Former mineworkers owed billions of rands
“We now have a picture of the nature of the problem,” the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME) director-general Tshediso Matona said at amedia briefing in Pretoria on Friday.
Updating the public on work that is being undertaken to mitigate social protection matters, Mineral ResourcesDeputy Minister Godfrey Oliphant said mineworkers, former mineworkers and their families faced an uphill battle in accessing their social protection benefits and, in many cases, were not even aware of the financial benefits due to them.
“The majority of [former] mineworkers are in rural villages and have little knowledge about their benefits. Where they have knowledge, it is virtually impossible to access their benefits owing to multiple barriers,” he said.
A pilot project, undertaken in the Eastern Cape during July as part of the Special Presidential Package for the Revitalisation of Distressed Mining Communities initiative, highlighted the need for improved integration between the various programmes, such as support programmes for duefinancial benefits and occupational health and diseases compensation.
The DPME and the Financial Services Board gathered the records, including old pay slips, Chamber of Mines (CoM) industry numbers, old 'dompas' identity numbers, provident and pension fund letters and old Teba mining company cards, of all the former mineworkers in the Eastern Cape to track and trace any potential benefits due, some of which dated back to the 1970s.
“We need to do more to improve the access of workers and [former] workers to their funds that they contributed to over their working lives,” said Matona.
Since 2013, about 14 000 former mineworkers had received compensation benefits amounting to R40-million and 8 000 had received Unemployment Insurance Fund benefits amounting to R14-million.
A May 2015 partnership, Operation Ku-Riha, between the departments of Health and Mineral Resources, trade unions and the CoM, aims to pay out some R1.5-billion in unclaimed compensation benefits to about 103 000 former mineworkers.
“While progress has been slow owing to setting up the tracking and tracing system, since February 2016, we have paid 1 443 claimants approximately R56-million and R3-million has gone to neighbouring countries,” Oliphant noted.
However, a lack of a database made tracking and tracing former mineworkers difficult, and as a result, an integrated and uniform workers’ compensation system is currently being developed with the support of the Department ofHealth (DoH) and the Department of Labour.
The DoH has subsequently developed a database of former mineworkers that covers both the demographic details and medical records of the former mineworkers.
“This database covers 700 000 claimant records and will assist all agencies across government to track and trace persons with unclaimed benefits. To enrich the database, we have started discussions with the CoM to cover the current workforce of 500 000 mineworkers,” he explained.
Meanwhile, mobile outreach activities are under way to deploy mobile one-stop facilities comprising claims management, a health clinic for medical assessments and amobile bank, funded by the World Bank, CoM and the GoldWorking Group, besides others.
“This new approach to piloting services closer to the [former] mineworkers has improved service delivery,” Oliphant said, adding that efforts were under way to add rehabilitation services for injured mineworkers to enable the provision of a fully integrated service covering occupational disease and injuries.
The one-stop service centres have been used by about 6 000 former mineworkers, with 4 000 referrals to the head office in Johannesburg since being opened in April 2014.
Further mobile outreach activities are planned for Bizana, Lusisiki, four other districts in the Eastern Cape, Welkom, in the Free State, and in Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique andSwaziland over the next four months