Carping point: What happened to honour among thieves?

File image.

File image.

Published Aug 20, 2022


Johannesburg - In ancient times, soothsayers and prophets would look to the heavens for a sign or gut an innocent chicken or pigeon to see what the future held. In more modern times, people would read their horoscopes in newspapers but, often, the answer is far more prosaic than that.

In a corporate, the first sign that something’s rotten is when you don’t get paid at the end of the month, or if you did get paid, it was only in part. When HR types starts sending out plaintive emails on behalf of the brass on the sixth floor, making excuses it’s normally time to start dusting off CVs, updating your LinkedIn profile and clearing out your desk.

What used to be a bit of a cushion, especially if you were a loyal and diligent employee, was at least you’d get what was in your pension fund if you got canned. Thankfully, in this country, we haven’t had the kind of depredations that other company pension funds have had like the Mirror Group in the UK in the ’80s, when owner Robert Maxwell pillaged the pension fund to cover his newspaper group’s losses.

The management of most corporate pension funds in South Africa have been outsourced to professional managers and are subject to regulatory authority. The actuaries will ensure that the companies make the contributions that they have promised their staff and that they now have to make by law. When there’s a shortfall, they step in and they order compliance.

On Wednesday, the ANC was ordered to do just that by the Financial Sector Conduct authority. It has to pay R10 million a month to make up its arrears in the ANC Staff Provident Fund. Apparently, the hole is R86m – for a fund that has only 535 members, that’s a lot of non-contribution.

A company not paying its staff is one thing. A company stealing the twilight years of its loyal employees by not paying its share of the pension fund contributions is appalling. But this isn’t a company, this is the political party that has governed South Africa for every year of the past 28. This is a party that has had control of eight of the nine provinces and, until comparatively recently, all the major metropolitan areas. It’s also had control of the state-owned enterprises – which are almost universally bankrupt.

It’s allowed them all to be looted.

It’s easy to blame former president Jacob Zuma and his selling of his (and our) birthright for a pot of curry, in the inimitable words of EFF leader Julius Malema. It’s easy to blame him for the grounding of SAA by putting his lover in charge of the board. But that was only part of the rot; non-existent dairies in the Free State, phantom rail networks, potholes in almost every city and raw s*** flowing into rivers and then back out of our taps are the handiwork of all the other comrades.

Who would have thought it would stiff its own party’s staff pensions too? What happened to honour among thieves?

The Saturday Star