Special Pensions

Any idea what you were doing on 2 February 1990?

For the large majority of South Africans, it is a date with life-changing significance. On that day, the State President F. W. de Klerk got to his feet at the opening of the 1990 session of Parliament, and announced sweeping reforms which marked the beginning of the negotiated transition from apartheid to constitutional democracy.

It did not just happen. As the entire experience of a visit to The Apartheid Museum at Freedom Park, south of Johannesburg city centre, will inform, the sacrifice and service of South Africans in order to bring about such a momentous transformation was immense and beyond measure.

What was also beyond measure was the loss suffered by people who were unable properly to provide for themselves due to the apartheid system, and in particular because of their efforts or sacrifices in bringing about its demise. One of the first things to do when starting out in life is to start a savings account, contribute to a pension fund, and the like. That is not so easy when you are in prison, or underground – politically speaking – living on borrowed time, and borrowed food and shelter.

The Special Pensions Act 1996 is designed to address precisely this. If you are a South African citizen (or entitled to be one) who made sacrifices or served the public interest in establishing a non-racial democratic constitutional order, and you were prevented from providing for a pension (on certain grounds stipulated in the Act), basically, then you have the right to receive a special pension; provided you were 35 years of age on 1 December 1996, the date of commencement of the Act.

Obviously the pension is not just for the asking; National Treasury is not waiting with piles of unwanted cash to dish out. The process and protocols set up to approve applications for the pension are fairly rigorous, there are Boards to review applications, and determine Appeals and they have hearings and conduct investigations. And, of course, with rights come obligations.

A. General offences

The Act makes the following criminal offences:

  1. for any person or political organization1 to prevent or obstruct the performance of any activity in terms of the Act;2

  2. or to refuse or fail to comply with any obligation in terms of the Act;3

  3. or to submit false or misleading information to the institution concerned with the grant of the pension (referred to as the ‘designated institution’);4 and

  4. for any person to fail to notify the designated institution of the death of someone who was receiving benefits, and as a result of that failure is benefitted in any way.5

  1. This is defined in the Act and has several requisites. 

  2. Section 30(1)a. 

  3. Section 30(1)b. 

  4. Section 30(1)c. 

  5. Section 30(2).