After retirement, pension benefits are one of the most important sources of income for the majority of senior citizens. The periodic payments go far in meeting the day-to-day cost of living for the pensioners and their families.

In order to keep receiving these periodic payments, a pensioner or his/her beneficiaries are required to submit a “Certificate of existence”, also known as “life certificate”, to his/her pension fund administrator, insurer or pension fund, as the case may be. This should be done annually.

The certificate provides proof that the pensioner or his beneficiary is still alive and hence, entitled to continue receiving the pension.

This protects the pension fund and members from fraud where some people may want to continue claiming benefits, which should have stopped upon the death of the pension fund member or beneficiary.

What is a certificate of existence?

A certificate of existence, or life certificate, is a document signed by an individual pensioner, but certified by a Commissioner of oaths or any other legally recognised person, to confirm that the pensioner is alive as at that date. Historically, industry practice has been that pensioners personally present themselves at the offices of the pension administrator and fill in a form requiring information about the pensioner’s updated residential and banking details, where applicable.

However, due to the fact that some pensioners move to other locations on account of various reasons, coupled with the difficulty of travelling as age advances, most administrators now accept posted certificates of existence, which bear the pensioner’s signature and updated details. As stated above, these should be verified and certified by a Commissioner of oaths or any other legally recognised person.

What happens if one does not submit the certificate of existence?

Failure to submit the certificate of existence before a specified date each year, will result in the pension fund administrator stopping or ‘suspending’ pension benefits to the member whose certificate was not received. As at 31 December 2018, the pension industry in Zimbabwe had about 12,480 such suspended members.

In the event that the benefits are not claimed within 5 years of the member’s suspension, they are transferred to The Guardian Fund administered by the Master of the High Court in line with Section 99(1) and (3) of the Administration of Estates Act [Chapter 6:01].

Again, in the event that such benefits are not claimed from the Guardian Fund within 30 years, the benefits may then be remitted to the consolidated revenue fund for use by the State.

Therefore, it is important for pensioners to avoid the inconvenience of having their pay-outs suspended by timely submitting the certificates of existence to their respective pension funds.