92 FORMER BP Zambia workers have issued a seven day ultimatum to UPND president Hakainde Hichilema to pay up a K 457 million pension fund or else the 236 affected families will camp at his New Kasama residence indefinitely until their dues are paid by Saturnia Regna Pension Trust Fund (SRPTF) a company owned by the opposition leader.
Group representative and lead plaintiff Expendito Chipalo said that the representatives of the 92 workers who also represented about 236 families would deliver the petition at Mr Hichilema’s residence yesterday (Tuesday) and that no threats or attacks would prevent them.
Mr Chipalo said that the affected workers and families had been battling in court with Mr Hichilema’s pension fund for over 20 years for their benefits to be paid and stated that they could not wait any longer as many of their members had died.
He said that the affected workers had warned Mr Hichilema that if the workers were not paid then, the 236 families would camp at his home until he paid them their money.
Mr Chipalo explained that on April 28, 2016 the assessment court ruled in favor of the former BP workers. Mr Hichilema had raised another technical appeal despite the final Supreme Court ruling but that Saturnia still tried to use all legal gymnastics to avoid paying the workers their benefits.
In an interview with the Daily Nation, Mr Chipalo confirmed having delivered the petition to Mr Hichilema’s residence in New Kasama and stated that they were met with some resistance by the security. Nevertheless, they managed to leave the petition.
“We the undersigned do hereby give you, Mr Hakainde Hichilema, an ultimatum of seven days to pay the pension benefits of the 236 former BP Zambia employees who were awarded their legitimate claim by the Supreme Court of Zambia on 28 February 2014.
“For the past 20 years, the company has used all sorts of legal gymnastics to evade paying the workers’ pension benefits,” he said.
He said that in January, 1995, Saturnia took over the administration of the BP pension scheme from the Zambia State Insurance Corporation and that Mr Hichilema’s company had received an initial contribution of K 1.5 billion then but that with the benefits and interests, the workers’ fund swelled up to an excess of K 457 million. Mr Chipalo said that Saturnia began to procrastinate to pay the due pension claims and insisted that workers could only be paid after the age of 55 or at death.
“This was crude theft of our pension savings. Both the High Court and Supreme Court have ruled in favour of the workers saying the action by Saturnia was contrary to the income Tax Act and pension laws.
“It is immoral for a pension fund manager to be in the forefront of stealing pension benefits and we will ensure that you pay for it. We shall camp at your house forever until the money is paid.
“When we were retrenched, you connived with our former employers BP Zambia Limited to force us to collect a refund of our own contributions or else forfeit our retrenchment packages,” he said.
Mr Chipalo said that he would write to the Law Association of Zambian to determine whether it was ethical for a member to represent a company in which he had shares without declaring interest. He said that the workers would lodge a complaint with the Bank of Zambia to investigate Saturnia Regna Pension Trust Fund to establish whether it was viable as a pension scheme or it was a pyramid scheme as suggested by the evidence in your correspondence.
“You received K1.5 billion in January, 1995 and through more contributions the fund grew to K22.7 billion as at March 1999,” he said.