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Court flags bribery and sets aside takeover of R6 billion ‘blue collar’ workers’ pension fund

The High Court in Johannesburg has set aside the appointment of Akani Holdings to administer provident funds of workers in the chemical, pulp and paper and pharmaceutical industries. | File Picture

The High Court in Johannesburg has set aside the appointment of Akani Holdings to administer provident funds of workers in the chemical, pulp and paper and pharmaceutical industries. | File Picture

Published Jul 3, 2022

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Pretoria - Employee benefits company NBC Holdings on Sunday said it feels vindicated after the High Court in Johannesburg reviewed and set aside the 2019 appointment of Akani Holdings to administer the over a R6-billion workers’ pension fund.

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Bassie Maisela, group chief executive officer of NBC Holding was reacting to the full bench judgment, written by High Court Judge LR Adams, seen by IOL on the anonymous fight to control the workers’ funds.

The court has found that the 2019 takeover by Akani Holdings was linked to the payment of bribes to three trustees of the Chemical Industries National Provident Fund (CINPF) which belongs to “blue collar workers” – members of the Chemical, Energy, Paper, Printing, Wood and Allied Workers Union (Ceppwawu).

The court found that a week after the appointment of Akani to administer the lucrative fund, principal officer of the CINPF Bonginhlanhla Dangazele who is now dead, Reginald Sema who was the chair of the board and Ayanda Sithole received payments ranging from R25 000 to R40 000 within an hour of each other, from Neighbour Funeral Scheme (NFS) a company which the court said is linked to Akani.

The three officials had argued that the money was related to the proceeds of claims pursuant to and in terms of funeral policies upon the deaths of relatives of their relatives.

“Despite the remarkable coincidence that they all three lost ‘family members’ within weeks of one another and all received their payments on the same day, they failed to state how they are in fact related to the deceased. The version which Akani and the CINPF wants the court to accept is that Messrs Dangazele, Sema and Sithole all subscribed for funeral policies from NFS, all in August 2019, and all independently of one another, notwithstanding that there are 11 100 registered FAIS representatives licensed to sell funeral policies in South Africa,” the court highlighted.

“There is no explanation as to why, of all the funeral policy vendors in the country, all three obtained funeral policies within days of one another, from the same one. This, despite the fact that Mr Dangazele lives in Durban, whilst Messrs Sema and Sithole in Kempton Park and Orange Farm respectively, and NFS is based in Kempton Park in Gauteng.”

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The court accepted the submission by NBC Holdings, the three were paid for “death benefit claims” in respect of the deaths of persons seemingly unrelated to them.

The court noted that the CINPF “is a pension fund worth billions of rands in pension fund money, held on behalf of its members, predominantly blue-collar workers in the chemical, pulp and paper and pharmaceutical industries”.

In conclusion, the full bench of the High Court in Johannesburg has found ordered that:

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• The decision of the board of the CINPF made on 21 and 22 November 2019 to terminate NBC Holdings’ services was reviewed and set aside.

• The CINPF’s decision to appoint new service providers to provide fund administration, fund consulting, investment consulting and actuarial services was reviewed and set aside.

• The individuals who occupied the chairperson and vice-chairperson positions when these decisions were taken by the CINPF are to be removed as trustees of the CINPF and the CINPF has been directed to replace the trustees in accordance with the CINPF’s rules.

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“NBC Holdings was found not to have litigated against the CINPF purely for commercial reasons. The full bench ruled that NBC together with the aggrieved members have acted in the broader public interest of the CINPF, its tens of thousands of members and clean administration in the pension fund industry,” said Masiela.

“The full bench’s appeal judgment vindicates NBC and the values that NBC strive to entrench into its service delivery to pension fund clients every day. NBC is member-centric and shall not remain passive observers when members’ hard-earned retirement savings are threatened by irregular activities and unscrupulous individuals who do not act in the best interests of its clients’ pension funds at all times.”

Masiela said NBC Holdings “will continue to serve its members’ interests diligently and exceed their expectations consistently”.

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