Air Zim in pensions wrangle

Munyaradzi Wasosa/Itai Dzamara

AIR Zimbabwe management has clashed with workers over allegations that contributions towards a pension scheme were not being remitted and were being diverted to other uses with

out informing the workers.



The workers told the Zimbabwe Independent this week that it was only after a report had been made to the police fraud squad and investigations had begun that management tried to explain the non-remittance of pension contributions for the past five months.



This paper confirmed that a complaint had been forwarded to the fraud squad and that the matter was being handled by Constables Tumbare and Goshami.


Efforts to reach the two policemen yesterday were unsuccessful. However, a policeman who answered the telephone at the fraud department in Harare said: “It is those two (Tumbare and Goshami) who can discuss that matter.”


Workers who spoke to the Independent said the pension scheme was established in the 1950s. It was under the administration of Old Mutual Life Pension Fund until management decided, without consulting workers, to transfer it to a firm called Comarton Consultants.


A trustee committee comprising mostly members of management, oversees the handling of the funds.


The transfer of the fund caused discontent among the workers.


“The transfer should have gone through tender but it didn’t and we were never informed,” said a source. “That raises suspicion about management’s intentions.”


Relations between workers and management soured recently after the discovery by workers that contributions towards the pension fund stopped in October last year.


“We suspect that the money was being diverted to other uses,” a source said. “The worst thing however is that we were not informed until we discovered the development and reported it to the police.”


Comarton managing director Richard Muirimi yesterday confirmed that the national airline had defaulted on payments for five months since October last year.


He absolved his company of any wrongdoing as suspected by Air Zimbabwe workers. “People speculate that we were using the money for something else, and that is not true. Fund contributions were not coming through,” he said.


However, Air Zimbabwe management acted swiftly this week before police had nabbed any individuals. Management issued a cheque on Tuesday to Comarton to settle the arrear contributions.


This paper yesterday saw a copy of the cheque in possession of workers’ representatives, who claim to have intercepted it and made a copy for “evidence”, for the amount of $204 146 205,95 issued to Comarton. The Jewel Bank cheque number 0121 2011 7186 1011 2906 3170 1, was confirmed to have been received by Comarton yesterday.


Air Zimbabwe managing director Rambai Chingwena could not be reached for comment yesterday. His secretary said he was locked up in a board meeting.


The workers also allege that contributions to Cimas medical aid society have not been remitted by the national airline for a number of months. Workers, most of who are on Cimas schemes, only learnt about the non-remittance of funds when they sought assistance to cover hospital and medical bills from Cimas.


An Air Zimbabwe engineer, who preferred not to be named, said workers had planned to go on strike over the matter. “The trustees are using our money to benefit themselves. We suspect they are investing our funds for their own benefit. We could have gone on strike this Tuesday but our unions feared reprisals,” the source said.