Sukulwenkosi Dube-Matutu, Gwanda Correspondent
FORBES and Thompson Private Limited trading as Vumbachikwe Mine, which is one of the biggest mines in Matabeleland South Province has been dragged to court over non-payment of pension funds of its workers amounting to $2,4 million.
Employees and former employers of the mine made a report to the police after learning that the company had been deducting monthly pension contributions from their salaries but was allegedly not remitting them to the Mining Industry Pension Fund (MIPF) over a period of three years.
As a result former employees had not received part of their pensions. The company represented by Advocate Lucas Nkomo of Coghlan and Welsh Legal Practitioners pleaded not guilty to charges of fraud and theft before Gwanda regional magistrate,
Mr Mark Dzira. The matter was postponed to 17 October for continuation of trial.
Prosecuting, Mr Mncedisi Dube said Forbes and Thompson Private Limited did not remit employees pension contributions during the period extending from 23 August to 31 December in 2016.
“During the period extending between August 2013 to December 2016 the accused had been deducting monthly pension contributions from employees’ salaries but did not remit the contributions to the Mining Industry Pension Fund. The payslips of the workers also indicated that the monies had been deducted.
“The matter came to light when the Mining Industry Pension Fund wrote a correspondence to the Vumbachikwe Mine workers’ committee informing them that their pension contributions had not been submitted. The workers confronted the company authorities over the matter but they kept deducting the contributions and not remitting them,’’ he said.
Mr Dube said the total which had not been remitted during the period amounted to $2 470 236. Speaking in court one of the mine’s former employees, Mr Silakho Shumba said Forbes and Thompson Private Limited owed him $11 567 in unpaid pension contributions.
He said they tried to engage the authorities over the matter without luck. Mr Shumba said he retired from work in 2015 and he has not received his part of pension money.
He said MIPF had indicated that he will receive the rest of his pension after the mining company had remitted the money. He said he and his workmates resorted to report the matter to the police as they felt the company had robbed them.
Adv Nkomo said his clients were denying the charges of fraud and theft as the deferred remittances of the pension deductions was not a criminal matter but a civil matter between the company and MIPF. He said it was incompetent for the company employees to lay a criminal complaint against the company.
He said his client never made any representation to any employees that pension contributions deducted from their salaries had been remitted to MIPF.
“The employees were aware through periodic works council meetings that due to liquidity challenges no funds were available to be allocated towards pension remittances. Available funds only met the net salaries payable to the employees. The company never had any intention of defrauding the employees. The company never had any intention to convert any funds belonging to any employee to its own use,” said Adv Nkomo.