Johannesburg - A group of 66 000 pensioners have instituted a civil claim to recover about R79 billion they claim Transnet plundered from their pension funds, according to Sunday's Rapport.
The claim was instituted in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria on Friday.
The "conspicuously illegal manner" in which the funds were stripped only emerged recently when lawyers acting for the pensioners obtained and analysed the funds' financial statements, according to court papers.
The funds' most important assets, acknowledgements of debt worth R7.7bn which generated an annual income of R1.2bn, were apparently "swapped" in early 2001 for MTN shares, known as M-Cell at the time, worth about R1.4bn.
"There is no indication that the funds received any income from the M-Cell shares," one of the lawyers involved in the matter, Leon Kellerman SC, wrote in court papers.
According to an affidavit from one of the pensioners, Johan Pretorius, the fund was plundered to improve Transnet's balance sheet, with the knowledge of the former ministers of public works and finance, Jeff Radebe and Trevor Manuel.
About half the pensioners are white, and a third are black.
The claim consists of debt of about R17.1bn which the government and Transnet acknowledged was owed to the funds when Transnet was commercialised in 1990, with interest of 12% per year.
In addition a loss of R5.4bn is being claimed. It was incurred when the acknowledgements of debt were swapped for shares in 2001.