World Bank, one of the international partners who have been funding initiatives targeted at reducing negative impact of mining activities in Southern Africa, has urged governments, private sector and pension funds to ensure that South African ex-mineworkers find it easy to access their compensations from South African mining companies.
It has emerged that around 1.2 million ex-mineworkers, from Botswana, South Africa, Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Malawi are owed over R4 billion by 32 South African mining companies.
In their bid to improve access to compensations, the South African health department have tracked and traced ex-miners in South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland, Mozambique and Botswana and other Southern African countries to update their records and to link them to the Medical Bureau for Occupational Diseases (MDOD) for compensation, if they have been diagnosed with occupational diseases related to mining activities at SA mines.
In a statement released last week, the World Bank raised concerns that despite some efforts being done and long fight for release of the money owed as claims for occupational diseases, majority of the former-employees find it difficult to access their money. The bank indicated that despite the models for ensuring sustainable health services in mining communities, there is mounting evidence of a stark disconnect between the investment models and the realities of mine-affected communities many of whom are yet to see the promised benefits such as pensions and compensation for occupational diseases. “Services for ex-mineworkers should not only address TB, silicosis and other occupational health screening and treatment but should also ensure they access their compensation and other providence benefits,” said World Bank in the statement.
Recent figures from South African Department of Health shows that in Botswana there are 24 943 ex-miners who have been diagnosed with occupational diseases caused by inhaling dust in South African mines. With 922 888 of ex-miners suffering from lung infections caused by dust from mines, South Africa has the highest number of the former employees with mining related occupational diseases, followed by Lesotho (143 295), Mozambique (104 532), Malawi (28 854), Botswana (24 943), Swaziland (24 428) and other countries (593). According to figures from the department, it has been confirmed that 33, 045 of the ex-miners from various Southern Africa countries are suffering from silicosis, a lung cancer caused by dust they inhaled in gold mines while 108 883 have been diagnosed with tuberculosis linked to lung infections caused by the dust. The figures further show that 13 688 have asbestos related diseases, while 15 998 have been diagnosed with obstructive airways disease and pneumonoconisis.
Statistics from Rand Mutual, the South Africa insurance company managing compensations for diseases arising from mining activities shows that out of 1 249 533 ex-miners with occupational diseases, only 15, 147 are registered as beneficiaries of insurance funds and compensations. With 24 943 ex-miners identified in Botswana only 429 of them have been successful in accessing their benefits from South African mining companies. In South Africa 9 638 out of 922 888 ex-miners with mining related lung infections have been successful in accessing the benefits, while in Lesotho there are 3 386 ex-miners registered as beneficiaries of the compensations with 940 from Mozambique, 270 (Malawi), 448 (Swaziland), 19 (Zimbabwe), 17 (Nambia).
Ditshwanelo, Botswana Human Rights organization which has been assisting Botswana ex-miners to access their compensations indicated that in instances where the ex-miners and dependants have attempted to claim, such claims have not been paid out or took long periods to process. Ditshwanelo human rights advocacy officer, Kitso Phiri indicated that ex-miners are confronted with challenges in accessing social security and compensation due to low literacy levels, which in most instances disqualifies them from meeting administrative requirements. “Their lack of information and understanding about institutions and funds where claims are disbursed, information on eligibility, procedures and guidelines for making claims further exacerbates the problem,” said Phiri.