4 000 EC ex-miners finally strike gold: Dispatch locates beneficiaries of unclaimed benefits

Four thousand Eastern Cape ex-miners or their families today stand a chance to claim their share of R40-billion worth of benefits that was left unclaimed for decades.

All 4000 names are published in this edition on pages 13 to 21. This could provide a significant financial boost to their struggling families and the province.
Thousands of ex-miners recruited through TEBA many years ago, have struggled to access their retirement funds because of bureaucracy and hurdles within the system.
TEBA claims it has struggled for years to locate most of the beneficiaries – but it took the Saturday Dispatch only three days of travelling around the province to contact at least 15 ex-miners or their families.
Most of the beneficiaries and their families contacted by the paper were not aware they had money and could access the funds from the multinational mining companies they have worked for over the years.
A large number of mineworkers from South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland, Mozambique and Malawi died after contracting disease in the mines.
Some of the ex-mine workers who spoke with the Dispatch, accused TEBA of complicating the system, making it difficult for them to claim monies owed to them.
But TEBA said they were doing their best to trace those owed money by the mining companies.
TEBA said they have already paid R300-million on different projects in rural “labour sending” communities ranging from pension and provident fund monies to occupational lung disease benefits.
An amount of R240-million was paid to individual beneficiaries under the Medical Bureau for Occupational Diseases (MBOD) and R60-million through mineworkers’ provident funds, such as the Mines 1970 Preservation Fund, Anglo Group Provident Fund, MPF Sibanye and others (see sidebar).
From Willowvale, Matatiele, Mount Fetcher, Komani to Adelaide, scores of ex-miners are sitting destitute at home with no money to support their families.
One is 89-year-old Gilapho Mavuso of Willowvale who has struggled for years to access his money through TEBA.
“For the many years that I worked in the mines, I am still holding on to the hope that my money will be paid out one day. I am hoping this will happen while I am still alive so my children can be able to bury me with dignity.”
TEBA’s Eastern Cape manager Samuel Moeletsi said the company and its industry partners were making significant strides towards resolving the issue of unclaimed benefits.
“In recent times, we have been at the forefront of projects which have released more than R300-million into rural ‘labour sending’ communities.
“In addition to this, TEBA continues to support the payment of individuals who were injured on duty,” said Moeletsi.
The Dispatch has also discovered that some of the 4000 ex-mineworkers listed to get money from TEBA, have died while others are living in abject poverty.
This week, the Dispatch team spent three days travelling more than 2000km from Matatiele to Adelaide, King William’s Town and other surrounding towns searching for miners on the list.
TEBA said it was using other media platforms to trace the miners but none of those who spoke to Dispatch, were aware of this as they did not have access to radio or television.
“We are doing roadshows with a view to meet beneficiaries without radios face-to-face so we can clarify claim requirements and related stuff,” said Moeletsi.
Another beneficiary, 73-year-old Lungile Qhanqa of Mcewula village in Whittlesea, is one of the 4000 of an estimated 180000 ex-miners who are still to claim their monies.
When Qhanqa met with the Dispatch team at his modest rural home, he could not hide his joy.
“This is great news brought by strangers into my house. I was ready to die but I am asking for more years to enjoy the money from TEBA,” he jokingly said as he was welcoming the Dispatch team into his house.
Qhanqa left the mines in the ’90s and accepted what was given to him as his retirement package.
“I always had that hope that there’s money that will come to me but after almost 30 years with no word from TEBA, I gave up,” he said.
Moeletsi said the challenge they were facing was the illegal tracing agencies, who were taking money from the poor ex-miners. 



Workers owed billions in unclaimed benefits

Cape Town - Workers across Southern Africa are owed billions in unclaimed benefits but it’s proving to be difficult to trace them.

So says the Financial Services Board (FSB), which released figures this week that pension fund administrators have R42 billion in unclaimed pension and provident fund benefits.
The funds are owed to 3.5 million beneficiaries who don’t know they have the cash in various interest-bearing accounts. About 2.8 million of them are in South Africa and the rest are in the SADC region.

Most of the unclaimed benefits arose from the mining, motoring, metal and engineering industries, said Loraine de Swart, FSB assistant manager of retirement funds.
The FSB and the Registrar of Funds sounded a warning against “unscrupulous operators” who had tried to con people into paying them R1 200 to trace their money.

De Swart said: “These are often empty promises and there is absolutely no guarantee that the person paying that amount is due any money.
“The FSB has placed a number of warnings in newspapers and visited affected communities to make it clear that the FSB is able to assist with inquiries free of charge.”
Since 2015 the FSB, together with fund administrators, has set up a national database to track beneficiaries but it is ultimately the responsibility of fund administrators.
Many funds have now employed tracing agents to find the beneficiaries.
“The tracing of unclaimed benefits is further hindered by the huge number of migrant workers that were employed either as illegal immigrants or those not willing to provide their true identities as this could have resulted in their not finding a job or being sent back to their countries of origin.”
In instances where beneficiaries are not traced, the money is placed in an unclaimed benefits trust.
De Swart said a regulation had been introduced in 2001 to compel employers to provide funds with member details, including full name, date of birth, ID number or employee/pay number, or other means of identification.
“Funds should therefore maintain accurate membership data and contact details of its members.”
But a consultant for Commsure Financial Solutions, Patrick Odendaal, said in some cases administrators were tardy in tracing and paying beneficiaries so they could continue to claim service charges.
For example, if a beneficiary had an unclaimed benefit of R5 000 over a long period, the entire benefit could be swallowed up by administrative charges.
This practice had been outlawed since 2007 by the Registrar of Funds in an attempt to preserve as much of the unclaimed benefits as possible for members.
However, the practice had continued.
Odendaal did, however, agree with the FSB that administrators faced many hurdles and called on the industry to do much more to trace and pay beneficiaries.
One way would be for fund administrators to share databases, and tap into the databases of Sassa and major retailers such as Edgars.
Odendaal said the unclaimed benefits ranged from R5000 to tens of thousands of rands a person.
According to the report released by the FSB this past week, just a little over R22 billion rand had been paid out to 934 000 members in the past five years, but a staggering amount was left in the kitty.
Weekend Argus approached five of the big fund administrators, Liberty Life, Old Mutual, Alexander Forbes, Momentum and Sanlam, to find out about the progress of their tracing and payments and also what their administrative charges are per member.
At the time of going to print, three of the five had responded to queries about tracing and paying benefits and just one replied to the question about admin charges.
Emile Huge, Momentum’s principal officer of unclaimed benefit funds, said an unclaimed benefit is defined in the Pension Funds Act as one that had not been claimed for two years after it became due.
“The combined membership of Momentum’s two unclaimed benefit funds was 59 354.
"Over the past five years we have successfully traced and paid 49 318 members.”
Hugh Hacking, Old Mutual corporate general manager of operations, said as at June 30 the company had a little under 100 000 members in the unclaimed benefit preservation pension and provident funds and they employed three independent tracing agents.
Danie Scholtz, Sanlam’s head of marketing, said the company’s employer benefits department administered approximately 100 funds with more than a million members.
The Unclaimed Benefits Provident Preservation Fund, with 28 216 members, had an assets value of just under R287m.
The Unclaimed Benefits Pension Preservation Fund had 21 922 members with an asset value of just over R378m.
Scholtz said Sanlam also employed tracing agents.



ASISA lands R5.6 billion to rightful hands

CAPE TOWN - The Association for Saving and Investment South Africa has, this week, released an update showing R5.6 billion given to traced claimants and beneficiaries.
The statement by the association says more than 37 000 policyholders, investors, and beneficiaries were traced and united with their financial belongings worth of R5.6 billion in 6 months, period starting 1 July 2016 to 31 December 2016. 
At the end of December last year, there were 130 740 cases of unclaimed assets in long-term insurance policies and collective investment scheme portfolios worth R4.4 billion, the statement revealed.
It is said that this is the first report since the Standard on Unclaimed Assets was being revised to include other segments of the industry. Senior Policy Adviser at ASISA, Rosemary Lightbody says "We are still in the process of refining reporting templates with the aim of being able to provide a more detailed breakdown of figures by early next year".

ASISA says it has a system in place designed to assist members of the public who need help with finding out whether a deceased person had an insurance policy or tracing policies where the policyholder is not sure of the insurer’s details.
Lightbody urges consumers to ensure that they update their contact details at the relevant financial institutions, so that assets are paid to rightful onwers when they are due.


Unpaid pensions saga hots up

The Financial Services Board (FSB) has moved to clarify its efforts to resolve the ballooning problem of unclaimed pension benefits, even as civil society campaigners step up a drive to help workers to reclaim billions owed to them.
By 2016, more than R42-billion in unclaimed benefits had been amassed in the pensions system, the FSB said at a media roundtable earlier this week.
About R7.6-billion is held in specially created unclaimed benefits preservation funds, and about R34.7-billion is held in occupational funds, or retirement funds, created by employers for their employees and which are active.