Transnet's Durban container port. File picture: Simphiwe Mbokazi

Cape Town - Transnet pensioners are set to receive 13th cheques to a total value of R178 million, the parastatal announced on Tuesday.

“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 an amount of R448m paid by Transnet to qualifying beneficiaries, prioritising widows of former black employees and those with long service, and therefore no other income.

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 Freedom Front Plus, which spearheaded a class action lawsuit against Transnet, told Sapa the bonuses would not affect their court case.

“These ad hoc bonuses do not come from Transnet,” FF Plus MP Anton Alberts said.

“When they pay out their bonuses, they are actually paying pensioners from the funds itself.”

About 66,000 pensioners are involved in the civil claim to recover about R79bn, which they claim Transnet plundered 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 the funds lost plus the interest.” - Sapa