Ex-miners paid M61.5m in benefits

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Bereng Mpaki

THE Mineworkers Provident Fund (MWPF) has paid out M61.55 million in social security benefits to 834 Basotho former workers in South African mines.

The 834 former mine workers and their beneficiaries are part of the 2 372 MWPF has managed to track down with their employment benefits amounting to M220 million.

However, according to MWPF Principal Officer, Philda Mphephu, including the 2372, there was a total of 11, 209 former Basotho miners yet to claim their benefits before the roadshow.

Ms Mphephu said this during a workshop MWPF held this week in Maseru to update stakeholders on the progress made so far in finding the Basotho social security beneficiaries.

The MWPF is a fund for workers in the mining industry and one of the largest funds in South Africa. Its goal is to serve members and their beneficiaries by providing sustainable retirement fund benefits.

The fund has two main sponsors; the National Union of Mineworkers South Africa and the Chamber of Mines. The benefits were accrued during employment and due for payment after retrenchment, retirement, resignation, ill-health, dismissal or death.

The fund made the payout after holding a roadshow in Lesotho between 19 February 2017 and 10 March 2017 to identify beneficiaries.

The Lesotho roadshow was part of MWPF’s project in Southern African Development Community (SADC) to find and pay out former SA mine workers or their dependents.

Many people across the southern African region are unable to access their social and security benefits when they leave work, dooming them and their families to continued poverty, while their money sits unclaimed. Apart from Lesotho, the other labour-sending countries include Mozambique, Botswana, Swaziland, Malawi and Zimbabwe.

It is also difficult for employees and fund managers to send money to ex-workers once they have left South Africa because there is no cohesive banking system across the SADC region.

A lack of understanding on the part of the recipients about what channels they can use to retrieve their money is also contributing to the problem.

Speaking at the workshop Chief Operations Officer of MWPF Sanele Nyoka said their team that conducted the roadshow was split into two groups with one covering northern and the other covering the southern parts of Lesotho. A joint team finished off in Maseru.

He further indicated that MWPF had assigned four people to process the claimants’ documentation for payout.

“As of last Friday, we have paid M61 million of the M220 million we are scheduled to pay out,” Ms Mphephu said.

Despite only managing to identify a fraction of the 11 209 beneficiaries, she said Lesotho was the best case in comparison to other countries.

“We have made great strides in Lesotho and had one of our best roadshows we have ever conducted as MWPF,” said Ms Mphephu.

“We were in Mozambique last year and thought we had done very well until we came to Lesotho. The numbers in Lesotho have surpassed all the other roadshows we have ever conducted.”

She said the progress was a result of the support and cooperation of the authorities in Lesotho, who he said were partners in finding and processing payments to former mineworkers who are owed benefits.

Mr Nyoka said some of the challenges they encountered included lack of identity documents on the part of claimants.

For her part, the Ministry of Labour and Employment Labour Commissioner ‘Mamohale Matsoso welcomed the progress made by MWPF but noted that they faced some logistical challenges beyond their control in their bid to over assistance in the process.

Southern Africa Miners Association (SAMA) chairperson Rantšo Mantsi said the payout was commendable since it would play a crucial part in uplifting the families of the ex-miners.

He said many sons of the ex-miners have since perished in the illegal mining operations in South Africa as a result of delays in the disbursement of their fathers’ benefits.

Mr Mantsi who is also the executive director of the Ex-miners Association of Lesotho, however noted that there was a long way to go in tracking down all the former miners, adding that he believed over M2 billion worth of benefits were yet to be paid out.

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