Post Office Act bid extension rejected

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A full bench sitting of the Constitutional Court in Johannesburg. File picture: TIRO RAMATLHATSE

Johannesburg - The Constitutional Court dismissed an application on Thursday for an extension of a court deadline to remedy the Post Office Act.

“The application for an amendment of this court’s order... handed down on 7 March, 2013, to extend the period... from eight months to 14 months is dismissed with costs,” the court said in its ruling.

The application for the extension was brought by Communications Minister Yunus Carrim following a case involving the Post Office retirement fund.

Phumla Ngewu was married until July 2007 to Mawethu Ngewu, who is employed by the Post Office and is a member of its retirement fund.

According to their divorce decree, the wife was awarded a 50 percent share of her ex-husband's pension interest.

However, under the rules of the fund, her portion of her ex-husband's pension interest does not accrue upon divorce, and is payable only when he terminates his membership of the fund.

She seeks to change the rules of the fund so that her pension interest, and those of other ex-spouses in a similar position, accrues on the date of divorce.

The applicants, Phumla Ngewu and the Women's Legal Centre Trust, challenged the provisions of the rules of the fund, alternatively, the Divorce Act and the Pension Funds Act.

They alleged it violates her constitutional right to equality, because the rules did not provide for a pension benefit in the fund to be payable on divorce.

The fund admitted there was a constitutional defect in its rules.

Carrim and the fund argued that the court should postpone the matter for six to eight months as there was a legislative amendment process underway to correct the defect.

The Constitutional Court said Ngewu's destitution was continuing and could change only when Parliament remedied the defect in the legislation.

“She 1/8Ngewu 3/8 is unemployed and has no means of sustenance. She has been forced to live on handouts. She has nowhere to stay and has had to move from place to place, staying wherever she can be accommodated,” the court said.

“The prejudice that she would suffer as a result of an extension is manifest.”

The court found that the State, by contrast, would not suffer any real prejudice if the extension was not granted.


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