Professor wins fight for pension money from Vaal Tech after ten years

Professor Aubrey Tshidiso Mokadi. (Len Kumalo/Sowetan)

Professor Aubrey Tshidiso Mokadi. (Len Kumalo/Sowetan)

A former academic has had the last laugh in a drawn-out battle triggered by his clashes with the Vaal University of Technology where he was rector until 10 years ago.

Professor Aubrey Mokadi scored a victory after the Supreme Court of Appeal ordered the National Tertiary Retirement Fund to release about R1-million in pension benefits due to him.

The university had had a portion of his pension attached to cover costs for a lawsuit against him even though it later abandoned this.

Mokadi lost his job following a commission of inquiry in 2006 during which he was portrayed as a paranoid and delusional character who had bizarrely “likened himself to Christ”.

The inquiry found him guilty of 22 charges and VUT then reported him to the police. However, Mokadi was cleared of all criminal charges in 2009.

The university had in the interim launched a R6-million lawsuit against him to recover money he allegedly embezzled during his tenure as rector – and, pending the outcome of the civil case, it had asked the pension fund to withhold his money.

But, even though VUT later abandoned the civil claim, Mokadi continued to struggle to lay his hands on the balance of his pension. In 2010 he lodged a formal complaint against the pension fund with the Pension Funds Adjudicator over the continuous retention of his money.

The adjudicator ruled that it was unlawful for the fund to continue withholding his money.
It was also ordered that the pension fund compute Mokadi’s remaining benefits with a 15.5% interest rate starting from June 2010, when he first challenged the retention.

But the National Tertiary Fund then launched an unsuccessful High Court appeal against the decision and later took the matter to the SCA, where two weeks ago the ruling went in Mokadi’s favour.

Speaking to the Mail   & Guardian after the SCA ruling, Mokadi said he believed the university was using the judicial system to delay paying him his money. “This is a petty matter. The university deliberately ployed to frustrate me by withholding my pension fund as long as they have,” Mokadi said.

According to court records, VUT had previously withdrawn close to R500 000 from the professor’s pension to cover cost orders stemming from the various legal tussles with Mokadi.

Dr Segopane Seroka, acting deputy vice-chancellor in governance and organizational transformation at VUT said the university was unable to comment on the latest development as it was not party to the SCA proceedings.

Meanwhile a frustrated Mokadi said he has enquired as to when he can expect to get his money. “The pension fund is my money and I want it – it is long overdue to me.” For now, there appears to be yet another delay as lawyers acting for the pension fund said it “would be tended to as soon as possible”.

Pontsho Pilane

Pontsho Pilane

Pontsho Pilane was a health journalist at Bhekisisa, the Mail & Guardian's health journalism centre between 2016 and 2018. She debuted as a journalist at The Daily Vox, where she wrote primarily about gender, race and how they intersect. She was previously a general news reporter at the M&G. Pilane holds two degrees in media studies from Wits University. Read more from Pontsho Pilane

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