Mother vows to fight tooth and nail for late son's pension

15 April 2019 - 09:23
By Thuli Zungu - CONSUMER LINE

A KwaZulu-Natal mother is embroiled in a battle for her late son's pension fund after the mother of the deceased's child allegedly produced a fraudulent affidavit, claiming they married in a customary union.

Makhosazana Mthethwa, 72, has vowed to fight to the bitter end to ensure that her late son's death benefits do not land in the wrong hands.

Sowetan withheld the deceased's name to protect the identity of the child.

Mthethwa said she was disturbed by the Fundsatwork Umbrella Pension Fund's decision to pay R780,000 to her son's "spouse". She claimed the woman had submitted a fraudulent affidavit, claiming she was married to her son in a customary union.

Mthethwa said her son was never married. No lobolo was paid according her custom, she said. According to their custom, there must be umkhongi (a chief negotiator) for the lobolo negotiations.

"Izibizo, umembeso, umbondo, [exchange of gifts] nokuvunywa kwabakhwenyana], were never done," Mthethwa said.

In other words, her son's in-laws would have to first slaughter a goat to formally accept him before the formal and official hand-over of the bride.

"All these events are significant, honoured and celebrated for a customary marriage to be formally recognised," Mthethwa explained.

She said she only met her son's girlfriend when her husband died in 2007 and again in 2017 after her son's death.

Now, the family has until the end of this month to know whether the Fundsatwork Umbrella Pension Fund will pay the death benefits of Ndabezinhle to the mother of his daughter who lodged a claim based on what the family alleges was a fraudulent affidavit.

The pension fund administrator, Momentum, has now appointed an independent forensic investigator to look into the matter after Consumer Line took up Mthethwa's matter.

The mother of the child could not be reached for comment yesterday.

With the latest developments, all customary marriages entered into after November 2000 must be registered with the department of home affairs within three months after marriage. Nelisiwe, the deceased's sister, said there were no witnesses to her brother's alleged customary marriage.

"The bride was not formally and officially handed over to her husband's family, which is symbolised by the slaughtering of a goat in our custom," Nelisiwe said.

Sboniso said his late brother fathered a child with the claimant, noting that they had been separated for more than two years and were not living together at the time of his death.

He said the claimant even denied his late brother visitation rights to his daughter.

Sboniso said after his brother was retrenched from SAA, he depended on his mother for support for three years until he found another job.

"The burden that was put on our mother and our late father - who were pensioners at the time - was immense, and the claimant was nowhere to be found," Sboniso said.

He added that they are surprised that the pension fund wants to pay the claimant though she has failed to produce a marriage certificate, proof that they were living together; the level of dependency.

He said the woman could not produce evidence in a form of pictures to show they were married.

"The fund allocated R44,319 to my mother and R62,047 to my niece and R780,023 to the 'spouse', when a larger portion should go to the child."

Anneke Hanekom, head of the reputation management and public relations at Momentum, said the decision on the benefits has not been finalised. In line with the Pension Funds Act, the board of trustees of the fund must establish who the dependants of the member were at the time of his passing.

She said possible beneficiaries need to provide proof to show that they qualify as a dependant. Based on the information received from Mthethwa's family, the fund then communicated this preliminary decision to his dependants and family, she said.

Hanekom said the beneficiaries and family were then given five days to raise any concerns and supply additional information that may have an impact on how the benefits will be allocated. The board only makes a final decision after all the information has been verified, she said.

What is making this case complex is that the official documents that were submitted to identify the dependants are contradictory, Hanekom said. The fund received different affidavits from the mother of the deceased.

"One affidavit states that Mthethwa was married and had a child and another affidavit states that he was never married," Hanekom said

The fund has invited the family to provide any additional information that can assist in resolving this matter.

The fund aims to resolve this in the best interest of all dependants and will only make a decision once further evidence is received to provide clarity on who qualifies as Mthethwa's dependants.

"The fund also appointed an independent forensic investigator to look into the matter."

Hanekom said she hopes that this would be finalised by the end of this month.