Manzana played a key role in uncovering the Fidentia scam

Zweli Mokgata

Zweli Mokgata

Mining is undoubtedly one of the most male-controlled industries in the world, but combined with South Africa's fiery trade union history, it is potentially dangerous ground for a strong woman. Collyn Manzana is such a woman.

Central to unveiling one of the most explosive insurance scams involving asset manager Fidentia, which came to light more than a week ago, Manzana is the former chairman of the Mineworkers Provident Fund (MPF), which is a Fidentia client. She is currently a member trustee of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and serves as principal officer of the Vaal Reef Disaster Trust.

She was the only woman to be voted chairperson of the MPF, which provides support to orphans and widows of people killed in mining accidents.

"I was elected three times to be on that board. It is not because I am a woman, but because I trust myself and the facts," she says.

In 2004 tragedy struck Manzana's household when her husband of more than 10 years died, leaving her with four children to raise single-handedly.

"I think that is why I fight so much for these widows and orphans," she says.

Manzana has been fighting for the rights of miners and their families for 25 years, starting out as a nurse in 1981 at West Vaal Hospital, where most of the patients are miners.

In 1998 she left nursing to work in administration as a trustee.

"It was a difficult shift, especially having to learn financial language. As a nurse I only knew medical terms, but I am very passionate about the benefits of mineworkers, so I persevered," she says.

Fidentia is currently under curatorship after the Financial Services Board (FSB) exposed the "misappropriation" of hundreds of millions of rands of client money.

"I began noticing strange events long before most people on the board [of MPF]," she says.

"I started making my complaints in 2005, but no one was willing to listen. Now it is too late for many of the families. Some of them depended completely on the payments they received from the trust."