By Ntombi Mhlongo
Hundreds of local ex-miners who plied their trade in neighbouring South Africa are said to have heeded the call by the neighbouring country’s Health Department to come forward and claim compensation. This was confirmed by the Regional Coordinator of the Southern African Miners Association (SAMA) Vama Jele.
Jele said even though he did not have the exact number of ex-miners who have heeded the call, he was aware that there were many of them.
“I will be going to South Africa myself to make sure that the many emaSwati receive all the necessary assistance they need. As you may be aware, some of them are deceased and their family members have to do all the paperwork so we are going to assist them,” he said.
Last week, the South African Department of Health announced that it had started, as of January 23, 2023, with the programme of screening, verification, medical examination and payment of benefits to eligible former mine workers who contracted Tuberculosis (TB) or Silicosis diseases while working for certain mines in the country during a period between March 1965 and December 2019.
SA Health Department Spokesperson Foster Mohale released a statement detailing how the countrywide programme will kick off in the northern parts of KwaZulu-Natal before moving to other provinces, and said the department is calling upon all former miner workers or their dependants to visit their nearest lodgement site in their areas.
“The claimants are urged to bring along relevant documents such as; a valid South African ID or SADC passport, industry card, service records from the mine they worked at, any available medical records, deceased mineworker’s death certificate and an autopsy report, if available,” said Mohale.
It was explained that the compensation amount will depend on many factors including the severity of the permanent respiratory impairment suffered by the mineworkers and their employment history at qualifying and non-qualifying mines.
In a case where the mine worker has passed on, the dependants are expected to submit the relevant documents including a death certificate.
“A claim for a mineworker who died before 10 December 2019 will only be eligible if the main cause of death is attributed to silicosis or TB, or there is an approved Occupational Diseases in Mines & Works Act (ODMWA) certificate or other exceptions,” the department said.
It should be noted that its been more than 12 years that gold miners in Southern Africa suffering from TB and silicosis contracted during their work have been waiting for compensation.
In July 2019 a landmark out-of-court settlement of South Africa’s largest class action led to the formation of the Tshiamiso Trust which is tasked to pay E5 billion in compensation to an estimated 500 000 ex-miners in South Africa, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Botswana.
Unfortunately, while affected ex-miners are dying at an alarming rate the Tshiamiso Trust delayed paying out any compensation.