Mines minister still hopes to have benefits laws streamlined this fiscal year

LEGISLATION providing for the merger of statutes that provide benefits for occupational diseases may be in force by March 2017.
Various government departments are working with mining houses to create a master database of former mineworkers who are owed billions of rand in unclaimed benefits, Mineral Resources Deputy Minister Godfrey Oliphant said on Friday.
She said it was still hoped that legislation to address a problematic compensation system for mineworkers would be in force by the end of the 2016-17 financial year.
Benefits for occupational lung diseases are among the provisions of this legislation.
The Department of Health has already developed a database covering the health records of to an estimated 700,000 mineworkers.
“To enrich the database we have started discussions with the Chamber of Mineworker to (include) 500,000 current mineworkers,” Oliphant said at a briefing in Pretoria on Friday.
“Currently there are R30bn in unclaimed benefits. A substantial portion is for mineworkers partly due to the legacy of the migrant system,” Oliphant said.
Former mineworkers or their families are still owed between R7bn and R10bn in unclaimed benefits across Southern African countries, with previous efforts to integrate compensation systems hampered by a lack of a reliable database, Oliphant said.
Since the end of apartheid, various attempts have been made to integrate compensation systems in SA, and work continues on a single system covering all benefits including provident and pension funds.
This forms part of a broader goal of a comprehensive system of social protection for employment, including the informal sector, by 2030.
A legislative framework is being developed to merge the Occupational Diseases in Mines and Works Act (ODMWA) and the Compensation for Occupational Diseases and Injuries Act (COIDA) to meet mineworkers’ longstanding grievances about inferior benefits, and access to benefits.
ODMWA falls under the Department of Health, while COIDA is better known as the Compensation Fund and falls under the Department of Labour. ODMWA benefits for mineworkers have been seen as inferior, dating back to 1912, and levies under that act only cover income replacement and not administrative costs.
At the same time, the migrant nature of the mining sector has hampered attempts to reach mineworkers both in SA and in neighbouring countries, with Financial Services Board CEO Dube Tshidi saying that before 1996 employers held all the data for provident and pension funds, and much of the information was unreliable.
Even the families of mineworkers did not always know where their family member had worked, said Tshidi.
The departments of health, labour and mineral resources are undertaking roadshows and have formed a steering committee with several agencies to fast-track payments of benefits.