By Leonard Ncube
The Southern African Miners’ Association (Sama) has clarified details around benefits to be accessed by former South Africa mine workers including Zimbabweans.
More than 30 000 Zimbabweans migrated to South Africa in the 1960s to work in the mines and to date pensions for most of ex-Wenela workers are yet to be paid out by different mining companies.
Many of the former workers stopped working without knowing they had accrued benefits that the mines were supposed to pay them.
It is also believed that a significant number of the ex-Wenela workers have been infected with and succumbed to lung infections as a result of working in the mines.
The ex-Wenela miners, which is an acronym for Witwatersrand Native Labour Association, were drawn from Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe and are now pushing to access their benefits.
Sama representative for Zimbabwe Mr Lungelwe Mkwananzi said there were three categories of settlements which ex-Wenela miners should register with.
Mr Mkwananzi said there has been confusion following the announcement of the $500 000 class settlement, which is only one of the categories.
“We have three categories namely unclaimed benefits which every former worker is entitled to, medical compensation where people have to undergo medical examination in Kadoma to check if they didn’t contract TB or silicosis-related conditions and the third one is the class settlement which is an out of court settlement agreed by mine owners and to be determined by a Trust,” he said.
Recently, six South African mining companies namely African Rainbow Minerals, Anglo American South Africa, AngloGold Ashanti, Gold Fields, Harmony, Sibanye-Stillwater and other affiliate mining entities announced that they reached a conditional settlement to pay compensation of between R10 000 and R500 000 each to eligible former Wenela workers.
Mr Mkwananzi said accessing benefits was not automatic in the medical benefits compensation and class settlement categories.
“It’s not like everyone will be getting that R500 000. This money on class settlement is not for the two other categories.
“Everyone has to undergo X-ray screening which is through a Government Statutory Instrument and co-ordinated by the Ministries of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare and Health and Child Care and is being done at Kadoma Occupational Service Centre after which determination will be made by the government compensation commissioner through to the Rand Mutual.
“It’s important for people to know that for now medical examinations are suspended but will resume soon as the process ends in March.
“We don’t expect anyone to be disqualified on the unclaimed benefits but the other two categories will be determined by results of the processes involved.
“We don’t want to raise people’s expectations with wrong information as much as we want everyone to benefit.
“Results of medical checks will go to the Medical Bureau and Compensation Commission which will determine the percentage for each before sending to the Rand Mutual,” he explained.
The Sama local representative said the class settlement came after mine owners agreed in principle to compensate ex-workers and a Trust is being set up to administer the process and funds.
Tshiamiso Trust will be made up of lawyers, mine owners and government representatives while Sama is pushing for inclusion after being left out in initial plans.
Mr Mkwananzi said a meeting of co-ordinators from all Sama countries would be held in South Africa before the end of the month ahead of a landmark engagement in May when Tshiamiso Trust will commence work for the next 13 years.
“We’re cognisant of our motto that nothing for us without us hence we are pushing for inclusion into the Trust.
“All ex-Wenela workers are expected to register with lawyers allocated to each Sama country.”
Mr Charles Abrahams of Abrahams Kiewtz Incorporated is responsible for Zimbabwe and other countries are handled by Richard Spoor Incorporated Attorneys and Legal Resources Centre.
“Those already registered with the association must not worry because we will take information from the database.
There will be an outreach to sign up people where we expect mobile clinics to be set-up for testing with regards the class settlement category and it’s our plea that people should be patient and only get updates from our offices,” said Mr Mkwananzi. The Chronicle