GIPF did not keep the faith

26 October 2018
The 12 years of deprivation suffered by Nekulilo Shoombe and her children while she was not served by the Government Institutions Pension Fund (GIPF) after the death of her husband, is yet another national disgrace. 
Once again, a government institution is showing how utterly detached it is from the everyday needs of the people. 
This woman, living in abject poverty, should have been contacted long ago by GIPF who knew (or should have known) she was a beneficiary of one of their deceased clients.  Instead, she was forced to endure, never understanding that she was owed money by GIPF.
Each civil servant upon taking up employment fills out their GIPF beneficiary form.  Why keep a list of beneficiaries at all if it is not the instrument with which a client makes their inheritance wishes known?
The fact that the deceased husband had submitted a list of beneficiaries means that much of the onus for the disbursement of that man’s money is on GIPF, not only on the heirs.
There are always people named as heirs who do not know their status and therefore cannot know to inquire about a possible inheritance.
Doesn’t the law require insurance institutions to undertake reasonable due diligence in tracking down listed heirs? 
It is disingenuous for GIPF to present their specious argument defending their actions saying that ‘she only came in last week’ or ‘all the documents weren’t submitted’ (presuming the heirs even knew documents were outstanding). 
They felt they had a green light to usurp inheritance funds, earn interest for themselves using other people’s money, and commit the sin of omission in the process. 
GIPF must be made to show how they try to contact heirs of unclaimed money via radio broadcasts in various languages, road shows, announcements at local events, searches of Home Affairs records, Nampost PO Boxes and tax rolls, access to church announcements, contacts to regional councillors and traditional leaders and other mechanisms.
Apparently, these methods of finding the listed beneficiaries of Uushona Isak Shigwedha (Shoombe’s common law husband) were not undertaken by GIPF and a woman and her family languished as a result. 
Over 12 years, children (who are now uneducated adults) had to leave school for lack of money.  How can they recapture those years of educational opportunity needlessly lost?
A GIPF client’s wishes were ignored by the very institution he trusted to handle their end of the bargain after his death.  GIPF did not keep the faith.
To rub further salt into Meme Shoombe’s 12-year gaping wound of penury, all papers are now submitted and yet, she must still wait for justice.  The bureaucracy says that an additional 12 months is needed before a pay-out can occur.  
We demand that GIPF move off its bureaucratic haunches and serve the wishes of its decreased member.  Twelve years of waiting is long enough.  Waive part of the rules and disburse at least some immediate amount from the inheritance so restorative justice can begin.
We note that if rich, powerful and connected people need a rule tweaked in order to obtain government services, such things occur with ease. 
Meme Shoombe doesn’t have family or friends who work at GIPF.  She is not white, a ruling party cadre, or ‘connected’ to any government official. 
She is a marginalized, black woman; everyone has their foot on her head, grinding her down or they simply ignore her existence. What sort of Namibian House makes no room for a widow and her children?
When government officials and people of power and money are serving themselves, they move with lightning speed to make sure all that they need is made available.  But, when it comes to serving the regular people, all the written rules are unbreakable and the bureaucrats move like snails.   
Imagine that when our great heroes die, the arrangements for state funerals are made in a flash. Waiting times for documents, permissions or other rules that are applicable to all, are brushed aside in a wink of an eye.  Government moves with haste to do the things that it prioritizes; all else must stand in line only to be forgotten.
When connected citizens and officials take trips and a passport is discovered to be expiring, a new one is produced not in the 10 working days the rest of us are told to wait, but the very next day.
If the ID card of the ‘right’ person is lost, a new one comes within a day of submission of the correct documents, everyone else must check back in a month. 
When President Pohamba left office, construction of his new residence and office were nearly completed.  The huge amount of paperwork necessary to move civil service staff to different budgets was done in days, not months.  Cars, drivers and security personnel were made available instantly, not 12 months after Pohamba’s retirement papers were filed. 
We suspect that the widows of our honoured heroes who have died are not waiting 12 months to receive benefits from GIPF or the government that they are entitled to. 
Should such a requirement be mentioned by any official, we are quite certain that a well-placed phone call would sweep such flimsy regulations aside in an instant.
Should a GIPF staff member die, certainly, their beneficiaries will be contacted with immediate effect.  They are connected and on the inside.  Meme Shoombe had no such access to information. GIPF must answer for that imbalance – all of its clients must be handled equally.
A separate word must be said about the selfish, cruel, outdated, illegal cultural practices of disinheriting widows and children that also plagued Meme Shoombe.  
This lady’s destitute state also speaks negatively to traditional practices that continue to toss women and children into the streets after someone dies.
This kind of bullying, intimidation and self-serving beliefs of the relatives of the deceased must no longer be tolerated. 
GIPF had a job to do in this case and they did not do it.  In our view, they owe damages for this dreadfully painful lapse.  Imagine that the Shoombe / Shigwedha children, who could not finish school because there was no money, had been able to do so with funds from their GIPF inheritance.  What would their lives be like now? 
GIPF must be made to keep the faith – we wonder how many other heirs are suffering needlessly while their benefits are being ignored. 


The Windhoek Observer is an English-language weekly newspaper, published in Namibia by Paragon Investment Holding. It is the country's oldest and largest circulating weekly.

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