Edition: February/April 2018
A cloud that must be lifted
Otherwise it will continue to hang over Cosatu official and Pensions Registrar on application of “fit and proper” requirements.
Jan Mahlangu has a formidable presence. He knows what he’s talking about and is highly effective in fighting his corner, even to the extent of blunting progress on retirement-fund reform, from his platform as the Cosatu coordinator of pension and provident funds.
But the wood in this platform has a little beetle. The infestation is caused by his acceptance of a motor vehicle from a service provider, the consequences of which remain unexplained. It’s within his right not to explain them, at least for public consumption, and he has exercised this right by not responding to a series of questions that TT has put to him (see box).
The Financial Services Board, by its professed claim of “proactive engagement with the media”, would eschew a similar right. Yet it simply doesn’t respond to these same questions. What’s more, the FSB is the overseer of “fit and proper” standards for trustees. FSB executive officer Dube Tshidi has recently published for comment a draft directive “to determine conditions to be imposed by the Registrar of Pension Funds in order to combat and prevent bribery and corrupt practices”.
It’s emerged that Tshidi, at some point earlier, used s26(2) of the Pension Funds Act to make Mahlangu a trustee of the South African Local Authorities (SALA) Pension Fund and the Municipal Councillors Pension Fund. In fact, Mahlangu chairs the MCPF board of trustees. He’s also a trustee of the SALA Beneficiary Fund.
The implication is either that Tshidi satisfied himself that Mahlangu is “fit and proper” or that, without having satisfied himself, he made the appointments nonetheless. In terms of s26(2), the Registrar may appoint trustees where the board of a fund is not properly constituted. Either way, Tshidi isnn’t saying.
Neither is Mahlangu. His troubles started in 2010 when the gift of an Audi A4 from an official at financial-services consultancy SA Quantum was revealed. Having then resigned from Cosatu, three years later he was rehired. Later still, thanks to the Registrar, he gets these various trusteeship appointments of which at least one is highly lucrative.
A document to hand indicates that, for the year to end-September 2017, Mahlangu was paid R651 000 by the SALA Pension Fund. This averages over R54 000 per month. It’s paradoxical that trade unions have long argued against payment to trustees when they serve as part of their workday shop-steward jobs.
A legitimate strategy is not to respond to media queries, in the hope that they’ll blow away, but it carries the risk of losing the opportunity to comment. Here, the affected parties still have that opportunity but obviously now only for the next TT edition. It is particularly hoped that the Registrar will avail himself of the opportunity as the FSB positions itself to become the Financial Sector Conduct Authority.