Special Pensions Act: deliberations; Letters from the President: consideration

Defence

27 February 2013
Chairperson: Mr S Montsitsi (ANC; Gauteng)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee discussed issues arising from the provisions of the Special Pensions Act but it could not make decisions because of a lack of quorum. The major issue for discussion was the status of dependants born to a pensioner outside wedlock and a lack of a mechanism to distribute the pension between a surviving spouse and dependants.

Members raised an issue on the meaning of a dependant in light of the Act which seemed to qualify who a dependant was.

The Committee was also informed of seven letters from the President written to the National Assembly through the two Co-Chairperson of the Joint Committee on Defence in which he informed the National Assembly of the deployment of the South African National Defence Forces internally (in Kwazulu-Natal and the Western Cape Province) and externally (in Mozambique and the Central African Republic). The letters were not subject to discussion because the President had a prerogative under the Constitution to make such employment as the Commander-In-Chief.

Meeting report

Opening Remarks by the Chairperson
The Co-Chairperson apologised to the members present for the delayed start of the meeting and the lack of adequate quorum, something he attributed to the morning traffic. He informed the members present that the status of the meeting in the absence of a required quorum was that the items on the agenda (discussion of shortfalls identified in the Special Pensions Act and the consideration of letters from the President) could only be discussed without taking any decisions. Decisions would be taken after a detailed discussion at a fully-fledged meeting at which the State Law Advisors would be invited to attend to guide the members through the recommendations that they would possibly take.

The Co-Chairperson reminded members that this was the last year before the next general elections and that there was an issue that continued to besiege their comrades and veterans who continued to be destitute together with their families. He said that all the loopholes in the current legislation had to be addressed before Parliament rose for the elections for the benefit of those that were supposed to benefit from the Special Pensions Act.

The Co-Chairperson said that a presentation had been made by the National Treasury at the previous meeting and questions had been raised by the Committee on issues that it was not happy about. He invited Members to make proposals at the next meeting to tighten up the legislation.

Special Pensions Act (Act No. 69 of 1996)
The Co-Chairperson in taking Members through the Act said that on page one, the Act outlined generally the principles behind the Special Pensions Act and it additionally outlined briefly for who it was meant. On page two, the Act outlined the benefits for the beneficiaries on death of the pensioner.

On page three the Co-Chairperson said that the Act outlined the right to pension by the principal beneficiary with conditions of, among others, five years of unbroken service. He said that the only problem was the issue of those working full-time who were also underground operatives for more than a period of ten years. There was still a challenge on how to deal with these people because the Act  did not recognise those who were not engaged in the work of a political organisation on a full-time basis. It did not give leverage to members who, for example, might have been working at  Pick n’ Pay during the day but in the evening were doing political work.  On page four the Co-Chairperson said that Act dealt with the various disabilities, while page five outlined the lump sum that accrued to the beneficiaries.

In reading out Section 2, the Co-Chairperson said that the right to a survivor’s lump sum benefit in terms of the Act was limited to the surviving spouse, or if there was no surviving spouse, the surviving dependants. He said that the Act recognised the spouse and that in the absence of the spouse the Act recognised the surviving dependant. Children born outside wedlock were not accommodated by the Act. He gave an example of an application by the children of the late comrade Madondo. The Committee asked the Special Pensions Board why these children had not been regarded as beneficiaries and why they did not benefit. The response was that the payment was made to the spouse.

On page six, the Co-Chairperson clarified that under Section 2.2(b) the word ‘and’ between surviving spouse and dependants had to be replaced with ‘or’. On page seven under section 5 (1) on allocation of survivor’s benefit, he said that it was indicated in the Act that the Board must determine proportion of the survivor’s benefit only where there was more than one spouse so that it could be distributed equitably to the various spouses. Under Section 5(2) if a deceased person was not survived by a spouse, but was survived by more than one dependant, the Board would determine the proportion of distribution to such dependants. He said that in a situation where a surviving spouse had passed away and the only survivors were children outside wedlock, such children would not benefit from the Act.

The Chairperson urged Members to look at the Act and see how to address the loopholes that were apparent in it. Further benefits were to be rolled out in future but in its current form, the Act was disadvantaging children born outside wedlock and this needed to be addressed.

Discussion
Mr Tshepe Motumi, Director General of the Department of Military Veterans, said that the Department was not going to add over and above to the observations that had been made by the Co-Chairperson together with the presentation that had been made by the National Treasury. He however added that the Department of Military Veterans continued to engage with military veterans and recipients who in certain cases might be experiencing problems with accessing their special pension either because the application had been declined for whatever reason or because of some delayed payments. He said that there was a bilateral arrangement with the Special Pensions Board to see how the stumbling blocks could be unblocked.

Mr Motumi said that in terms of the Military Veterans Act, one of the benefits in Section 5 was the pension. A Military Veterans Pension Task team had been set up in consultation with National Treasury and Social Development to see how the implementation of the military pensions under the Act would be achieved. The Department would report to Parliament at a future stage of amounts to be paid out to pensioners once they had been determined following the on-going process by the task team.

Mr B Fihla (ANC) wanted clarification on how a dependant was defined because according to him the Act was trying to make a qualification. He said that a dependant was not limited to a child that was born within wedlock but rather one that depended on the head of the home for school fees, up keep, and other factors.

The Co-Chairperson responded that the Act at present did not provide for the distribution of the pension between a surviving spouse and dependants. Once a surviving spouse was paid, the dependants were left at a disadvantage. He added that this would be addressed at a fully-fledged meeting.

Mr A Maziya (ANC) said that the current Act dealt with dependants born within wedlock.
Affected Parties should make proper compilation of documents during their lifetime. A marriage certificate, a Will and other documentation listing the beneficiaries would be relevant for the disbursement of pension.  He said that a separate Act to defend those born outside wedlock should be considered as a solution

The Co-Chairperson said that State Law Advisors would look at the matter and advise in the next meeting.

Letters from the President
The Co-Chairperson said that there seven letters that the President wrote formally to the Joint Defence Committee informing it of the employment of the South African National Defence Forces (SANDF). He had a prerogative under the Constitution to employ SANDF either internally or externally as Commander-In-Chief for the purpose of peace-keeping or security. The Co-Chairperson went on to highlight the contents of the letters.

The letter from the President to the Speaker of the National Assembly dated 21st December 2012 informed the Assembly of the employment of SANDF for service in co-operation with the South African Police Force in the prevention and combating of crime, and maintenance and preservation of law and order within the Republic of South Africa during a friendly soccer game between South Africa and Zambia.


The letter from the President to the Speaker of the National Assembly dated 21st December 2012 informed the Assembly of the employment of SANDF for service in co-operation with the South African Police Force in the prevention and combating of crime, and maintenance and preservation of law and order in Kwazulu-Natal province.

The letter from the President to the Speaker of the National Assembly dated 21st December 2012 informed the Assembly of the employment of SANDF for service in co-operation with the South African Police Force in the prevention and combating of crime, and maintenance and preservation of law and order within the Republic of South Africa during the hosting of the 2013 Orange Africa Cup of Nations finals draw event.

The letter from the President to the Speaker of the National Assembly dated 7th January 2013 informed the Assembly of the employment of SANDF for service in fulfilment of an international obligation in Africa towards the Central African Republic.

The letter from the President to the Speaker of the National Assembly dated 11th January 2013 informed the Assembly of the employment of SANDF for service in co-operation with the South African Police Force in the prevention and combating of crime, and maintenance and preservation of law and order within the Republic of South Africa during the hosting of the 2013 Orange Africa Cup of Nations.

The letter from the President to the Speaker of the National Assembly dated 11th January 2013 informed the Assembly of the employment of SANDF for service in co-operation with the South African Police Force in the prevention and combating of crime, and maintenance and preservation of law and order in the Western Cape Province.

The letter from the President to the Speaker of the National Assembly dated 25th January 2013  informed the Assembly of the employment of SANDF for service in fulfilment of an international obligation in Africa towards Mozambique.

Discussion

The Committee Researcher said that as indicated in the legal opinions presented to the Committee the President was entitled under the Section 201(2)(c) of the Constitution to employ the Defence Forces in fulfilment of an international obligation and under Section 201(3) he had to inform Parliament promptly in detail of the employment. Parliament’s over-sight role in this regards was subject to the Constitution.
 
The Co-Chairperson adjourned the meeting.


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