Former mineworkers want Cyril Ramaphosa’s help

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

Former southern African mineworkers want deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa’s help to get their pension and provident funds from an investment vehicle he once managed.

Ramaphosa was chairperson of the Johannesburg-based Mineworkers Provident Fund (MPF) during the 1980s.

A former mineworker from Lesotho, Rantso Mantsi, has appealed to Ramaphosa’s office and enlisted Cape Town lawyer Barnabas Xulu to take legal steps against the MPF.

Mantsi is president of the Southern African Miners Association, an umbrella body for ex-mineworkers from Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, Swaziland, Zimbabwe and South Africa.

Ex-mineworker Rantso Mantsi from Lesotho is working with lawyers in Cape Town to take legal action against the Mineworkers Provident Fund, based in Johannesburg. They claim the fund has not yet paid their pension and provident funds. This picture was taken when Mantsi visited his lawyer in Cape Town in November. (Pic by Yazeed Kamaldien)

Ex-mineworker Rantso Mantsi from Lesotho is working with lawyers in Cape Town to take legal action against the Mineworkers Provident Fund, based in Johannesburg. They claim the fund has not yet paid their pension and provident funds. This picture was taken when Mantsi visited his lawyer in Cape Town in November. (Pic by Yazeed Kamaldien)

He said he worked for South African-based mines from 1978 to 1990, and each month money was deducted from his salary and paid to the MPF.

He said it was only recently that he and thousands of other ex-mineworkers from Lesotho realised these funds existed.

“Many of the mineworkers, including myself, didn’t even know that we have a pension fund. I did not know that I was subscribing to a provident fund. Until in 2009, I was notified that I have money in the fund,” said Mantsi.

“A recruitment agency that got me the job in South Africa told me I have funds. I received only R5000 from the fund. But now we are planning legal action to get the rest of the funds.”

He added: “Mining companies should have educated mineworkers before they went home. They should have told them during an exit interview how to get their funds.”

Mantsi was referring to Teba recruitment agency, which has a database of 1,3-million mineworkers that it has recruited for work in South Africa.

Teba has also been tracing former mineworkers to ensure their pension and provident funds are paid out. It has reportedly this year identified 30,000 former mineworkers on its database who have confirmed payments due.

Mantsi said mineworkers were no longer patient with MPF and wanted Xulu’s help to take the fund to court and compel it to disburse their dues.

“We are talking about billions. They have told us that they have R24-billion that should be paid to mineworkers,” he said.

“It is a double injustice for a mineworker. We could not even take our children to school. We have given money to a fund and somebody is withholding that money.”

He said thousands of mineworkers were affected.

“Lesotho was sending about 150,000 mineworkers who were contributing to the fund. Swaziland was sending around 80,000 and Mozambique was higher than all of those by sending 250,000. They were contributing into the fund,” said Mantsi.

“They worked for all the big mines, such as Harmony, Goldfields and Anglo American. They came here during their boyhood. They were looking after cattle in Lesotho. Then they came to the mines.

“When they went back, they were never drawn into the system at home. They were strangers to the lives of their own country. They only knew South Africa.

“They went home and were unemployed. This led to breaking of families. Their wives abandoned them. Some of them are sick because of mine-related diseases and they were not compensated.”

He said it was now time to “put our matter into court so these people should be given the instructions to pay us”.

“They are keeping our money. They are just saying all the time they will pay it. But they haven’t paid it,” he said.

“Every time we ask them for our money, they are always saying go and open a bank account.

“A person who opens an account, after three months if that account is not functional, the bank closes it. Some workers have opened accounts five times.

“When we go back and ask for the money, they say it’s being processed.”

Mantsi said they wanted to meet Ramaphosa. Xulu said his office has also consulted with Ramaphosa on the matter.

“Ramaphosa was my leader but I was informed that today he falls on that side of the people we are fighting. He is now a mine owner,” said Mantsi.

He was referring to the fact that Ramaphosa has mining interests in controversial Lonmin mine in North West province, where police shot protesting mineworkers in August 2012.

Mantsi added: “We are now stuck and want to call our leaders. Then they said never think about Ramaphosa. He cannot be on this side. He is on the other side. But we want to know how he can help us.”

The Weekend Argus contacted Ramaphosa’s office. His communications team “referred it to the advisors” and said it “hope to come back to you quite soon”. A reply has not yet been received.

MPF’s chief operations officer Lihle Khoza referred queries to its spokesperson but there has been no response to queries from the Weekend Argus.

Earlier this month, Business Day newspaper reported an estimated R15-billion in unclaimed retirement funds overseen by the Financial Services Board (FSB) were mostly owed to former mineworkers.

The FSB oversees at least 5,000 retirement funds and the newspaper reported it has “put pressure on the trustees of the funds and stepping up joint efforts with the Treasury to find solutions”.

Tracing former mineworkers was cited as a challenge and Teba said it needed to find “about 200,000 former mineworkers or their dependents have to be found to receive these funds”.

But Xulu retorted: “They say they don’t know where the mineworkers are. But here they are. We are working with mineworkers in various countries.”

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About Yazeed Kamaldien

Self-employed journalist and photographer from South Africa.

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