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Aggrieved soldiers want to see the king

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MBABANE – The roll out of refunds for members of the Umbutfo Swaziland Defence Force from the Public Service Pension Fund (PSPF) is threatening to divide the army.

There is now an aggrieved faction of about 200 soldiers which did not receive the pay outs last year and they have since held a secret meeting to plan how to deal with the matter.

The soldiers, this newspaper has gathered, are planning to take their grievance to His Majesty King Mswati III, early this year.

The resolution was taken during the meeting that was held on Wednesday at the St Georges Barracks.

The officers were being refunded money they had contributed towards their pension fund since 2007.

And the payment process started in September last year, and was completed early last month with some receiving up to E10 000 lump sums.

According to a source close to the matter, the soldiers decided to hold a secret meeting after they were not given a clear explanation why they had not been refunded.

"The meeting started at about 8am until 11am and the refund was the only item on the agenda. It was resolved that they should seek an audience with the King because he is the Commander in Chief.

"They felt their supervisors will not help them, hence the decision of kuyo mbhula ingubo," enkhosini," the source said.

The source added that close to 200 soldiers had been left in the cold. Army Public Relations Officer Khanya Dlamini confirmed that some soldiers have not received their refund. "This happened due to their negligence. All members of the army were informed about the process, and were given forms to fill in by people from the Pension Fund. And they were told when to submit the forms.

"However, some people did not take this exercise seriously. They took their time," the spokesperson said.

Dlamini was quick to point out that the matter was being handled by relevant authorities within the army. Asked about the meeting, Dlamini said he was not aware of it.

The soldiers are being refunded after their age of retirement was reviewed to 60 instead of 50 to 55 meaning they would be refunded the extra money they had been contributing as the amount of money taken to the PSPF was also reduced.

...woe unto soldiers who attended secret meet

MBABANE – Soldiers who attended the meeting held on Wednesday face disciplinary action.

After enquiring from the head of the St Georges Barracks, USDF Public Relations Officer Khanya Dlamini said the aggrieved soldiers had not sought permission to hold the meeting from their superiors.

Asked to be specific if the meeting was held or not, Dlamini, in a diplomatic manner, responded that the soldiers might have held it secretly.

"According to army laws, it is a crime to hold a meeting without having obtained authorisation from the ‘elders’. We will investigate this matter, and those who attended the meeting will face disciplinary action," he said.

In the army, the spokesperson said they had structures where soldiers can direct all their grievances.

The soldiers resolved to seek audience with His Majesty after they failed to get a refund from PSPF for money contributed towards their pension fund.

Towards the end of last year, most members of the army were paid approximately E10 000 in remittances, each by the Pension Fund.

In an earlier interview, PSPF Corporate Services Manager Elkan Makhanya explained that in the past, the retiring age for soldiers was set at 50 to 55 years old. Currently, Makhanya said the retirement stood at 60 years old.

"The normal rate of contribution by civil servants is five per cent of their basic salary, then the employer contributes 15 per cent. In this case, those who were to retire at 50 years were contributing eight per cent while those retiring at 55 years contributed 6.5 per cent," Makhanya explained.

He mentioned that the ground was now level, every officer was now contributing five per cent.

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