Picture: Shelley Kjonstad

Johannesburg - Pieter Booyens dedicated 31 years to South Africa Airways as a pilot, and now that he is on pension, he is struggling to pay his rent and his mounting medical bills.

For him, the R80 billion class action by more than 62 000 pensioners against Transnet is long overdue.

The North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria last week gave staff the go-ahead to pursue the action against Transnet and its two pension funds.

Two pensioners - Johan Pretorius and Johan Kruger - told the court that thousands of former Transnet employees had to survive for nearly 10 years with just a 2 percent annual increase in funds.

The pensioners are seeking through the class action to compel Transnet - backed by a guarantee from the state - to pay a pension deficit which existed in 1990 payable to Transnet Second Benefit Fund and the Transport Pension Fund. SAA is a subsidiary of Transnet.

The case is expected in court before the end of the year. In the meantime, Booyens struggles to make ends meet.

“My whole family worked for SAA. My parents, three brothers and myself,” he said.

“I was a senior officer who flew jumbo jets for years. After 31 years of service I went on pension and I now have no medical aid or any way of supporting myself.” He retired 24 years ago.

Booyens, 74, from uMhlanga Rocks in KwaZulu-Natal, receives a R4 500 pension each month, which is not even enough to pay for his accommodation or medical bills.

“I have been living in my house for years and now cannot pay rates or levies. The bank has threatened to repossess it.”

His problems became worse last year when he was diagnosed with motor neuron disease. “I now have to use a wheelchair and I cannot even afford to go to the doctor.

“I have spent my life flying jets and have now turned into a beggar. People do not believe that I was once a pilot.”

He said his parents faced similar financial problems when they retired.

“They were both given a lump-sum payout of R1 600 when they retired and no pension after that. That was 20 years ago. I had to take care of them until they died.”

Booyens said he was struggling because of his medical condition.

“I do not have medical aid. I am in dire straits. If I want to fly to Cape Town, they can give me a free ticket, but what am I going to do with that if I cannot even pay my medical bills?

“It is pathetic to live like this,” Booyens said.

The Star