TransNamib pensioners have to pay for medical themselves

Henry

Retired staff from Namibia’s road and rail service operator, TransNamib, are faced with a huge dilemma: They will henceforth have to pay their contributions to the medical fund themselves, or cancel their membership.

This follows after TransNamib informed retired staff that the company is apparently experiencing financial problems and will only make contributions to pensioners’ medical funds until the end of the year. The benefit was part of pensioners’ retirement packages.

The Namibian media outlet New Era Live reports that 387 former employees are affected by the decision.

Arend and Maria Keulder are one of the couples affected by this.

Arend, now 82, worked as a passer for the company before his retirement and was in the company’s service for 40 years.

The couple moved to South Africa 15 years ago and now live with their daughter, Melanie van Aswegen, in Kimberley in the Northern Cape. The elderly are both struggling with their health.

“I sit with my hands in my hair. It is very stressful,” Van Aswegen told RNews.

Maria has been undergoing cancer treatment for some time, while Arend suffers from dementia. However, he has been struggling for a few years after he had a stroke earlier. The couple also both have heart problems. They are therefore extremely dependent on their medical aid, of which the company contributed 50% to the membership fee.

Van Aswegen says she would like to care for and support her parents, but has no idea how she will cover their medical expenses. The idea that her parents will henceforth have to go to a state hospital leaves her – and them – cold, as the conditions at most state hospitals in the country are extremely poor.

Van Aswegen’s husband also does additional delivery work after hours so that there is enough money to adequately look after Arend and Maria.

“My heart is broken. Their medical expenses last year were well over a million rand. Moreover, no other medical fund is going to accept them now.”

Van Aswegen also has little time to try to make alternative arrangements as she only received TransNamib’s letter to her father in the post last week. It was already issued on June 30 this year.

“We don’t know what we’re going to do. However, I trust in the Lord.”

Company is in financial distress

According to the report in New Era Live, Abigail Raubenheimer, TransNamib’s spokesperson, said the contribution “becomes too much for the company to bear”. TransNamib apparently spends 24 million Namibian dollars (R24 million) annually on medical aid contributions for retired staff.

“We still have to make contributions to current staff,” she told New Era Live.

In a short letter that RNews has seen, TransNamib informs its former employees that their “post-retirement medical benefit” will be suspended from 1 January.

“For the past few years, TransNamib Holdings Limited has experienced a significant decrease in traffic volumes, which has turned into financial pressure,” the letter states.

“You are therefore advised to take out alternative medical insurance at your own expense before the above-mentioned deadline. We apologize for any inconvenience,” the letter concludes.

RNews has sent several inquiries in this regard to TransNamib and Raubenheimer, but has not yet received a response.

Questions about true state of affairs

Meanwhile, questions have arisen about the true state of TransNamib’s financial affairs.

Shortly after TransNamib announced its decision regarding the medical funds and also failed to fulfill other financial obligations, it came to light that the company had purchased eight new vehicles.

According to a report in The Namibian on August 15, Raubenheimer confirmed the purchases, but argued that the order had already been placed nine months earlier.

According to Raubenheimer, the company still plays open cards all the time regarding its financial predicament as well as a shortage of equipment. To solve the cash flow challenge, the company needs to increase its revenue, she continued The Namibian said.

“Given TransNamib’s transparency regarding the company’s equipment challenges, it should be clear that investment in equipment is long overdue.”

Railways Africa reported last month that TransNamib wanted to significantly expand its fleet of tankers carrying acid.

The Namibian government has also allocated R230 million to TransNamib’s operations for the 2023-24 financial year, according to another report by Railways Africa.