A senior official who was fired from the department of agriculture, forestry and fisheries over allegations of fraud wants to force the department to pay his pension so he can keep his luxurious home in a housing estate.
Masingita Honest Chauke (39) was the department’s acting deputy director of land use and soil management when he was fired at the end of January 2015.
In Chauke’s charge sheet, the department alleged the following: “The allegations arise from your role in colluding with external companies to defraud the department through the manipulation of the bid and quotation processes which led to a loss of R1 909 536.”
Chauke is challenging his dismissal, on charges of fraud, in the labour court.
In his legal papers, he asked the Pretoria High Court to urgently order the department to pay R466 091 in pension benefits to him – arguing that he needed the money to pay instalments on his home loan and to provide for his family.
According to his court papers, Chauke lives in a housing estate in Pretoria East.
He alleged that the department unlawfully, and without his knowledge, withdrew the money from the Government Employees’ Pension Fund (GEPF). But Chauke’s application was struck from the roll on December 31, with the court ruling that it was not urgent.
Chauke said in his papers that he had held various posts at the department since 2004. After he was dismissed, he had a job at Sankho Holdings and could provide for his family, so he did not have to withdraw his pension. But this income source dried up on November 30.
When he arrived at the GEPF’s office on December 11, he was told that the department withdrew his entire pension, amounting to R562 915. The department paid R96 824 to the SA Revenue Service and, according to Chauke, misappropriated the rest – a sum of R466 091.
Chauke argued that the pension was his savings for when he retired as a member of the pension fund, resigned or was fired. He said he had been left with no income and was his family’s only breadwinner.
He said the bank could repossess his house within three months if he did not diligently service the bond.
The amount of pension funds the department withdrew
Chauke has received a letter from the homeowners’ association for outstanding levies of R28 883.
Chauke said he was suspended in 2012 as a result of allegations of fraud and financial mismanagement.
During his disciplinary hearing, he was found guilty on all the charges, and then fired. He later had the case reviewed by the bargaining council, but it confirmed three of the five charges against him.
It is this ruling that he is challenging in the labour court, stating in legal papers that, “despite the allegation of fraud, misconduct, negligence and/or financial irregularities, there is currently no amount owing to the department”.
Chauke adds that the department has not proven such a claim against him in court.
According to the charge sheet, which was also submitted to court on an urgent basis, the department paid various amounts of money to the companies MBMM Trading, Shalat Holdings, Blue Been Trading Enterprises, Time To Tower Construction and Dominion Trading because Chauke manipulated the bidding process in the department’s directorate of land use and soil management.
In its court papers, the department said it was “bizarre” that Chauke would approach the court on an urgent basis when the department’s personnel were away for the festive season. The GEPF office only reopened on January 2.
The department said it was impossible for Chauke’s pension to have been illegally withdrawn as the GEPF played an active role before money could be deducted from an employee’s pension and paid over to the department.
According to section 21 of the GEPF Act, the fund has discretion to deduct departmental debt from a member’s pension fund. The GEPF is not obligated to do so at the behest of the employer (the department), but must exercise its own discretion.
Hence, it would have been impossible for the department to withdraw the pension unlawfully or to spend it without the involvement of the fund.
The department said it had sent emails and phoned Chauke since 2015, asking him to submit the necessary documents so his pension payout could be finalised.
In 2018, he was informed that his pension could become regarded as “undeclared” if he did not submit the documentation.