Failed pensioners regroup in litigation


The story of the pensioner in Zimbabwe is a sad one, little heard and worst of all hardly understood by the public and Government arms meant to protect pensioners, but very well understood by inadequately regulated business service provider insurance companies and pension fund administrators.

It is sad because pensioners and pension fund members who have saved money for their old age in pension funds and insurance policies, over many years, are losing money to a bullying, uncompassionate pension and insurance system in Zimbabwe. Many of them have gone destitute, many passing on leaving their long-time servings for the insurance companies to enjoy.

While many who do not understand how deceased estates can follow up on deceased pensioner pension benefits just walk away from these benefits, only a few estates follow up on these benefits. The Guardian Fund of the Master of the High Court, has not done much to make the public aware of how pension benefits are treated in various circumstances.

Over a million elderly people in Zimbabwe that contributed into registered pension fund arrangements, for periods up to 35 years, are only aware of this fact, but more often than not do not appreciate that the contributions they made, together with those contributions made by their employers are intrinsically and actually their money, inclusive of interest (investment returns) earned over the years.

In consequence, over a million elderly people permanently domiciled in rural areas and urban townships, formerly employed formally, just walked away from their employers empty-handed, without as much as an inquiry.

Insurance companies and pension fund administrators have covertly syphoned billions of these savers’ monies, and falsely advised any inquirers that their pension benefits were eroded by inflation in the few years prior to 2008 – they still do.

They blithely glossed over their fiduciary responsibilities and their failure to correctly calculate US$ denominated pension benefits on dollarisation in 2009, and suppressed their accountabilities thereof.

Their hand in meddling and capturing the pension and insurance system in Zimbabwe for very long periods, hijacking pertinent investigations and commissions of Inquiry, and capturing an uninformed and rather venal government, have not been in the public domain because journalists have shown a lack of understanding of the workings of pension funds and are unwilling to go the extra mile.

In the latter regard the journalists have tended to rely on who they think is authoritative enough for a pensions story, this in breach of journalistic ethos. For the most part, insurance companies and pension fund administrators with financial capacity cajole the journalists to act in their interests, and sponsor them to publish what they want. Pensioners on the other hand, in their poorly funded organisations have to counter the well-funded insurance companies, the captured regulators and the government through well-wisher publishing media houses, whose business objectives happen to be aligned to the pension stories.

Apart from the government set-up investigations and commissions of Inquiry in 2012 and 2015 respectively, the pensioners have been ignored, the results of the investigations and inquiries having been meddled with.

The government set up interventions could only have been meddled with by the involvement of government officials. Indeed a former Finance ministry permanent secretary was implicated in both the investigation and the inquiry, and indeed office bearers of the regulator of the pension system to date are conflicted former executives of insurance companies who have since meddled with the Pension and Provident Funds Act to prejudice pensioners – this in an undeclared retrogressive Government policy that wholly excludes pensioners and pension fund members, herein the owners of pension funds.

Seeing as the government has been bribed into betraying pensioners (both as a large proportion of the electorate and as consumers of pension service provision), pensioners’ only hope are the courts.

To date the pensioners suing insurance companies, pension funds and Boards of Trustees are facing those teething problems in deceitful incompetent legal practitioners that are more keen to take a consultative deposit and negate the case, a weak legal practitioner regulatory framework unwilling to motivate its members to perform and to discipline its deceitful players, and a slow-moving justice system which has to rise up to technicalities of pension and insurance system as enshrined in the contractual arrangements and the relevant legislation that is not yet meddled with.

Judgment has been reserved for the uncountable cases that have gone all the way to this level – a situation interpreted to mean that the justice system has to do more research in a grey area.

The larger proportion of these cases have had to revise their court strategies after incompetent legal practitioners let them down in the full knowledge they can get away with this incompetence in a weak legal practitioner regulatory framework, reluctant to discipline its players.

In the circumstances pensioners are regrouping with a well-funded, more aggressive competent legal practitioner team.

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