and Komaggas 20/11/2018, Okiep and Steinkopf 21/11/2018 and finally Port Nolloth 22/11/2018.
The Department of Labour as the agent charged with responsibility of tracing and paying these ex-mineworkers urges all potential applicants to bring along any or all of the following documents for verification:
· Identity document
· Access card (from previous mine employer)
· IRP 5 (from the previous mine employer)
· Old Blue card
· Previous salary advice
· Or any proof of mine employment (including “Makhulu’s kop” card, Dompas or TEBA record)
This registration is done in line with the Peoples’ Assembly which was held in Mbhizana, Eastern Cape. A motion was tabled in the National Assembly on 19 September 2007 for Parliament to establish a committee that will look at issues of ex-mineworkers. The campaign spotlight will soon be focusing on the ZF Mgcawu District, dates and areas to be targeted will also be publicised soon.
“To date the Unemployment Insurance Fund has already made pay-outs of benefits in excess of R2.8 million in the Northern Cape province since the launch of the registration campaign in Frances Baard, John Taolo Gaetsewe and some parts of Pixley Ka Seme Districts,” concluded Albanie
The Department further remind ex-mineworkers and potential applicants who missed the opportunity during the campaign to visit the Springbok Labour Centre for their applications. The Department of Labour reiterate that the above mentioned services are rendered free of charge and potential applicants and the general public must be wary of any information and always verify it by calling this number 0800 843 843.
While the case has careened through the courts, the number of pensioners has declined from 80,000 to 50,000.
When the Financial Services Board cancelled dormant retirement funds, it transferred beneficiaries’ money into ‘unclaimed benefit funds’. However, beneficiaries say it’s not unclaimed but unpaid
As Alexander Forbes accepted six boxes of documents from representatives of the Unpaid Benefits Campaign (UBC) last month, Douglas Maila shouted: "I have saved enough to retire peacefully. But now I will turn in my grave because I will die in poverty."
Maila is one of millions of beneficiaries — former retirement fund contributors or the dependants of deceased contributors — who have been struggling to get the money they saved for retirement through their working lives.
Between 2007 and 2013, the Financial Services Board (now the Financial Sector Conduct Authority, or FSCA) cancelled dormant retirement funds, transferring beneficiaries’ money — estimated by the FSCA to be R42bn and affecting 4-million beneficiaries — into "unclaimed benefit funds" administered by, among others, Alexander Forbes.
Maila and other members of the UBC dispute the "unclaimed" tag; they suggest these funds are simply "unpaid". So in mid-October, the campaign went to present the "untraceable" beneficiaries of "unclaimed" benefits to Alexander Forbes. The UBC gave the company 14 working days — a fortnight that ends tomorrow — to report on how far it has come in paying beneficiaries and reinstating cancelled funds.
The company promised to give a comprehensive report-back by tomorrow.
As the UBC and Alexander Forbes signed the memorandum, Maila said: "Please, people, change the way you are working. Bring our money before we die. I cannot rest in peace because you are holding my money."
And while ululations broke out when Alexander Forbes accepted the six boxes of claim forms and supporting documentation, not everyone shared the optimism.
After more than a decade of seeing such events take place, Bricks Mokolo, a paralegal at the Orange Farm Human Rights Advice Centre, remains sceptical. "These companies don’t give out the money in numbers. They pay one person, you get optimistic, and then they keep quiet for [a] long [time]."
Mokolo, a former member of the cancelled Cape Gate and Mittal Steel provident funds, says he has been doing this work for 17 years. "We’ve been trying to speak to these companies, reaching out to the media to say we are there. When they came up with this notion of ‘unclaimed benefits’, we said: ‘Who is not claiming?’ Because we’ve been looking for our money. How can they keep our money under unclaimed benefits? It means that they are blaming us, saying we are not claiming."
Mokolo says claimants are "sick and tired of presenting memorandums that get thrown in dustbins". He says workers have even had to do the legwork in tracing who administers their benefits. They found the codes for their funds, and sought advice from the human rights advice office about what documents would be required to complete their applications.
"So we’ve brought everything with us. We are here to help them to speed up the release of the money. But then they [administrators] use little techniques: they tell you that they want a letter of authority, knowing very well that some people don’t even have assets. The only assets they have is the money that is sitting with [the administrators]," Mokolo says, explaining the stumbling blocks claimants often face. He says the biggest concern is that the money is earning returns while sitting with administrators, but benefits due to workers are slowly being depleted by administration and other fees.
One of the country’s benefits administrators, Fairheads Benefit Services, says getting money returned to the rightful owners is a huge problem.
Fairheads administers some unclaimed benefit funds it took over from Sygnia.
David Hurford, director of consulting and marketing at Fairheads, says the administrators and investment managers tasked with finding "missing" members often have no incentive to do so. "In fact, because they charge fees based on a percentage of assets, there is a disincentive to finding the members and paying out their benefits," he says.
Hurford suggests that a centralised administrator, with no links to companies administering the funds, could be less conflicted. If it could provide the tracing service in a "retail sense", through government agencies or other proper commercial arrangements, it could reach more people than retirement fund administrators do, as they generally deal with members through their employers.
Until such matters are resolved, the waiting will continue for groups like the UBC. While its protest at Alexander Forbes was attended only by former workers from the Vaal region, it is trying to pool resources with other outfits — including KwaZulu-Natal shack-dwellers movement Abahlali baseMjondolo, for example — to ensure greater representation when it next demonstrates about unpaid benefits.
The Unpaid Benefits Campaign has given pension fund administrator Alexander Forbes 14 days to act decisively on unpaid benefits it administers.
Alexander Forbes did not disclose the amount of unclaimed benefits in its books. But the industry watchdog, the Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA), reported in September 2017 that there was more than R42bn in unclaimed benefits in SA and about 4-million beneficiaries were affected.
Demonstrators who descended on the administrator's head office on Monday were from pension funds including those of Mittal and Telkom, as well as the Global Pension Fund.
Carrying placards that read “Telkom is here” and “We demand our own money”, beneficiaries handed over six boxes full of application forms and supporting documents for Alexander Forbes to process. They also made the administrator sign a memorandum demanding among other things that Alexander Forbes report back within 14 days on how far it has come in paying beneficiaries and reinstating cancelled funds.
“In each form we have given you codes for the pension funds you are administering. You must respond according to those codes …. We have given you everything. We’ve attached ID copies, death certificates for the deceased, everything you need is there,” said Bricks Mokolo of the Orange Farm human rights advice office in handing over the boxes.
The demonstrators said there was no telling how things would turn out if they had to return. “We are here peacefully today,” said Mokolo. “But we aren’t looking for peace, we are looking for justice.”
The group said its next target would be Old Mutual. It would also deliver application forms and supporting documents to the insurer “to prove that the people they say are not claiming are claiming”.
Lucky Scotland of the Unpaid Benefits Campaign said there had been repeated attempts by former workers and their dependants to access their benefits from Alexander Forbes and accused the company of relinquishing its responsibility to pay by transferring workers' monies into unclaimed benefits funds.
“Stop cancelling funds of existing beneficiaries,” he pleaded.
Alexander Forbes is one of the administrators of the dormant retirement funds that were cancelled by the FSCA, previously known as the Financial Services Board, between January 2007 and December 2013.
Accepting the memorandum, a representative of Alexander Forbes promised to give a comprehensive report to UBC in 14 days and to give individual feedback to all beneficiaries who submitted forms on Monday.
Alexander Forbes’s interim group CEO, Marilyn Ramplin, said the administrator has been engaging with the FSCA to help trace and compensate beneficiaries of unclaimed benefits. “Administrators provide the FSCA with quarterly reports of benefits paid and outstanding unclaimed benefits, which is available on the FSCA website,” she said.
Pressure applied by the movement, which was created in early 2017 by former workers, community groups and a few NGOs, has led to at least one administrator, Liberty, committing to reinstate 130 of the cancelled funds it administers. The group demonstrated outside Liberty’s offices in August 2017. While only members from the Vaal region joined Monday’s demonstration, UBC said it was gathering resources to be able to transport Abahlali baseMjondolo in its next demonstration.