Answer to a question from a reader

I'm a reserve force member in the South African National Defence Force. Do I qualify for provident funds?

The short answer

There is no pension or provident fund that applies to reserve force members.

The whole question

I'm working as a reserve force member in the South African National Defence Force. Sometimes I work for 180 days per year, and sometimes for 90 days. Do I qualify for provident funds? They tax us on our salaries.

The long answer

Thank you for your email asking if a reserve force member of the SANDF like yourself who works for either 90 days or 180 days in the year qualifies for provident funds.

Unfortunately it seems that there is no pension or provident fund that applies to reserve force members. The fact that tax is deducted from your salary doesn’t have anything to do with provident funds – tax is deducted whether or not there is a provident fund.

In 2018, an SANDF report entitled “Updated Reserve Force (part time component) Service System” noted a proposal that reserve force members “be required to contribute to a provident/savings fund whilst in service so as to ensure that they have money for the times they are not called up.” But in 2019, this proposal had not been implemented, and that is still the case up to the present in 2020.

It’s not clear why there has been no action on this proposal. In addition, over 1600 unhappy reserve force members signed a petition to the then Minister of Defence Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula in 2018 asking for changes to the way reserve force members are recruited and deployed, and also asking for a pension or provident fund.
Minister Mapisa-Nqakula held a reserve force indaba in 2019 where she acknowledged that too many new reserve force members are recruited every year and then are left to sit at home unemployed because there are not enough call ups to absorb them all, but she did not address the question of pension/provident funds. She noted that both corruption within SANDF and shrinking budgets were a problem.

Perhaps new Minister Lindiwe Sisulu will be more responsive to a demand that the 2018 proposal on provident funds for reserve force members be implemented.

Answered on Feb. 5, 2020, 4:10 p.m.

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