Pension Funds in South Africa: Leadership Challenges
Keywords:beneficiaries, pension funds, trustees, trade unions
Service delivery in South Africa is a topical issue. What comes to mind immediately is the government’s ability (or inability) to provide basic services, such as running water, electricity, flushing toilets and tarred roads, to citizens. This line of thinking can be squarely attributed to the political history of South Africa. The country’s struggle for liberation was not limited to political freedom; the struggle was for economic freedom as well. Historically, the exclusion of Africans from mainstream economic opportunities also extended to pension benefits paid out upon retirement from active employment. Before 1994, only white beneficiaries had representation on boards of pension funds, but thereafter, Africans enjoyed full representation in pension funds in terms of leadership roles. However, many pension funds have recently been rocked by scandals resulting from poor leadership. We are reminded of the prophecy of O. R. Tambo that South Africa will experience a leadership crisis after achieving liberation. The aim of this article is to focus attention on the pension funds industry, which appears to suffer from a paucity of leadership. In the context of this article, pension funds are focused on as an aspect of service delivery as it can be regarded as a way of eradicating poverty among the historically disadvantaged. The author argues that if pension funds are administered properly, they have the potential to contribute to the eradication of poverty among historically disadvantaged communities. This argument is elucidated by the information provided by widows who are beneficiaries of pension funds in the Greater Sekhukhune District municipal area and by retired pension fund members with whom interviews were conducted. A focus-group discussion was also held with trustees employed in the Greater Sekhukhune District Municipality.