Transnet retirees demand answers

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Reuters

File picture: Siphiwe Sibeko

Pretoria - About 80 retired Transnet employees marched peacefully to the Union Buildings in Pretoria on Thursday.

The pensioners marched quietly, and about the only sound heard was that of their walking sticks and crutches.

Motorists hooted their horns and shouted “Viva badala, Viva” (viva, elders, viva).

They intended handing a petition to President Jacob Zuma's office to ask for his urgent intervention in their fight for decent pensions. People carried placards bearing the words “Sies Transnet” and “We demand justice”.

Freedom Front Plus MP Anton Alberts said at the march pensioners had been getting two percent increases a year, which made little difference due to rising inflation.

The pensioners had launched a class action court case against Transnet and government over the “plundering” of their pension funds over 20 years.

The two percent increases were in contrast to promises Transnet management had made to pensioners about their retirement, the FF Plus said.

On Tuesday Transnet announced that pensioners would get 13th cheques totalling R178 million.

“This takes the total of bonus payments made by the pension funds and Transnet to around R2.5 billion since 2007,” Transnet said in a statement.

“Retired Transnet employees belonging to two of the company's biggest defined benefit pension funds will receive bonus payments or 13th cheques totalling R178m, taking the total paid to pensioners in ad hoc bonuses to R356m over the last six months.”

About 67,000 pensioners belonging to the Transnet Second Defined Benefit Fund (TSDBF) and the Transnet Sub-Fund of the Transport Pension Fund (TTPF) are set to benefit by the end of April.

The bonus payment for each beneficiary would equal 8.3 percent of their annual individual benefit.

“This is the second of such payments in the last six months. In November last year, the two funds paid another combined R178m in ad hoc bonuses to pensioners,” the statement said.

“The total value of ad hoc bonuses paid by the TTPF and TSDBF to their beneficiaries since 2007 adds up to a considerable R142m and R1.9bn respectively.”

The bonus payments excluded R448m Transnet paid to qualifying beneficiaries, prioritising widows of former black employees and those with long service. These beneficiaries were excluded from joining or contributing to the pension funds because of South Africa's past apartheid laws.

“Thanks to Transnet's and the funds' effective oversight, both funds will continue to retain their healthy financial position after the payment of the bonuses.”

The FF Plus told Sapa on Tuesday the bonuses would not affect their court case. About 66,000 pensioners are involved in the civil claim to recover about R79bn, which they claim Transnet took from their pension funds.

The funds' most important assets, acknowledgements of debt worth R7.7bn which generated an annual income of R1.2bn, were apparently “swapped” in early 2001 for MTN shares, known as M-Cell at the time, worth about R1.4bn.

Leon Kellerman SC, for the pensioners, wrote in court papers:

“There is no indication that the funds received any income from the M-Cell shares.

“We are arguing that the funds have been stripped over a period of more than 20 years. That's been found by the investigation by the legal team using an actuary,” Alberts said.

“That multiplies to a claim of almost R80bn, that is the funds lost plus the interest.”

Sapa


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