History of Trans-50

During 1960, the erstwhile trade unions of the South African Railways and Harbours focussed on the provision of accommodation and care for railway pensioners and their families.

In those days, many Railway workers were transferred, mostly on promotions, from one town or city to another. It was also customary at the time, to accommodate transferred workers in Railway houses, at a very low rental to compensate them for the inconvenience of relocation. The drawback of this practice was that at retirement, the Railway worker and his family were without a house. This led to the birth of the idea to provide retirement complexes for these employees.

At a meeting held by the Federal Advisory Board of the Trade Unions of the Railways, the possibility of providing affordable accommodation for retired Railway workers was discussed and it was decided to form an organisation to address the issue.

Next, a meeting of interested parties, chaired by Johnie Lourens (Acting Managing Director of Railways and Harbours), was held in the old ATKV building in Wolmarans Street, Braamfontein, Johannesburg.

Apart from the trade unions, the following organisations were represented: the ATKV, the Wife and Mother Movement (ie. the women’s union of the ATKV), SASVROU (Union of Wives of Railway Workers), St Johns, the War Services Union, as well as members of the management team of the Railways.

The South African Railway Union for the Care of Old Pensioners (SASOUD) was formed at that meeting in 1960. The first management team of SASOUD consisted of Johnie Lourens (Chairman), one representative of each organisation present at the meeting, one representative of each trade union of the Railways, one representative of the Railway administration, and several elected members. Johan Pretorius (Snr), who worked at the tender board, was appointed as the first honorary secretary. 

The erstwhile Minister of Transport, Mr Ben Schoeman, personally approved stop order facilities for workers who wished to contribute to the scheme. He decided that no administration charges would be levied for the stop orders – an exceptional decision. The minimum amount payable by the workers those years, was one shilling (ten cents) per month! In its heyday, no fewer than 26 000 Railways employees paid a monthly contribution to the Union. The debit order contributions were discontinued in 1998. Certain area managers supported the retirement complexes with maintenance work.

SASVROU and the Wife and Mother Movement were continually involved in collecting funds for the SASOUD project, through street collections and the sale of cakes and delicacies. The funds that they raised made a significant contribution to the development of the SASOUD project.

The first retirement complex (the present Witfield Park) was opened in Boksburg on 27 October 1971. This was followed by the establishment of Jakaranda Park in Pretoria in 1977, Fichardt Park in Bloemfontein in 1982, Panorama Palms in Cape Town in 1984 and Acacia Park in Kimberley in 1984. The Outspan in Durban, was bought in 1989.

The concept of life-right accommodation was initiated by the Chief Civil Engineer, Mr Paddy Wolf, who lived in Witfield. The existing legislation which provides for life-right purchases did not exist at that stage. When Wolf went on pension, he requested that SASOUD build a house at Ravensklip (now Witfield Park) under the terms of the life-rights concept, which meant that the house would become the property of SASOUD at his death. At that stage, accommodation at the complex was only rented. Wolf’s request was granted. Later, a second piece of land was bought at Ravensklip and houses built on that land were sold in terms of life-rights.

Each complex functioned independently with its own management committee. SASOUD’s head office was in Johannesburg and the management consisted of a chief secretary, a welfare worker and a secretary. During Johan Pretorius’s (snr) tenure as chief secretary, all 6 of the existing villages were established. The chief secretary was responsible for procuring buildings, planning buildings, purchasing furniture and equipment, appointing staff and dealing with the various government departments. In 1994, the post of chief secretary was amended to chief executive officer.

SASOUD’s name was changed in 1994 to Trans-50. The name Trans-50 came about with the thought of ‘beyond 50” - or, older than fifty – a concept that had arisen in the Elderly Care Legislation.

At an extraordinary meeting of the Management Committee of SASOUD, held on 
12 October 1995 at Ravensklip Retirement Village in Boksburg, the following agenda was submitted for discussion at the Annual General Meeting as planned for 23 November 1995:

  • that the SASSAR / SASOUD name be changed to Trans-50 Vereniging;
  • that the constitution of SASOUD be amended in such a way that existing structures could be simplified and easily changed;
  • that 10 committee members be appointed for a 5-year term;
  • that certain portfolios be defined and filled by members of the committee.

A notice to announce the Annual General Meeting of 23 November 1995, was placed in the Rapport newspaper. This notice also served as an invitation to all members of the South African Railway Society for the Care of the Aged.

The signatories of the Memorandum of Association were V de Beer, FM Calitz, E Momsen, E van der Merwe, JH Pretorius, WH Steyn, JS de Vos, L Van Rooyen, H Muller, J Basson and J Naude. At the time, JS de Vos and WH Steyn were attorneys at Blakes Maphanga and later, became members.

In 1997, Trans-50 established its head office at Witfield Park in Boksburg.

The original residents of Trans-50 were retired Railway workers. In 1998, Trans-50 decided not to apply for further state subsidies and, soon after, the doors of the retirement villages were opened to all elderly people.

In 1999, at a members’ meeting of Trans-50 Union, it was decided to change the Union to a non-profit, Article 21 company. This was the birth of the existing Trans-50 company. On 1 February 1999, the Registrar of Companies incorporated Trans-50 Vereniging as a company without share capital, with registration number 99/02024/08.

Today, each Trans-50 village has a manager and a management committee who, together, are responsible for the management of their complex and for reporting to the Trans-50 head office.