Retired employees left homeless

Freedom Front Plus logo. 2013

Freedom Front Plus logo. 2013

Some Transnet pensioners are homeless because they cannot afford to pay rent, the Freedom Front Plus said on Thursday.

“Most of the retired employees are forced to live on the streets, and some of them end up committing suicide because they cannot afford to pay rent and support their families,” FF Plus MP Anton Alberts told pensioners at the Pretoria Arts Museum ahead of a march to the Union Buildings.

They intended handing a petition to President Jacob Zuma’s office to ask for his urgent intervention. People carried placards bearing the words “Sies Transnet” and “We demand justice”.

Most of the pensioners walked with the aid of canes and crutches.

Retired Transnet employees were getting poorer by the day, Alberts said.

“The average income for a retired Transnet pensioner is R2000 or less and most of them cannot live with that money on a monthly basis.”

Alberts said pensioners had been getting two percent increases a year, which made little difference due to rising inflation.

Pensioner Rabosotho Maila told Sapa he received an average income of R1800 a month.

“I have to buy food for my family, pay for water and electricity, and sometimes that money does not even last until month end. I worked for Transnet for more than 20 years, and still most of us are treated like we never contributed to that company,” he said.

The pensioners had launched a class action court case against Transnet and government over the “plundering” of their pension funds over 20 years.

The two percent increases were in shrill contrast to promises Transnet management had made to pensioners about their retirement, the FF Plus said.

On Tuesday Transnet announced that pensioners would get 13th cheques totalling R178 million.

“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 R448m Transnet paid to qualifying beneficiaries, prioritising widows of former black employees and those with long service. 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 FF Plus told Sapa on Tuesday the bonuses would not affect their court case.

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

– Sapa

 

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