Ex-mineworkers compensated for lung diseases

A TOTAL of 1 203 payments were made in March 2018, amounting to R18.2 million, to compensate ex-mineworkers, including many from the Northern Cape, for occupational lung diseases.
The Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation said in a statement that this represented the highest number of payments in a month since the commencement of the tracking and tracing process.
The Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) on the Special Presidential Package for the Revitalisation of Distressed Mining Communities and Labour-Sending Areas was established in 2012, in accordance with the 2012 Social Accord signed by organised labour, business and government.
“From April 2015 to March 2016, some 1 766 claimants were paid a total of R79 million, with the bulk of payments going to ex-mineworkers from labour-sending areas within South Africa.
“From April 2017 to March 2018, a total of 10 409 claimants were paid R254 million, representing an increase of about 500% in claimants paid and 200% increase in monies paid. Five years ago, an average of 2 000 claimants were paid. About R110 million went to 4 912 claimants in neighbouring countries,” the department said.
Potential claimants or their beneficiaries can call 080 1000 240 to check the status of their claims or if they need medical assessment.
“Medical assessments are provided in decentralised One-Stop Service Centres such as those in provincial hospitals in Mthatha (Eastern Cape), Carletonville (Gauteng), Burgersfort (near Limpopo and Mpumalanga) and Kuruman (Northern Cape), and in Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique and Swaziland,” the department said.
Mobile clinics have also been used successfully in selected districts in South Africa and neighbouring countries.
“Fifteen medical doctors have been seconded by the mining companies for the Certification Committees at the Medical Bureau for Occupational Diseases. A web-based link to the Department of Health is available – www.health.gov.za/ccod – and provides information on accessing medical services and claims,” the department said.
Mobile clinics have also been used successfully in selected districts in South Africa and neighbouring countries.
“Fifteen medical doctors have been seconded by the mining companies for the Certification Committees at the Medical Bureau for Occupational Diseases. A web-based link to the Department of Health is available – www.health.gov.za/ccod – and provides information on accessing medical services and claims,” the department said.
Through co-ordination and support from the IMC – which includes the Department of Health, Department of Mineral Resources and Department of Labour and is chaired by the Minister in the Presidency – work continues to track and trace claimants of unpaid financial compensation to ex-mineworkers.
The departments are also working towards aligning the industry’s occupational health and safety policies, and the required legislative changes, to facilitate access to compensation and other benefits for ex-mineworkers.
This will also include the reorganisation of the compensation system and access to benefits for former and current mineworkers.


Victory in Transnet pension funds case

CAPE TOWN - Thousands of Transnet pensioners scored a major victory yesterday when the Constitutional Court gave them the go-ahead to recover billions of rands from the freight, rail and logistics giant as well as the Transnet Second Defined Pension Fund and the Transport Pension Fund.
The court gave Transnet and the pension funds 20 days to respond to the claim, which is estimated at R80 billion.
The ruling brought to an end an ongoing legal wrangle between Transnet, the two pension funds and the approximately 60000 former workers who took the company to court in 2013 over pension payouts.
Richard Carr, one of the pensioners and co-founder of the Transnet Pension Action Group, said the Constitutional Court's decision paved the way for the matter to go to court. Carr said the amount could be higher now.

He said Transnet had raised an exception to the pensioners’ claim in 2013 when the matter was about to be heard in court. Carr, however, said the pensioners were open to an out-of-court settlement of the matter. “Our goal is to get Transnet to pay what is due to us. Any further delay in this matter is not in our interest,” he said.
In their claim the pensioners argued that there was a 1989 undertaking by the parastatal’s predecessor, South African Transport Services (Sats), that they would receive the same pension benefits under a commercial entity Transnet as they did under Sats and its two pension funds.
At the time, Sats said the practice of annually increasing members’ pensions by at least 70% of the rate of inflation would continue.
“Transnet and the new pension funds kept the promise until 2002 by granting annual pension increases of about 80%, on average, of the rate of inflation. Since then, they have broken the promise,” the judgment said.
The pensioners’ case rests on three claims - that the funds increase the pension benefits by at least 70% of the rate of inflation with effect from 2003; that Transnet pay a R17.1bn plus interest “legacy debt” to the funds; and that the court render unlawful and invalid an undertaking by trustees of the Transport Fund to donate 40% of its members’ surplus to Transnet. The pensioners allege that the donation is unlawful and want Transnet to pay R309million plus interest.



PENSIONS: Some progress

Finance minister Malusi Gigaba admitted that the stalemate continues in pension industry negotiations — the parties at Nedlac have yet to agree on the future of provident funds.
For now, members of provident funds can take out their pension pots in a lump sum, though government and business would like to see pension and provident fund rules aligned so that everyone would have to buy a regular annuity. But labour has dug in its heels.
This stalemate notwithstanding, there has been some progress in the pensions industry.
Changes to offshore regulations were quietly slipped into the budget.
Soon, pension funds and retirement annuities will be able to increase their exposure to offshore assets from 25% to 30%.
Rowan Burger, managing executive at MMI, says this will give investors the opportunity to diversify from a highly concentrated local market, where Naspers alone can account for 25% of the index.
It is quite a bold move when a stronger currency makes offshore assets look cheaper in rand terms.
Burger says "project bonds" outlined by Gigaba will provide a new asset class for retirement funds. They will give institutional investors the chance to participate in infrastructure projects through listed tradable securities that aim to offer superior risk-adjusted returns.
They will be underpinned by the cash flow of infrastructure or energy projects, for example.
David Gluckman, head of special projects at Sanlam, says that for the first time treasury has put a stake in the ground on retirement fund consolidation.
The Financial Services Board has been directed to continue the policy of reducing the number of retirement funds to fewer than 200, compared with the currently active 1,650.
The subscale funds are likely to join umbrella funds offered by the likes of Sanlam, Old Mutual and Alexander Forbes.
Michelle Acton, principal consultant at Old Mutual Corporate Consultants, says it is interesting that the proposals include even those funds that are exempt from annual audits because they have less than R6m in assets.
And all funds should have independent trustees.
"They can ensure that there is a fair balance between the interests of the members and the management trustees," Acton says.
"Ironically, when these small funds fold into umbrellas they no longer have the right to vote for trustees. But the aim is for the governance of retirement funds to be in line with the King4 standards."
Unclaimed benefits are a serious issue, with more than R40bn lying waiting for former members to take their share.
Treasury officials speak of consulting with Nedlac to look at a more efficient way to find beneficiaries. They talk of centralised data, not yet explicitly about a centralised government-run fund.
Treasury also wants to strengthen measures to deal with criminal and unethical practices and expects funds and administrators to improve disclosure. And the same rules need to apply to state entities such as the Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF). This is by far the largest fund in the country, but raises governance questions by not giving its members the right to elect trustees.
The Budget Review reports that the GEPF now has 1.3m members and 437,000 beneficiaries, mostly pensioners. Its total contributions were up R5bn to R65.4bn. Membership was flat but beneficiaries increased by 3.3%.
It plays a huge role in the creation and preservation of wealth in the public sector, paying benefits of R88.3bn last year.
The portion of benefits that went to resignations was 34%, down from 44% the year before with more stability in the workforce. The full GEPF actuarial review will only be issued next year.
The fund’s assets are divided between equities (R927bn), bonds (R538bn), money market (R71bn), property (R59bn) and unlisted investment (R97bn).


Class-action silicosis case likely to take six months to settle as three new companies join the matter

Hopes of a quick resolution to the occupational lung disease (OLD) class-action, which includes thousands of former miners afflicted with silicosis, have been tempered, with expectations of a settlement to take to the courts expected in the next six months instead of early this year as three new companies join the matter.
Speaking on the sidelines of the African Mining Indaba, Graham Briggs, the former CEO of Harmony and now chair of the working group on OLD, said the lawyers and parties involved in the class-action were hammering out a complex settlement, with a lot of details needing to be resolved before the matter could be returned to court for ratification.
There were hopes last year that an agreement for which six mining companies have made provisions totaling R5bn could be in place by the end of December, which was then rolled over to the end of March this year.
"Realistically speaking, I’d say it’s going to be six months before we have something finalised that we can take back to court," Briggs said. "We are close, but the devil is in the details and there are a huge number of moving parts."
The six mining companies are Harmony Gold, Gold Fields, African Rainbow Minerals, Sibanye-Stillwater, AngloGold Ashanti and Anglo American. Just recently, Pan African Resources, DRDGold, and Randgold & Exploration have joined the matter.
In the 12 months to end-October 2017, there were 7,756 compensation payments made to former miners with OLDs, worth R226m, compared to 1,628 compensation payments worth R79m in the same period in 2015.
The funds were paid from R3.5bn in unclaimed funds held in the Department of Health’s Medical Bureau for Occupational Diseases (MBOD) as six doctors and senior managers from gold mines were seconded to the fund, stepping up the tracking and tracing of former miners in SA and neighbouring countries, leading to the increase in claimants.
The mining companies will pay a lump sum into a trust that will embark on work to locate, verify and assess former miners with silicosis, which is caused by breathing in silica dust generated during gold mining, and occupational tuberculosis. Once confirmed, the trust will make a payment to the former miner, or their family if the miner, who had a confirmed OLD, had died, Briggs said.
Mining companies would not pay the full R5bn into the trust, but rather a portion of it to fund the trust’s work; then they would make payments as claimants came into the system over the next 12 years or so and the trust made cash calls on companies, Briggs said.
The number of former miners who could approach the trust is unknown, he said, suggesting the number may be lower than the 100,000 some market commentators have said. "With our outreach programme and analysis done by actuarial people, we have been surprised how few people there are relative to the numbers that have been put out there, but we don’t know exactly."
Briggs said the once-off payments would be made in addition to funds sick workers received from the MBOD.


Irate mine workers take PMC to court

More than 3 000 former mine workers have launched a class action against a liquidator they accuse of being secretive about the R421.9m surplus accrued from their pension fund.
The former workers of Palabora Mining Company (PMC) in Phalaborwa, Limpopo, have been fighting for at least 12 years to get their money after PMC’s pension fund was liquidated in 2005.
The gist of the copper mine workers’ claim is that the fund’s liquidator, Garth Barnard, who was appointed by the Registrar of Pension Funds, has not been transparent about the amount of surplus accrued, nor about how and when it will be distributed.
Tolie Mnisi (75), the chairperson of the Palabora Pensioners’ Forum, said 3 133 former employees had come forward to claim what they are owed.
He said 673 employees had died without seeing a cent of this money while the forum tried in vain to claim the money on their behalf.
Mnisi worked in the copper mine for 24 years and took early retirement in December 1998.
“Some of us retired, some were retrenched and some resigned, but the fund did not pay us the surplus,” he said.
He said he got R68 000 when he retired and was told he would get the rest of his money when he reached retirement age.
“They did not call me back. That’s why we’ve been fighting.”
In his affidavit in the Pretoria High Court, Mnisi said he wanted the court to review and set aside the calculation performed by Barnard, and that he must be ordered to recalculate the benefits to be paid to the beneficiaries.
“In protest to the manner in which the calculations have been performed, we have thus far refused to provide our banking details to the liquidator or to collect cheques for our benefits,” he said.
“The course of action we intend to pursue is to review and set aside the calculation performed by the liquidator, to order the liquidator to recalculate the benefits and for the liquidator to pay the recalculated benefits to members of the class action,” Mnisi added.
The PMC decided to liquidate the fund following the introduction of the Pension Funds Second Amendment Act, which is aimed at ensuring that surpluses of pension funds are allocated equally to beneficiaries.
A surplus on a pension fund happens when the fund accumulates extra money after all expenses have been paid.
In an effort to reach funds liquidator Barnard, City Press contacted Financial Services Board (FSB) spokesperson Tembisa Marele, who did not respond to written questions.




JOHANNESBURG - From Friday, child maintenance dodgers will be traced through their cellphone numbers and blacklisted.
Key sections of the Maintenance Amendment Act came into effect this morning.
The new law gives maintenance officers power to track down defaulters through information obtained from cellphone service providers.
Deputy Justice Minister John Jeffery: "The person claiming maintenance will approach the court for an order that the court must grant a maintenance order. They then have to abide by that order and if they don't, then their property can be attached to pay for the debt."