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Lost at sea

More anguish for fishermen's families

Red tape ties up insurance claims on missing crewmen

23 July 2017 - 00:09 By BOBBY JORDAN

Relatives of six missing fishermen, presumed lost at sea, this week face a new shock: without the bodies of their loved ones they have a battle to get insurance payouts.
The tragedy for the families from Jeffreys Bay and Humansdorp in the Eastern Cape is exacerbated by the need to secure death certificates in order to access a provident fund.
The six men disappeared when their vessel capsized in a storm near Cape St Francis last Sunday.
Seven were rescued and the bodies of Sihle Dlamini, 37, Mvelisi Elliot Ncanywa, 40 and Mbongeni Gift Zulu, 43, were recovered.
The families' plight highlights concerns about fishermen's rights amid dwindling catches and pressure on the government to help poor fishing communities.
Insurers demand death certificates but fishing companies are not always able to help relatives navigate the legal process required to get one.Balobi Fishing Enterprises of St Francis Bay said it had informed families of the missing crew that insurers required death certificates.
"That is standard procedure, which we cannot override," said general manager Mark Rowe.
"Where there is no body, we will assist by means of our attorneys to work through the legal process to get the presumption-of-death certificates, but it is a lengthy process."
The company denied that its vessel, Maredon, had been too close to the shore when it capsized. It now lies upside down on a rocky stretch of coast west of Jeffreys Bay.
Fishing representatives this week called for an amendment of regulations governing insurance payouts.
A widow in Mossel Bay is still fighting for her insurance payout more than a year after her husband was lost overboard, according to Gert Christie of the South Cape Officers Association.
"She is still battling to get the death certificate.
"One can do an application to the high court but it is very expensive and seafarers don't have the money," he said.
An industry source said obtaining a death certificate through the courts cost around R50,000.
Sibongile Zulu, a sister of drowned fisherman Mbongeni Zulu, whose body was found on Tuesday, said she expected an insurance payout of about R12,000. She said Balobi had agreed to help process the claim.
Katishi Masemola, general secretary of the Food and Allied Workers' Union, said the government and employers needed to address the problem of death certificates.
"They must find a way of sorting this out. The fact is that [provident] fund managers do not pay out without ticking the boxes, and they can only pay out with that certificate," Masemola said.
Tim Reddell, operations director of Viking Fishing Group, which lost 12 crew in a deep-sea accident in 2015, said one solution was that more companies underwrite fund payouts. "If the payout is underwritten by the fishing company, they can just pay out the funds without a [death] certificate."
South Africa's treacherous coast has claimed thousands of lives over the years, prompting a raft of safety regulations...

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