Columnists Features

WCFCB: The star that shines in dark moments

PROVING you can do anything to improve quality of life regardless of physical, emotional or other restrictions that come with occupational disabilities is the most challenging and pressing issue among many people.
Nonetheless, the good news is that some courageous men and women around the globe have risen above these challenges and changed their world, many with their own initiatives and few others with the help of the social protection system under the Workers’ Compensation Fund Control Board (WCFCB).
It is the help which many have come to believe as the star that shines in the dark moments, those moments which bring untold miseries because of injuries, diseases and even death in the course of duty.
Indeed the star shines and it did in David Mubanga’s life. Mr Mubanga is a pensioner under WCFCB. The story about the star that shined to return injured workers to employment and any other economic activity makes interesting reading if it is not told in isolation of real life situations.
This is so because it may be difficult for critics of the current workers’ compensation system to believe the value derived from compensation benefits, hence David’s story will serve, in today’s article, as true testimony of a courageous person who has changed the world around him with the help of WCFCB.
Mr Mubanga presents a clear case of a real life situation involving a worker who contracted an occupational disease, and separated with the employer but has since been returned to self-employment.
The returning of Mr Mubanga to employment albeit self-employment confirms statements, which we have made in our previous articles about the compensation plan for injured workers to the effect that it goes beyond monthly monetary awards to include rehabilitation and medical care, among others.
According to John Bwalya, our senior branch manager in Kitwe, Mr Mubanga, is one of the many other pensioners who have successfully been rehabilitated by WCFCB and deserves to be covered on this platform for the information of our readers on some of the return to work programmes that the organisation is implementing, and we agree with him.
Mr Bwalya informed us that he had visited our pensioner, Mr Mubanga, and he was impressed with the progress made by the pensioner after obtaining part commutation of his monthly pension for the purpose of venturing into business and rehabilitating his dwelling house.
Let me quote an email sent to me by Mr Bwalya, our senior branch manager: “This is one of the successful stories of a pensioner by the name of Mr David Mubanga, who has benefited from the board through the K11,000 he got as arrears and the K20,000 part commutation paid to him last year. He has improved his dwelling house and he has established a well-stocked shop at the same premises.”
Commutation in part or total is given on application by a pensioner, for the purpose of entering into a business project or undertaking something that has economic gains.
In this case, a lump sum is paid from the monthly pension, which in effect reduces the residue pension, and sometimes, even becomes responsible for low value benefits in future, for the purpose of enabling a pensioner to undertake a business venture.
As we have stated before, we encourage pensioners, especially those in receipt of meagre monthly pensions below K50 per month, to totally commute for the purpose of venturing into business rather than receiving meagre monthly pensions.
It certainly makes a lot of economic sense to commute and get a lump sum than to receive a few hundreds of Kwacha every month for many years.
And we must admit our challenges to convince pensioners to commute. They tend to believe that we are inducing them as they say “to sell their pension”. They would rather wait until their monthly pensions are improved in future.
However, where we have succeeded to promote the commutation scheme, positive results have been recorded and we are proud to tell the story of Mr Mubanga, though not big, but gives hope to others.
Readers may further note that we tell this story today to show some of the benefits accruing to injured workers, about which little is known or even said, in the face of concerns by stakeholders on the adequacy of compensation benefits.
The story of Mr Mubanga is just one of the many cases of pensioners who have successfully undergone rehabilitation to restore their earning capacities, yet not much has been said or heard about this side of the compensation business.
What most people know about compensation is informed only by low value monetary benefits, there is little or no information about 100 percent medical refunds to encourage quality healthcare, sophisticated medical aid provided to pensioners, and sponsorships for pensioners to undertake courses at higher learning institutions.
We have not even talked abo nursing care services and post-accident counselling services provided to highly disabled persons.
The author is Corporate Affairs and Customer Services manager at Workers’ Compensation Fund Control Board.

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