Ladies and gentlemen
Thank u for inviting me to clarify the military veterans’ pensions regulations and benefits as proposed by the Minister of Defence.
South Africa and the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) as we know it today, is a product of a negotiation.
We arrived at the gates of political freedom with, militarily speaking, there being no winner or conqueror.
Although we are thankful for the blessing of not having a full-fledged civil war, we are mindful that all is not well in the current dispensation.
As we all know, the SANDF comprises of the former South African Defence Force, the members of the former Non-Statutory Forces and the members of the former TBVC countries’ forces.
Yet this integration has always been fraught with difficulties, with an “us versus them” mentality, with the TBVC forces’ members feeling as if they are third class citizens.
Most recently there are contentious draft Proposed Regulations seeking to regulate pension benefit of the Military Veterans. These new regulations bring a few thoughts to the fore:
1. The members of the former Non-Statutory Forces, namely, ex-MK and by extension, ex-APLA, are a superior breed of Military Veterans within the greater community of veterans and are elevated through legislative processes to assume a special dispensation of pension above any other members from other formations. This is sugar-coated under the guise of Military Veterans, instead of supposedly “Liberation Struggle Veterans”.
Any notion propagated and advanced in the name of Military Veterans in the South African setting should, by legislative framework, include all members of military formations irrespective of their previous political background. Therefore, these proposed regulations are wrongly premised in terms of legal framework and should be dismissed with the contempt they deserve.
2. It glaringly is this “us versus them” mentality with the statutory forces completely being left out, which is against the spirit of integration, the Military Veterans Act and it is completely unconstitutional.
In dealing with these pensions, we must also recognise that those in the ANC military wing are not speaking the same language. Some want R4 million each and have held ministers of state hostage. Some people have claimed their children were killed by their superiors in the military camps in exile.
All is therefore not well in their internal debate. The solution might be to suspend this amendment and instead iron out these problems from within and stick to the Veterans Act that talks about one SANDF.
If these regulations are to be forced down, its constitutionality must be tested, because this is a violation of the agreement that was reached during the negotiations.
Problem civil servants’ pensions
Another issue that needs scrutiny is the pension moneys of government workers that were invested through the Public Investment Corporation (PIC), which came into being in 2005 through its own act and Mr Brian Molefe its first CEO.
There have been a lot of complaints that former employees and pensioners have not been getting their dues, pensions are calculated incorrectly and in some cases are calculated from 1996 instead of their employment date in the 1970s. In the process, we had read, pension moneys were being embezzled through corruption.
The United Democratic Movement wrote to the President about this very matter, and we were vindicated with the institution of the Mpati Commission.
Allow me to, at this time, explain how the GEPF worked in terms of the TBVC states:
GEPF is a defined benefit pension fund that was established in May 1996 when various public sector funds were consolidated.
Their core business, which is governed by the Government Employees Pension Law (or GEP Law), as amended, is to manage and administer pensions and other benefits for government employees in South Africa.
Essentially, this means, that the democratic government consolidated the pension funds of government employees of the former TBVC states with those of the apartheid government employees to form a single government employees’ pension fund.
This consolidation formed the largest pension fund on the continent covering over 450,000 pensioners and beneficiaries with assets over R2.2 trillion.
Historically, TBVC states pensions were invested in various investment houses like Old Mutual, Sanlam etc.
At times these investments would be used by TBVC governments to acquire government bonds from which proceeds would be used for infrastructure builds, services, etc.
The consolidation then meant that the national democratic government assumed the management of the public sector employees’ pensions as a whole with the exception of those of provinces which to date are still managed at provincial level.
The challenge this consolidation never addressed, is how the unclaimed benefits would be handled, predominantly the unclaimed benefits were those of the TBVC states.
This phenomenon, to date, continues unaddressed as the PIC together with the GEPF have failed to give asset managers led by individuals from former TBVC states, to manage these unclaimed benefits.
The advantage of utilising asset managers led by former TBVC states citizens is the familiarity with the terrain of those that are owed these benefits.
Accordingly, the call we would be making to GEPF and the PIC, is the disclosure of how many asset managers led by former TBVC states citizens have been mandated to manage PIC managed assets which include unclaimed benefits.
The PIC and GEPF need to explain to the nation how former TBVC states are benefiting from the new consolidated model of government pensions, in absence of such explanation it is easy to conclude that the TBVC states got a raw deal along with their former citizens to benefit the new ruling elite.
The investment monopoly that the PIC has in terms of the Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF) is unhealthy. The adage of carrying all your eggs in one basket has never been truer and the dangers of what is possible, given the Steinhoff debacle, should be warning enough. Lessons should have been learnt.
The Mpati Commission, after scrutiny of my submission, took a serious look at the PIC’s so-called unlisted investments. These are nothing better than loans granted to an elite group of people under the guise of black economic empowerment. These “loans” are poorly serviced; if at all.
The whole idea of the Pan African Infrastructure Development Fund (PAIDF) was hatched with former President Thabo Mbeki. When I asked in the Mpati Commission that they should do an in loco inspection of the assets of this initiative, there was no answer. No wonder the Mpati Commission had strong words for Harith General Partners.
In September 2022 a very astute person wrote to the Business Day, asking in a letter “Why does PIC not act against loss-making investments?”. Saying that the “fund manager is allowed to continue playing Monopoly with pension money with no accountability”.
The PIC has been used as a piggy bank to build a whole new middle class off the backs of workers.
Both the Mpati and the Zondo Commissions have pointed to the corruption and government is dragging its feet in implementing the findings of both these commissions.
With the Mpati Commission, specifically, retired Constitutional Court Judge Mokgoro was set to further investigate, and monies had to be paid back. We are still waiting for progress on these scores.
We know that the ruling party has proven that it is beyond the point of its much-vaunted self-correction.
There are myriad of bodies, associations and individuals who are fighting the good fight in the name of government pensioners, and I am certain this is a fight we cannot relinquish as it affects people’s rights.
The time might be ripe for all these bodies and individuals to converge under one roof and map out a way forward to the Constitutional Court.
I have brought some reading material which comprises of:
1) The Proposed Regulations seeking to regulate pension benefit of the Military Veterans
2) An interesting article called “Why does PIC not act against loss-making investments?” that was published in the Business Day about the monopoly the PIC has on government pensions.
3) My 18 January 2016 letter to the Public Protector re: “Request for an urgent investigation: Public Investment Corporation (PIC)”
4) My 31 May 2018 letter to President Cyril Ramaphosa re: “The Public Investment Corporation, the Government Employee Pension Fund and suspected corruption; a scandal bigger than the Gupta-family’s state capture?”
5) My 18 March 2019 submission to the Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of Impropriety Regarding the Public Investment Corporation
6) My 8 July 2021 letter to Advocate MR Ramabulana of the Government Employees Pension Ombud re: “Mass complaint regarding the outstanding pensions of thousands of former Ciskei and Transkei civil servants, and redress”
Thank you very much, I am ready to field any questions of clarity