Venda pension battle: Complainant dies as case drags on

Public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane says she will continue to offer her assistance to the family of Tshimangadzo Tshiololi. File image
Public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane says she will continue to offer her assistance to the family of Tshimangadzo Tshiololi. File image
Image: Moeletsi Mabe

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane has offered her condolences to the family of a man who has died without a resolution to a 12-year pension dispute affecting dozens of former employees of the former Venda homeland.

“It is saddening that Mr Tshiololi, like several former civil servants from the defunct Venda administration, passed away while still awaiting justice, even after successfully obtaining the assistance and intervention of an independent constitutional institution,” said Mkhwebane.

Along with two of his colleagues, Tshimangadzo Tshiololi had approached then public protector Lawrence Mushwana in 2008 on behalf of a group calling itself the “Vhembe Concerned Pensioners,” she said in a statement.

They alleged that the Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF) and the National Treasury acted improperly during the privatisation of the Venda Pension Fund (VPF), thereby prejudicing members of the fund. They also alleged that, as a result of the  privatisation, they were not entitled to full pension benefits in terms of the Government Employees Pension Law (GEP Law).

In a report released in November 2011, another former public protector, Thuli Madonsela, found that the complainants had been prejudiced and directed the department of public services and administration (DPSA) and the National Treasury to review the implementation of Privatisation Schemes of the former VPF.

Mkhwebane said by 2017, the implementation of remedial action remained outstanding, with government citing a number of stumbling blocks, including fears that implementation would “open the floodgates” in respect of the potential for similar claims from former members of pension funds in respect of other erstwhile homeland governments.

In a special report on the case, Mkhwebane said she confirmed Madonsela’s findings and remedial action. She recommended a process based on a closed list of complainants to establish a reasonably reliable database of beneficiaries of this office’s remedial action and to assess the potential prejudice and losses of these beneficiaries with the aid of an actuary.

She also recommended that the Treasury commit funds for the recalculation of pension benefits by the Government Pension Administration Agency (GPAA) of complainants who became members of GEPF after 1996, and/or ad hoc compensation of those who retired before the amalgamation of the various pension funds, to reimburse their reasonable losses as estimated with the assistance of the actuary.

Finance minister Tito Mboweni in March 2019 approached the high court to have the reports by Mkhwebane and Madonsela reviewed and set aside. In August last year, the minister’s interlocutory application was dismissed.

“The minister indicated that he would appeal. His papers in this regard have yet to be received,” said Mkhwebane.

She said she would continue to offer her assistance to Tshiololi’s family.

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