33 years of service

Penwell Dlamini

Penwell Dlamini

After 33 years of toiling at a Johannesburg signage company, Samuel Buthelezi was given a meagre R3000 as his retirement package.

Buthelezi, 68, of Jeppe, Johannesburg, began working as a handyman, driver and painter at Ray Signs, a company in Malvern, in 1974.

When he retired, Buthelezi was earning R580 a week.

The company is owned by Ray and Rose Signs.

Buthelezi said that in 2005 he asked Rose Signs to outline his retirement package for him but did not get a straight answer.

Last October Buthelezi told his employer that he wanted to retire because of old age.

"So I asked my boss for my pension," said Buthelezi.

He was shocked when the company gave him a R3000 cheque for service that spanned three decades.

Since his early days at Ray Signs, Buthelezi said he was paid in cash until 2000 when he received a statement written "pay register".

Sowetan has a copy of the document, which also states that neither Buthelezi nor his employer were contributing towards a pension fund.

Buthelezi is married with six children and five grandchildren. Most of his children have grown up, with the youngest aged 29. Buthelezi lives with his grandchildren who are under his care.

"I don't understand how these people think I will live on R3000."

Signs gave a different story when asked why she had paid Buthelezi that amount.

"He did not have a pension because it had already been paid out to him.

"About 20 years ago we tried to start a pension fund for our workers which was privately owned by the company.

"A few months later Buthelezi came to me asking if the company was contributing to his pension."

Signs said she showed him the documents and weeks later Buthelezi returned with the same question. That was when she realised that he wanted his pension, she said.

"I asked him if he wanted me to pay him out and he agreed, so there was never any contribution to the pension fund again."

Signs said she could not remember the amount paid out to Buthelezi as it happened 20 years ago.

However, Buthelezi denied Signs's story, describing it as "blatant lies".

Labour law expert Lood de Jager said there was no law obligating the employer to contribute to the pension and provident funds. It could only be enforced if it formed part of the company's internal policy, such as in certain municipalities, state departments and other sectors.

"The only fund most employers are obligated to contribute to is the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF)."

UIF spokesman Kgomotso Sebetso said Buthelezi was entitled to UIF and he could only demand other payouts if the company contributed to those funds.

Meanwhile Buthelezi's future remains bleak as he and his grandchildren depend on his monthly R840 old-age state pension.