Our husbands' money is gone

2017-04-30 06:00
An image of the Meyersdal Eco Estate, where Mvunonala group chief executive Bongani Mhlanga owns a home. The picture is taken from the website of the estate, where properties are on the market for between R7m and R25m

An image of the Meyersdal Eco Estate, where Mvunonala group chief executive Bongani Mhlanga owns a home. The picture is taken from the website of the estate, where properties are on the market for between R7m and R25m

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The six cows that Lesiba left to his widow Daphney Manganyi and their two children are the only things standing between the family and starvation.

In December, unemployed and desperate, Manganyi sold one of the cows for R10 000 and used the money to buy her daughters Khensani, 16, and Masuko, 8, clothes for Christmas, as well as stationery and uniforms for school.

Manganyi, 47, decided to sell one of the cows when asset manager Mvunonala Holdings’ subsidiary, Bophelo Benefit Services, which was entrusted with administering her husband’s pension, failed to pay her for the seventh month in a row.

Lesiba died in 2014 after “getting sick”, his widow said. He was employed by Amplats and “worked underground in one of their mines”, and was a member of the Amplats Group Provident Fund.

“I submitted all the necessary documents as soon as my husband died. They only paid me R1 500 for both kids in February, March and April last year.

"Then they did not pay. They paid again last month, but did not this month,” she said.

Manganyi, who lives in a village in Mokopane, Limpopo, about 50km from Polokwane, said Bophelo Benefit Services gave her numerous excuses, and asked her to resend bank statements and her bank account details.

“If they don’t pay, there is little we can do. It’s not like we can actually do something, you know; we are at their mercy,” she said.

“My fridge is empty and we just survive by God’s grace.”

In Atok, outside Burgersfort, Limpopo, Patience Letlapa is worried that, as winter draws near, she still has not bought shoes and warm clothes for her eight-year-old son, Nkabakgoshi. Her problems are identical to Manganyi’s.

“My husband, Mafologela Maphanga, died in 2011, and Bophelo only paid me once. They only paid me R1 600 in January. I was not paid anything in February, March and April,” she said.

“They don’t pick up the phones; they just ignore us. Now I want to buy clothes for winter for my son, but I have no money. I also need money for transport and food for the boy. I am not employed.”

Letlapa, 36, said she hoped that when Bophelo Benefit Services finally paid her, the payout would be backdated to the death of Maphanga, who also worked at one of Amplats’ mines.

In the meantime, she depends on the goodwill of relatives and on a child grant from the state to sustain her and Nkabakgoshi.

What Mvunolala said...

Mvunonala Holdings, through its lawyer, Kabelo Mathopo, denied that the Bophelo Beneficiary Fund (BBF), administered by Bophelo Benefit Services, was experiencing financial problems.

“On the financial problems allegedly experienced by BBF, our client denies it is experiencing any difficulties.

"There have been no problems with payments to beneficiaries and, certainly, the financial soundness of BBF or any of our client’s other subsidiaries has not been in question,” Mathopo said.

“This is evident from its annual audited financial statements submitted to the regulator. There are not any complaints submitted to the regulator or the Pension Fund Adjudicator by any of the beneficiaries, or the funds our client is contracted to.

"In all circumstances, our client denies that it is experiencing any financial difficulties as alleged by City Press or its sources.”

Regarding the ownership of the office block on Grayston Drive and the Parktonian Hotel in Braamfontein, Mathopo said Mvunonala Properties was still in the process of “executing both deals”.

The financial relationship between Mvunonala Properties and BBF is based on the values of these two properties, he said. And property investments were not handled directly by BBF, but by Mvunonala Properties.

“For the purpose of financials, our client had to provide the evaluations – irrespective of where the deal process was as the purchase consideration had already been agreed upon.

"Mvunonala Properties was responsible for building the whole of 72 Grayston Drive with the ultimate aim of acquiring it outright from the Government Employees’ Pension Fund as an investment for BBF and other funds under its portfolio,” Mathopo wrote.

“Evaluations or projections were done on a completed building. Mvunonala Properties, therefore, took responsibility to rebuild the property at its own cost.”

The purchase, Mathopo said, was going to be done after completion as it would present good value for the investor, and factor in the costs incurred while rebuilding the property.

While there is a lease agreement with Mowana Holdings, with the Government Employees’ Pension Fund still owning the building, this would change once the ownership transaction has been completed, he said.

Mathopo was unable to say why both the Grayston Drive property and the hotel were listed as assets on the fund’s balance sheet.

Mathopo said the hotel was being acquired through Mvunonala Properties.

“Funds are, therefore, still held by Mvunonala Properties with the aim of executing both deals.

"The liability based on the financials is with Mvunonala Properties. We are instructed that the fund has been properly audited, every cent being fully accounted for by the three parties who have a direct agreement with the fund.”

On Bongani Mhlanga’s deportation, Mathopo said: “There is currently a legal process pending between Mhlanga and the department of home affairs.

“Under the circumstances, we are precluded ... from providing a detailed response.”

He also denied Mvunonala and its subsidiaries were established with fraudulent documents.

“We are instructed to record that the establishment of Mvunonala Asset Managers and all of our clients’ entities were done in accordance and with due compliance with the law.

“Under the circumstances, our clients deny that ‘papers’ used in the establishment of any of its entities were fraudulent in any respect,” he said. 

Worse off

Mirriam Maphanga, who is Letlapa’s next door neighbour, is even worse off than Letlapa and Manganyi.

The unemployed 42-year-old struggles every day to feed her children – Dikeledi, 19, Lebo, 15, and Maria, 13 – and keep them clothed.

“I depend on their child grants, but you know that a grant doesn’t go far, let alone for three children.”

Her late husband, David Ndou, a former Amplats employee, died in 2010.

“I last got paid R800 on January 1. We haven’t been paid since then. They keep saying ‘next week’.

"I called last Friday, and they told me they would pay this past Wednesday. Wednesday has come and gone and I still wait,” she said.

Dikeledi came of age last year and filed all the necessary documentation to receive her lump sum from the fund, but she is still waiting.

“We submitted the forms more than three months ago and we are still waiting, and, frankly, I doubt we will ever get paid,” Maphanga said.

Read more on:    poverty

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