SOUTH AFRICA - The Lesbian and Gay Equality Project is suing finance minister Trevor Manuel in order to secure full pension benefits for the surviving same sex partners of state employees.
The dispute, which was lodged with the Pretoria High Court, was born out of a legislation that prevents same sex partners of state employees from receiving a widows' pension. The Equality Project said this may effect up to 100 000 lesbian and gay state and associated employees.
The Project seeks to declare as unconstitutional certain sections of the Government Employees Pension Law and other legislation, which prevent same sex partners of state employees from securing equal benefits.
In July 2001, the Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF) informed the Equality Project that they were in an advanced stage of finalising a new regimen, under which discrimination against same sex couples would be removed.
The GEPF told the Equality Project it would reconsider the pension applications of the surviving same sex partners of state employees that had previously been submitted. The fund also said it would inform the Equality Project about the status of the drafting of the new regulations.
The Equality Project found that at no time, however, did the GEPF provide any information on their process of amending the regulations, nor did they consult with the Equality Project in that regard.
We tried to resolve this matter in co-operation with them. We tried to do so for some two years. All we received in response were lies, delays, deceit and silence,” said Evert Knoesen, co-ordinator of the Equality Project
The Equality Project is also very disappointed by Minister Manuel and his teams' response to this injustice. As sole interim trustee of the GEPF, he has it within his power to resolve this injustice to lesbian and gay people almost instantly. However, the Hon. Minister has chosen not to do so.”
By Janet Du Chenne
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