Cancelled pensions [2/3]: Tshidiso Matebese and Puleng Matebese

These are some of the testimonies from Look Beyond the Bottom Line, published
by Open Secrets. It profiles some of the informants of their research into the South African pension fund industry, unpaid benefits, and the unlawful cancellation of hundreds
of pension funds.

This booklet accompanies the report by Open Secrets, The Bottom Line, that investigates the cancellation of pension and provident funds by fund administrators and the financial sector authority. It profiles some of the informants of the research.

Tshidiso Matebese (36) and his aunt Puleng Matebese (54) chose to be interviewed together. This was in part because they are both seeking more information about the benefits owing to Tshidiso’s grandmother. Puleng also suffers from a speech impediment and so Tshidiso spoke for most of the interview. They, together with Tshidiso’s mother, joined UBC to try to get more information about the pension benefits they believe may have been owed to his grandmother, Anastasia Malitlare Kganyago.

Anastasia Kganyago was originally from Lesotho. Tshidiso says that he is unsure of when exactly the family came to South Africa, but he does know that his grandmother had three siblings.

Though his grandmother’s ID said that she was born in 1930, Tshidiso says she was actually born in 1921. His family, like many others in KwaThema, was relocated from Payneville in 1965 by the apartheid state.

Previously a domestic worker, Anastasia became a cleaner at the Telephone Manufacturers of South Africa (TEMSA) where she worked for 20 years. After her retirement in 1989, she received a certificate from the company, acknowledging her long service to the firm. This certificate, along with her ID, are the only documents that Tshidiso’s family has to verify his grandmother’s work at the firm. They do not have any pay slips or member statements from a pension fund.

TEMSA was subsequently sold to the international firm Marconi Communications and, as with so many members of UBC, the Matebese family has struggled to find or access Anastasia Kganyago’s work record. Anastasia passed away in 2007. However, while she was still alive, she was not aware of any benefits, and Tshidiso says that she did not understand how the pensions system worked.

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Puleng, Tshidiso, and his mother think that Anastasia may have been owed a pension. This is largely because in 2012, other people in KwaThema started talking about ‘surplus money’ that ex-employees from TEMSA were getting.

Surplus assets are the difference between what a fund owes its members (its ‘actuarial liability’) and the market value of the assets it holds. This surplus can, on occasion, be paid to the fund members. Tshidiso’s family went to enquire about this at the MIBFA offices. They were told that his grandmother did not qualify because the surplus apportionment date (when the money became due and payable to members) was in 2008, and she passed away the year before in 2007.

Tshidiso says that this was particularly painful for his family as many of the other people who worked with his grandmother received their benefits because they were still alive. According to Tshidiso, the family does not know exactly the amount of pension monies owing to his grandmother. However, he has been told that one of his grandmother’s former colleagues who worked the same amount of time at the company received R220 000, and also receives a monthly pension pay-out.

Tshidiso says that he does not trust the companies and administrators involved to give accurate information, and so he relies solely on UBC to try to access his grandmother’s benefits.

Because the family did not have enough money, Tshidiso was unable to finish his degree at the University of Johannesburg. Since then, he has struggled to find work. Although he is actively looking for work, he says that this means he has to ‘hustle’ around the township to make ends meet. His five-year-old son is supported by the state grant his mother receives for him. Tshidiso’s mother has suffered from two strokes and receives a disability grant. His aunt Puleng struggles to work because her speech impediment makes it hard for her to talk.

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Tshidiso says that if his family received any benefits as dependants of his grandmother, it would make a huge difference for his family. Both Puleng and Tshidiso’s mother would be able to access better treatment and care, and they could improve their home. It would also enable Tshidiso to finish his final year at university.

The original article is part of Look Beyond The Bottom Line published by Open Secrets

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