An 88-year old veteran of the Second World War, Norman Haupt, has finally won a ten year long battle against the Department of Social Development about his War Veteran’s pension.
Haupt was denied payment of his War Veteran’s pension for years on end and eventually took the Department of Social Development to court, and even after Haupt obtained judgment against it in the Polokwane Magistrate’s Court during June last year, he only received payment this month.
Haupt joined the Army to fight in the Second World War when he was 16 years old.
“I had no connections and no trade and no job, I had just left school and had three older brothers in the army,” he said. He joined the Signal Corps. “They actually wanted to put me in the Air Force, but I told them I preferred ‘terra firma’: The firmer the earth my feet stand on, the less terror I experience,” he joked.
When he became an active member of the Memorable Order of the Tin Hats (Moths) he was told that he was eligible for a War Veteran’s Pension from the age of 60. When he turned 60 in 1986, he applied for this pension, but had great difficulty in getting his application processed. “They lost my papers a number of times and kept sending me from pillar to post,” Haupt said. Eventually, he insisted on a receipt for another application he filed in 1996. In the meantime, he kept going with odd jobs and temporary employment.
In 2004 he approached the legal firm of Corrie Nel & Kie for assistance. He and attorney Corrie Nel then set about writing letters to the department, trying to avoid litigation. They eventually succeeded in getting his pension paid from 1996, but the department steadfastly refused to pay any amount before that, claiming that Haupt had to prove that he actually applied for the pension.
After approaching the Office of the Premier and the Office of the President in the process, they sued the department for the amount of just more than R72 000 still due. “The legal battle continued, with the department defending the case and refusing to pay,” Haupt said. The case was enrolled for hearing in Pretoria three times, but according to Nel they had the matter transferred to Polokwane and judgment was eventually obtained against the department for payment during June last year. The long process to extract payment from the department then started during which the Department continuously frustrated the Sheriff by preventing him from removing the goods which had been legally attached. The department then applied to have the judgment set aside but this was opposed by Nel. After the 2014 December holidays Nel threatened to have the sheriff bring the Police along to the department, as the department did not even want to allow the sheriff into the building.
“When the sheriff arrived with the Police to remove the goods attached, again the department did not relent, but said they wanted to appeal the judgment,” Haupt said.
After further pressure was put on the department, Haupt was eventually paid his claim with interest on 16 July 2015. He said he knew all along he and Nel would succeed, and decided he was “going to stick it out.” And he told Nel that, even if he did die before the money was paid, he should go on with the fight for justice.
Lumka Oliphant, spokesperson for the Department of Social Development commented: “The Department of Social Development never refused to pay Haupt at any stage, this was also evident from correspondence sent to him.
“When the matter was to be heard in June last year the State Attorney did not appear in court, neither did they inform the department that the matter was to be heard, which resulted in the court issuing a default judgment and the department lost. We instructed the state attorney to rescind the judgement but such application was not successful: the state attorney could not provide reasons why they did not appear in court.”
“The department opposed the application as Haupt made allegations that he had applied for a War Veteran Grant in 1986. The department could not trace the records and felt the person who alleges must prove and proof was not forthcoming. We wanted to avoid creating a precedence where people would come and say they have applied for a grant but without any proof. The issue was also on prescription. The application was brought to court some years after the three years period. Hence the matter was also defended,” Oliphant said.
“We applied for rescission and the application was dismissed. We paid the money into his attorney’s trust as a security and then felt that there will not be cost benefit to appeal as it will cost the Department more than what is claimed. Upon that basis we finally agreed to pay. However, we still feel strongly that the matter could have been defended. Otherwise people would simply come and allege that they have applied for a grant when in fact such is not the case.”
Story: NELIE ERASMUS