Britain is pursuing the Zimbabwean government to pay former Rhodesian pensioners but it has told the pensioners that it cannot fund any ex-gratia payments because it has no legal responsibility or obligation to pay the pensions which are solely the responsibility of the Zimbabwean government.
Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Minister Mark Simmonds told the House of Commons this week that he had personally written to Zimbabwe’s Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa and Labour Minister Nicholas Goche but was still waiting for their response.
Chinamasa and his predecessor Tendai Biti have told the British government that they have the money for the pensions but are looking at ways to pay it.
The government is struggling to pay civil servants and was forced to change salary payment dates because of the cash crisis.
The Overseas Service Pensioners Association which represents the former civil servants says pensioners resident in South Africa who have accounts with Standard Bank are receiving their pensions.
Payment of the pensions, it says, stopped in February 2003.
OSPA says it no longer believes the excuse by the Zimbabwe Director of Pensions that Zimbabwe is willing to pay the pensions but is impeded by technical issues.
“OSPA representatives held another meeting with FCO officials in late February 2014 and revived OSPA’s earlier suggestion that in these circumstances the British government should arrange to make ex-gratia payments to the pensioners which would not absolve the Zimbabwe Government of their full legal responsibility.
“We were assured that our proposal would be submitted to the Minister, Mark Simmonds, for his consideration. So it was a disappointment that in May the FCO told us that after consulting other government departments the government had decided not to fund any ex-gratia payments because they had no legal responsibility and the obligation to pay the pensions rested solely with the government of Zimbabwe,” OSPA says.
The Pensions Office now says pensions will now be paid half-yearly from the end of this month, according to OSPA.
Q & A:
Stephen Barclay (North East Cambridgeshire, Conservative)- To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs with reference to the answer of 29 October 2013, Official Report, column 411W, on Zimbabwe: pension payments, what steps his Department has taken to ensure that British nationals in Zimbabwe receive their pensions.
Mark Simmonds (The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs; Boston and Skegness, Conservative)- We continue to pursue a resolution to this issue. I have personally written to both Finance Minister Chinamasa and the responsible Minister for Pensions, Minister Goche. I also raised the issue during a meeting with the Zimbabwean ambassador in London on 30 June. We are in regular contact with the Director of Pensions, with whom officials last met on 12 June. Our ambassador regularly raises the issue with interlocutors, including most recently on 4 June with the Finance Minister Chinamasa. She also wrote to the Zimbabwe Civil Service Commission in December 2013; we await a response. We remain in regular contact with the interested parties, including the Overseas Service Pensioners Association (OSPA) and the Federal Pensioners Association in Harare.