NOTICE TO GEPF MEMBERS, BENEFICIARIES AND SPOUSES

TO: 

(i) ALL CURRENT MEMBERS; 

(ii) BENEFICIARIES AND SPOUSES WHO BECAME ENTITLED TO BENEFITS SINCE 1 APRIL 2015; AND 

(iii) FORMER MEMBERS WHO RESIGNED SINCE 1 APRIL 2015 

NOVEMBER 2016 

1. In August 2016, the Public Servants Association (“PSA”) applied to the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria for an order directing the Government Employees Pension Fund (“GEPF”) to give written notice of the PSA’s court application to all current members, former members who resigned since 1 April 2015, beneficiaries and spouses who became entitled to benefits since 1 April 2015 (hereinafter “stakeholders”). 

2. The GEPF did not oppose the order that it give written notice of the PSA’s application to the aforementioned stakeholders. This order was granted on 13 September 2016. 

3. The PSA also launched an application for the review and setting aside of the decision of the board of the GEPF, taken in terms of the rules of the GEPF, to amend the actuarial factors used to determine certain benefits payable by the GEPF. The basis for the PSA’s review application is that the GEPF’s board did not consult it before making its decision. 

4. The GEPF is opposing the PSA’s review application and has to that end filed and served a notice of intention to oppose. 

5. The purpose of this notice is simply to inform GEPF stakeholders of the existence of the PSA’s review application and also to inform any stakeholder that the PSA’s review papers will be available at the GEPF’s offices below upon request. 

6. A copy of the PSA’s notice of motion setting out the relief the PSA says it will seek in the review application is attached to this notice. 

Yours sincerely 

Abel Sithole 

Principal Executive Officer

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GEPF pension benefits are intended for members, pensioners and beneficiaries

The Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF) adheres to strict regulations governing its financial liability to members, beneficiaries and pensioners, as well as its financial soundness. There are very strict rules governing how benefits from the GEPF must be paid and distributed. These rules are spelled out in the Government Employees Pension Law. 

The pension industry as a whole is faced with unclaimed benefits and GEPF is no exception. Unclaimed benefits refer to all cases where more than 24 months have lapsed since an identified benefit became legally payable but, due to a lack of information from the beneficiary, employer or the member, the payment cannot be successfully effected. The benefits remain in the fund until claimants come forward. 

Further to GEPF’s Principal Executive Officer, Abel Sithole, appearing at the Commission of Inquiry into Higher Education and Training, GEPF would like to re-iterate the funds in its care are only intended for the benefit of its members, pensioners and beneficiaries only as currently stated in the GEP Law and Rules. 

In terms of the current law of the land, the GEPF Law and rules, these funds will remain in the Fund as unclaimed until the member or beneficiary has been traced and cannot be used for funding higher education or any other initiative.

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GEPF announces the 2017 Pension Increase

The Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF) is proud to announce that the Board of Trustees has granted a 6.6% pension increase to pensioners with effect from 1 April 2017. “The increase is equal to the year-on-year change in the consumer price index (CPI) for the year to 30 November 2016, and this attests to the Fund’s undertaking to ensure that pensioners retain their purchasing power,” says Principal Executive Officer, Abel Sithole. 

“GEPF has been striving towards paying pension increases that are in line with inflation since inception, this confirms that the well-being of our pensioners remain a priority. The Fund is in a relatively good financial standing and, as per the GEPF Rules, the Fund will continue to pay pensions until a pensioner dies as well as spouse’s and an orphan’s pension where applicable, it does not matter how old they live to be”, adds Sithole. /ends

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Your retirement saving is safe with GEPF, PIC

Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF) and Public Investment Corporation (PIC) reassure its members and pensioners that their benefits and pensions are not at risk. 

The GEPF adheres to strict regulations governing its financial liability to members, beneficiaries and pensioners, as well as its financial soundness. Moreover, the GEPF has confidence in the PIC’s ability to prudently invest funds on its behalf in terms of the agreed investment mandate. The GEPF constantly monitors and evaluates the PIC’s performance in accordance with its investment policy and mandates. 

The GEPF would like to reiterate and to assure its members, pensioners and beneficiaries that their pension benefits are safe. They are also reminded that GEPF is a defined pension benefit fund which means the benefits are defined in terms of the rules of the Fund. The benefits are paid in terms of the rules and are not dependent on the investment returns of the fund or on the level of employer contributions. Members and pensioners should therefore not focus inordinately on the ordinary and normal fluctuations of the Fund’s individual investments, which is of greater interest to the GEPF Board of Trustees and the Minister of Finance. 

In the past financial year 2015–2016, the assets of the Fund grew to over R1, 6 trillion. The GEPF achieved an overall investment performance return of 4% during this time. This enabled the Fund to grant a pension increase of 5, 3% to its pensioners which was above 100% of the Consumer Price Index (CPI) of 4, 8% as at November 2015. This is higher than the 75% increase recommended by the Rules of the Fund. 

The GEPF’s investment strategy also uses a liability-driven approach that takes into consideration expected future benefit payments, the actuarial position, and other long-term objectives, as well as the risk to the overall solvency of the Fund which reflects steady growth and a sustainable long term investments. 

GEPF has a solid track record of safeguarding the value of active members’ retirement savings and protecting its pensioners against inflation and it is currently one of very few large defined benefit pension funds in the world which is 100% funded after the 2008/2009 financial crisis. This reflects the Fund’s robust investment strategy and its ability to adapt to dynamic and turbulent market forces. 

GEPF affirms that the well-being of all of its members and pensioners is the reason why it exists.

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STATEMENT FROM PUBLIC INVESTMENT CORPORATION (PIC)

The Public Investment Corporation (PIC), on behalf of its clients, does hold a substantial amount of bonds of various State Owned Entities (SOEs). A significant portion of the PIC’s bond-holdings in SOEs is Government-guaranteed. At the outset, it should be stated that SOEs have never defaulted on any of the PIC’s bond investments. It should also be contextualised that bondholders do not have the same rights as shareholders. 

The Government is the sole shareholder in SOEs and therefore has the right to appoint members to the boards of SOEs. The PIC is concerned with governance practices of certain SOEs and has engaged the National Treasury in this regard. The PIC is also currently in discussions with external company law experts to determine what changes can be made to the PIC’s governance policies to enable the PIC to exercise a greater degree of oversight on the governance structures of investee SOEs. 

The PIC has an Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) Policy, which is based on corporate governance best practice, specifically for SOEs. This policy takes into account, inter alia, documents such as King IV, the Companies Act and the Public Finance Management Act. The PIC also has an ESG Rating Matrix with various metrics on environmental, social and governance best practice with which it rates the ESG scores of SOEs. The PIC actively engages all investee companies, including SOEs, on ESG matters based on PIC ESG policies and the ESG score derived from the ratings matrix. 

As a result of these engagements, Eskom understands what our views are on a number of issues, including governance. The PIC can assure government employees and pensioners that it is not conflicted as an organ of state, as all investment decisions are taken in the best interest of our clients and in line with client mandate requirements and the investment risk parameters stipulated by client mandates. 

In the case of the Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF), this mandate is approved by the GEPF board of trustees and is based on a detailed asset and liability study. The continued support of SOEs will be underpinned by these mandate requirements. Moreover, all investments are also subject to a robust due diligence process which includes a credit analysis, ESG reports as well as risk and legal reports. The PIC remains fully committed to work with National Treasury and Government to improve governance and public finance management in SOEs.

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GEPF is not funding South African Airways (SAA)

Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF) would like to reiterate and to assure its members, pensioners and beneficiaries that their pension savings are safe. 

Last week National Treasury told the National Assembly that it is considering various options to recapitalise South African Airways (SAA) which includes the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) who is our fund manager as a possible equity partner, however Treasury speculation is perceived as confirmation that the GEPF’s assets will be used through the PIC to Fund SAA. 

The GEPF would like to assure its members, pensioners and beneficiaries that the Fund has not received or been approached with such a proposal and no discussions have been held with GEPF on this matter, therefore we urge all our members and pensioners not to panic or read too much into this speculation. The GEPF through the PIC receives many requests all the time and rigorously considers the merits of all investment opportunities and invests prudently in the best interests of its members, pensioner and beneficiaries. 

The GEPF adheres to strict regulations governing its financial liability to members, beneficiaries and pensioners, as well as its financial soundness. Moreover, the GEPF has confidence in the PIC’s ability to prudently invest funds on its behalf in terms of the agreed investment mandate. The GEPF constantly monitors and evaluates the PIC’s performance in accordance with its investment policy and mandates. 

GEPF members, pensioners and beneficiaries are reminded that the primary role of the GEPF is to protect the wealth of its members and pensioners by safeguarding their retirement benefits through proper administration and prudent investment.

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Distant threats for investors

Long-term returns are achieved when the welfare of beneficiaries is assured. This is inextricably linked to economic growth and development that underpins high levels of employment at earnings which provide decent living standards

In May 2016 a South African court delivered a landmark ruling allowing a class action against gold mining companies. The court’s decision allows close to 1m gold mine labourers who contracted silicosis and tuberculosis – both fatal lung diseases – to seek damages. 

The claims are likely to stretch back more than 50 years to the high point of gold mining in the region in the 1960s and 1970s. At that time the industry employed close to 1m nationals of South Africa, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland and neighbouring countries. Some of the affected companies no longer own or operate gold mines. If damages are granted, the industry would be liable for hundreds of millions of dollars. 

Although the shares in these companies did not show a marked response to the court’s decision, shareholders in these companies will be affected by reduced returns in both income and capital gains. Past shareholders have enjoyed better returns as past share prices and income did not fully anticipate and reflect potential costs associated with external issues like lung disease. Up to 500,000 mineworkers have paid with their health. 

The long-term returns that institutional investors seek enable them to meet their obligations both when they are due and for the duration that they need to be met. A secondary requirement is to maintain the purchasing power of the payments. Likewise, returns can be used to fund growth-enhancing policies to support welfare. This is inextricably linked to economic growth and development that underpin high levels of employment at earnings which provide decent living standards. 

Linking national development and long-term returns 

The nature, size and horizon of investable assets inform what long-term returns are desirable and possible. The bigger the funds and the longer the investment time horizon, the higher the obligation to meet these criteria. 

Uncertainty and diversity of choices are the essence of the implied risk in investments. It is therefore important to appreciate that investment returns are always a function of investment risk associated with asset classes, duration and location. These are susceptible to short-term volatility. However, the primary risk for long-term investors is a permanent loss in the value of their investments. 

Long-term returns presuppose a long-term investment horizon. This is possible when investors have limited liquidity needs and are focused on achieving returns to meet a long-term objective such as income generation or replacement for individuals, and beneficiaries of pension funds. The source of long-term returns is productive investment in industry, infrastructure, and public goods and services that lead to sustainable growth and development. It is reasonable to assume earnings growth, interest and capital redemption will keep pace with the real economy and national development. 

The link between long-term returns and national development is best illustrated by the performance of equity investments. Economic growth will be constrained unless businesses are profitable. Earnings, the source of value for equity investments, are therefore both the result of positive economic activity and contribute to the development of diversified portfolios over different asset classes and jurisdictions. Institutional investors must overcome the immediacy and appeal of short-term returns, though they dominate the discourse to which investors are exposed. 

Institutional investors with little or no need for short-term liquidity can make use of ‘patient’ capital that allows them to invest in long-term assets which provide sustainable returns. But, like short-term investors, they cannot ignore the possibility of negative, and occasionally distant, external threats. ▪ 

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GEPF amend benefit rules for Members

In its endeavor to improve the benefits of member and pensioners, the Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF) Board of Trustees is pleased to announce the improvement of the funeral and discharge benefit effective from 1 October 2017. 

The improvement to the funeral benefit for a GEPF member or pensioner, whose pension either commenced on or after 1 December 2002 or prior to 1 December 2002 and is still alive as at 1 April 2012, the funeral benefit payable upon death of such a member or pensioner and/ his or her spouse and/or eligible children and/or stillborn will be as follows, current amounts are in brackets: 

• In a case of a member or pensioner funeral benefit payable is R15 000 (R7 500) 

• In a case of a spouse funeral benefit payable is R15 000 (R7 500) 

• In a case of eligible child funeral benefit payable is R6 000 (R3 000) per child 

• While in a case of a stillborn funeral benefit payable is R6 000 (R3 000) per stillborn, provided that a child was born after 26 weeks of pregnancy who shows no signs of life. If the child was deliberately terminated, a funeral benefit is not payable. 

The improvement to the discharge benefit is that if a member has less than 10 years of pensionable service and is discharged for the following reasons: 

• Medical reasons ( not of their own doing) 

• When jobs are abolished, reduced, re –organised or restructured due to operational requirements 

• To promote the efficiency of the department 

• When the President or the Premier appoints the member to another position 

• When injured on duty; or 

• Incapability not as a results of own doing 

The discharge benefit will be consistent with and not less than the resignation benefit effective from 1 October 2017. 

Principal Executive Officer, Abel Sithole said that “these amendments will make a significant difference in our members, pensioners and beneficiaries’ lives. These changes also attest to the fact that the Fund is well managed. Sithole points out that the employer, members and pensioners do not have to make any additional contributions for these benefit improvements. He concluded by saying that the wellbeing of all GEPF members and pensioners is the reason why the Fund exists”. 

Members or pensioners who claimed for these benefits before 1 October 2017 will receive payment according to the previous rules. If their claims are effective on or after 1 October 2017 they will receive their benefits payment according to the new rules. Members and pensioners must note that the claim processes and the documentation that is required to claim these benefits has not changed and remains the same. 

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NOTICE TO ELECT TWO TRUSTEES TO GEPF BOARD

NOTICE OF THE PROCESS TO ELECT TWO TRUSTEES TO THE GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES PENSION FUND BOARD OF TRUSTEES 

Notice is hereby given of the election process, in terms of the rules of the Government Employees Pension Fund, for: 

• a pensioner member trustee and substitute trustee; and 

• an active member trustee and substitute trustee representing the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) and State Security Agency (SSA) 

The term of office of both trustees will be four (4) years. The period will begin on the date of the first meeting of the new Board of Trustees. 

The elections are scheduled to take place between November 2017 and March 2018. The election process is independently managed by The Elexions Agency. 

CANDIDATE NOMINATION 

Nomination Instructions accompanied by a letter from the Principal Executive Officer has been sent to all pensioner members and active members employed by the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) and State Security Agency (SSA). Nomination packs are also available on the GEPF’s website: www.gepf.co.za, The Elexions Agency Offices on 0800 55 66 73 or by email at elections@gepf.co.za. 

Candidate nominations must be submitted using the prescribed nomination form and must reach The Elexions Agency on or before 12h00 on 15 December 2017. Nominations received after the deadline will not be considered. 

Nomination forms must be marked for the attention of: The Returning Officer, GEPF 2017 Board of Trustees Elections and may be returned through any of the following methods: 

• Fax: 086 428 1356 

• Email: elections@gepf.co.za 

• Post: P O Box 3318, HOUGHTON, 2041 or Business Reply Envelope which is prepaid. 

VOTING 

Voting for the qualifying candidates will be conducted between January and March 2018. Detailed information on the voting rules and procedure will be communicated to all nearer to the commencement date of the voting process. 

FURTHER ENQUIRIES 

The election process is independently managed by The Elexions Agency. All enquiries pertaining to the election must be directed to Ms Bontle Mpakanyane on 0800 55 66 73 or email: elections@gepf.co.za.
Click here to go to Pensioner Election forms and papers.
Click here to go to Forces Election forms and papers.

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STATEMENT: GEPF position on Steinhoff shareholding

Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF) has taken note of the current concerns regarding possible lapses in governance at Steinhoff International Holdings and assures its members, pensioners and beneficiaries that their pensions are safe. 

As at 31 March 2017 the GEPF through PIC owned about R28billion in Steinhoff International Holdings which is about 10% of the shares of the company but 1% of the total assets of the Fund. The impact of significant movement in the share price on the GEPF is significant but manageable. 

As a defined benefit fund, the movement in the value of individual investments does not affect the benefits to members and pensioners. Therefore benefits to members and pensioners are safe. 

The GEPF expects the highest standards of corporate governance from all investee companies. Allegations of accounting irregularities by Steinhoff International Holdings N.V., that have exposed the company to possible criminal investigations, are a serious concerns for the GEPF. 

The GEPF through the PIC is monitoring the situation while awaiting further information from investigations by domestic and international regulators and/or law enforcement agencies, to decide on an appropriate course of action.

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