By Leonard Ncube
About 5 000 former Wenela workers have registered with the Southern African Miners’ Association (Sama) seeking facilitation of their pension payments.
The Zimbabwean unit of the association has started sending registered candidates for X-rays screening at the Kadoma Occupational Health Services Centre.
Wenela is an acronym Witwatersrand Native Labour Association, comprising former South African mine workers drawn from Zimbabwe, Malawi, Botswana and Mozambique.
The former workers are being engaged for processing of their pensions and were told to undergo X-ray testing so that they get compensated if they contracted lung diseases such as silicosis during their period of employment.
Silicosis is a lung disease caused by breathing in tiny bits of silica, a mineral that is part of sand, rock and certain minerals and mostly affects workers in mining, glass manufacturing and foundry work. Sama Zimbabwe representative, Mr Lungelwe Mkwananzi, said out of the targeted 23 000 ex workers, only 5 000 have registered.
He said the first batch of 44 former workers from Bulawayo have since been tested. A doctor was designated to attend to them and Bulawayo is the first province to send people.
“We have sent three groups so far from Bulawayo for the Benefit Medical Examination. The idea is to send a group every week and all expenses including transport are paid for through the TB in Mines Programmes (TIMPs) funded by the World Bank and going there will be rotational by province,” he said.
Sama Zimbabwe has offices in Bulawayo, Gwanda, Kwekwe, Lupane, Victoria Falls, Chiredzi, Harare, Masvingo and Rusape, representing their respective provinces.
The ex-workers are expected to register at their nearest offices giving all details including the mine they used to work for and nature of job.
They are being screened for any lung condition including TB, breathing problems, ear drums problems and anything linked to working underground.
“It’s now happening and we believe we are making a breakthrough. The problem is that there is only one doctor. Currently we are doing checks to see how many have registered from provinces. Numbers have not really been coming from provinces but we are targeting 23 000 because we know they are there,” he said.
Mr Mkwananzi, however, said as an association they were worried about some people who seek to hijack the process in an effort to have a share of the benefits.
Wenela closed in the early 1980s and thousands of locals who once worked there are poised to receive a windfall once pension talks are concluded.
Sama will also trace the names of all ex-miners who died in the mines and facilitate their compensation and repatriation of benefits through formal channels. European Union countries have also shown interest in facilitating payment of claims as they acknowledge that Africa is poor as a result of exploitation. The Chronicle