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Documentation challenges for ex-Wenela miners

By Dumisani Nsingo

EX-WENELA Miners Association of Zimbabwe is facing challenges in ensuring that its members and dependants of the deceased have the requisite documentation to enable them to receive compensation for rendering their services at South African mines over four decades ago.

Wenela miners Miners aboard a DC-4 in Francistown in 1952
Wenela miners Miners aboard a DC-4 in Francistown in 1952

Ex-Wenela Miners Association of Zimbabwe president Mr Lungelwe Mkwananzi said with the South African High Court expected to legally approve a conditional settlement reached between the neighbouring country’s mines and its former expatriate workers’ representative bodies before the end of this month, a number of beneficiaries are likely to lose out on being compensated, owing to inadequate information.

Wenela is an acronym for Witwatersrand Native Labour Association, comprising former South Africa mine workers drawn from Zimbabwe, Malawi, Botswana and Mozambique.

“When we started sending names to the Medical Bureau of Occupational Diseases (MBOD) in South Africa last year we faced a challenge in that most of them didn’t have the relevant information, which entail a works number, worker’s travel document number and lastly old registration certificate number.

However, the most contentious has been the works number, which one was only given at the mines,” he said.

The Compensation Commissioner for Occupational Diseases in Mines and Works (CCOD) and MBOD were established in terms of the Occupational Diseases in Mines and Works Act number 78 of 1973.

In terms of the Act, the Commission is mandated to compensate workers and ex-workers in controlled mines and works for diseases of the lungs or heart and reimbursement for loss of earnings incurred during tuberculosis treatment.

Mr Mkhwananzi said The Employment Bureau of Africa Limited (TEBA), which is responsible for recruiting employees for the chamber of mines of South Africa has most of the records pertaining to the former expatriate miners.

“TEBA was the organisation which employed and was also in charge of deploying us to the various mines and it is this same organisation, which is reluctant to release the records of former miners and are insisting on payment of R140 to release such information for an individual,” said Mr Mkhwananzi.

About 8 000 former miners are registered with the association although the registration process is ongoing.

“Initially we were registering as long as one remembered the mine he used to work for and as such those with the requisite information make up about 25 percent of the total number of people that have been registered to date,” said Mr Mkhwananzi.

He said the number of people seeking their benefits was expected to increase upon the completion of the court process.

“We expect a surge in the number of people registering with the association after the outcome of the court process which will lead to the main exercise, which will see Tshiamiso Trust starting its operations and issuing of pay-outs to the beneficiaries.

For more information people can contact me on 0772986765,” said Mr Mkhwananzi. 

He said dependants of those who have since passed away are expected to receive a slightly lower compensation.

Six companies — African Rainbow Minerals, Anglo American South Africa, 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. Sunday News