TCL Pension Dispute Heads for Labour Court

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By Catherine Sasman

WINDHOEK

Former workers of the now defunct Tsumeb Corporation Limited (TCL) will register the matter involving the missing N$116 million of surplus pension monies with the District Labour Court today.

“We want to know what happened to the money,” said chairperson of the more than 1 000 former workers, Didhart Mparo.

The workers are claiming the N$116.9 million of surplus pension money, adding 20 percent interest per year since 1998 up to the date of payment.

The TCL pension fund was a South African registered fund until 1995. From June 1992 TCL went on a pension contribution holiday, meaning that the company no longer contributed to the pension fund.

In June 1994, Goldfields South Africa – the controlling shareholder of TCL – and Southern Life entered into an agreement to afford TCL access to the actuarial surplus of the TCL pension fund. This agreement entailed the conversion from a defined benefit pension fund to a defined contribution provident fund.

In March 1995, TCL and the Mineworkers Union of Namibia (MUN) and approved by the then Registrar of Pensions Funds, were granted the power to withdraw ‘surplus’ capital from the TCL Group Pension and Life Assurance Plan, after transfer of current employees and their capital to the Gold Fields Namibia Provident Fund (GFNPF).

This was made possible due to an amendment to the pension fund rules, and in terms of the amendment, an amount of N$49 million was transferred to TCL in December 1996.

In March 1997 a further transfer of N$35 million was made, and again in March 1998, a transfer of N$32.9 million was made.

In April 1998, TCL was placed in liquidation, with Alexander Forbes acting as the liquidator of the GFNPF. HAR Meiring and Don Mathews were the liquidators of the remaining capital of TCL Pension Fund and the GFNPF.

The workers argue that the TCL Pension Fund was a basic condition of employment, and that any alternation to the original benefits of employees related to the fund was an unfair labour practice.

They said TCL made a unilateral decision regarding the benefits, which include the GFNPF, and TCL “gained improper advantages for itself at the expense of the GFNPF and its members”.

They further stated that the amendment to the pension fund rules is in violation of the Income Tax Act of 1981, and the transparency and accountability required of the Registrar of Pension Funds was not fair and reasonable.

Momentum (formerly Southern Life), the Registrar of Pension Funds (now NAMFISA), Alexander Forbes, and Meiring are registered as the respondents to this matter.

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