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Fund refuses to pay benefit without proof of death

27 February 2024 The Office of the Pension Funds Adjudicator (OPFA)
Muvhango Lukhaimane

Muvhango Lukhaimane

A woman who claimed her husband has been missing since September 2020 has failed in her attempt to get his provident fund to pay out a benefit.

The Mondi Mpact Group Fund Provident Section refused to pay the member’s fund credit, which stood at R251 006.93 as at 31January 2021, as there was no confirmation whether the member was dead or still alive.

Ther woman complained to the Pension Funds Adjudicator, Muvhango Lukhaimane, that her husband who was employed by Mondi Limited went missing in September 2020. She requested the fund to release his benefit. However, the fund declined her request.

The complainant submitted that a death certificate has not been issued. She said she may only apply for presumption of death after a period of seven years. However, she needed money to make a living.

The fund responded that in the event of the death of a member, the board of management of the fund may allocate the death benefit in accordance with section 37C of the Pension Funds Act. However, the death is to be confirmed by a supporting death certificate issued by the Department of Home Affairs.

The fund stated there was no confirmation that the member was dead or still alive and advised that the complainant should pursue the matter with the South African Police Service.

In her determination, Ms Lukhaimane said when a person goes missing in South Africa and there is no indication that he or she died from unnatural causes, there is only one possible remedy for the next-of-kin of the absentee and that is to apply to the High Court for a “presumption of death declaration” based on the facts of the case.

“However, until a death certificate is issued, or a specific other order is granted, a missing person’s affairs are in legal limbo and dependants may have no access to funds and debts will be unpaid.

“In this instance a presumption of death order has not been issued by the High Court nor a death certificate. Therefore, the complainant is not entitled to a benefit from the fund in terms of its rules or the Act,” said Ms Lukhaimane.

The complaint was dismissed.

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