Cancelled pensions [1/3]: The case of Maria Mashiane

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Meet some of the informants of a report by Open Secrets, The Bottom Line, that investigates the cancellation of pension and provident funds by fund administrators and the financial sector authority.

This booklet accompanies the report by Open Secrets, The Bottom Line.

Maria Mashiane is 78 years old, and was born on a farm named Welgedacht12 in Springs in 1941. Like many of the black residents in Springs, Maria’s family was displaced from Welgedacht in 1952 following a tornado which Maria referred to as a ‘strong wind’. This strong wind/tornado led to a large exodus of people to KwaThema. KwaThema had been demarcated as a township only the year before, in 1951, and construction of homes began in 1952.

Black people were systematically moved from Payneville (another suburb of Springs) to KwaThema over the next decade. Beyond the oral retelling of the tornado by the people of KwaThema, the only record we could find of the event was a digital entry on the website for South Africa’s genealogical society (the eGGSA) for a gravestone in Payneville commemorating the eleven victims who died as a result of the tornado. To this day there is an area referred to as Tornado in KwaThema, where the people who were displaced by this wind continue to live.

Though Maria was young when her family relocated to KwaThema, she was already married. She, like many people in KwaThema, would go on to work in the industrial areas that surrounded Springs. For seven and a half years, Maria worked as a cleaner and carer at Impala Platinum’s Chief Technology Officer (CTO) department.

In the CTO training department, Maria used to clean the offices and make tea for the staff and students. She says that whenever she was not working and had the chance, she would make an effort to sit in on the classes. Though she does not remember the exact years that she worked here, she was sure that it was during the time that President Cyril Ramaphosa was the secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), in the 1980s. Maria would eventually leave Impala Platinum and go on to work as a domestic worker for seven years. She says that during this time she was not sure whether she was contributing to some sort of pension (or if her employer did so on her behalf).

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Maria says that the primary reason she joined the UBC is to claim her pension dating from the time she worked at Impala Platinum. She has no documentation proving contributions to a pension or provident fund; however, she is still in possession of her ‘Blue Card’ from the mine which she uses as proof of her service there.

Maria is the mother of four children and six grandchildren, many of whom she is supporting on scant state grants. This includes the children of a son who passed away, and for whose children she is now the primary caregiver. Asked what she would do if she received the pension benefits earned from her years of work, Maria says that her number-one priority would be to fix her house so that she can live a better life.

Should she receive her pension benefits, Maria says she would like to use the money to make sure her grandchildren complete high school and are able to attend university.

The original article is part of Look Beyond The Bottom Line published by Open Secrets

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