By Dumisani Nsingo
Zimbabweans who used to work in South African mines over four decades ago and dependants of those who have since passed away are expected to receive compensation next month, with the High Court in South Africa set to approve payments soon.
Six companies — African Rainbow Minerals, Anglo American SA, AngloGold Ashanti, Gold Fields, Harmony, Sibanye-Stillwater as well as some affiliate mining entities have reached a conditional settlement to compensate all eligible former Wenela mine workers.
Most of the former workers are believed to have been infected with lung infections as a result of working in the mines. Several even succumbed to the infections.
However, the migrant workers were not given the benefits they had accrued at the mines during their years of service.
Ex-Wenela Miners Association of Zimbabwe president Mr Lungelwe Mkwananzi said the South African High Court is expected to legally approve a conditional settlement reached between the neighbouring country’s mines and its former expatriate workers’ representative body on July 27.
Johannesburg High Court Judge Phineas Mojapelo reserved judgment for the proposed settlement approval for another sitting next month.
“Deputy Judge President Mojapelo reserved judgment and the way he put it, judgment will be made not later than the 27th of July. This is the current position in terms of benefits coming out of the settlement.
“We had thought we are now getting to the finalisation of the matter on the 29th to 31st of May. But in as much as we are disappointed, we still believe on the 27th of July it’s coming through. The unfortunate thing is that we are losing quite a number of our members, that’s one other challenge,” said Mr Mkwananzi.
The pay-outs will be processed via the Tshiamiso Trust, which will be established and will exist for a minimum of 13 years.
Wenela is an acronym for Witwatersrand Native Labour Association, comprising former South African mine workers drawn from Zimbabwe, Malawi, Botswana and Mozambique.
Mr Mkwananzi said if the courts fail to make a conclusive judgment, there will be need for governments of the former miners to interfere and ensure the payment of benefits is expedited.
“We feel a little bit let down, I think we aren’t getting enough assistance through political will. Looking at the period it has taken, governments should also come in to support us in pursuance of our benefits, especially looking at people from Zimbabwe and Malawi because we now have less of our citizens working in South African mines.
“However, countries like Botswana, Mozambique, Swaziland and Lesotho still have a number of their nationals working there,” he said.
Mr Mkwananzi said about 8 000 former miners are registered with the Ex-Wenela Miners Association of Zimbabwe, although the registration process is still ongoing.
“We are still waiting for more names coming from areas such as Rusape and Lupane but according to my estimates, the Association will have a membership of around 10 000 people or slightly more,” he said.
Mr Mkwananzi, who said mine workers are mostly vulnerable to TB, said the Association’s members have started receiving medical treatment through the Southern Africa TB in the Mining Sector Initiative.
“We have people who are going for medical examination at the Kadoma Occupational Service Centre. These medical centres were created through the Southern Africa Tuberculosis (TB) in the Mining Sector Initiative.
“It’s happening in all the Sadc countries that once supplied labour to South Africa. The very recent one was built in Zambia about two months ago. It caters for everything, including transportation of the people, accommodation and food,” he said.
The Southern African TB in the Mining Sector Initiative is one of the key initiatives led by the South African Knowledge Hub. It is an innovative multi-stakeholder effort involving government, civil society, development lobby groups, and private sector partners aimed at combating TB in the Southern African region’s mining sector. The high incidence of TB in the mining sector has been an invisible crisis that has eroded economic development in the Southern African region.
Collaboration between the World Bank and Southern African governments culminated in the signing of the Southern African Development Community Declaration on Tuberculosis in the Mining Sector by 15 heads of state and governments, a landmark solution to a crisis that had plagued the region for over a century. The Sunday Mail