Silicosis: ‘Can they just pay me before I die?’

In May 2018, 5 mining teams agreed to pay R5 billion to settle a class-action swimsuit involving 1000’s of mineworkers who contracted tuberculosis (TB) and silicosis at work. The excessive courtroom in Johannesburg authorized this settlement in 2019. But two years later, the belief set as much as administer the compensation course of nonetheless hasn’t paid them. 

According to the Justice For Miners marketing campaign, fewer than 10 claimants have been paid by the Tshiamiso Trust to this point. There stays a backlog of greater than 100 000 unprocessed claims from sick miners. The belief can solely settle these claims as soon as the Medical Bureau of Occupational Diseases (MBOD) has processed them within the statutory compensation system.

“The wait since May 2018, and since the establishment of the trust in February 2020, has been a source of frustration for our prospective claimants, many of whom are old and ill,” May Hermanus, chairperson of the Tshiamiso Trust’s board of trustees, stated in an announcement. “Where they have passed away, the wait has been the ordeal of their dependants. The trustees and the management of Tshiamiso are painfully aware of this.” 

Such an admission, with none motion, means nothing to somebody like Nogcinikhaya Kwili, a 53-year-old widow from Cala within the Eastern Cape. “My husband contracted TB in 1997 while working for Harmony Gold mine. Since then, he never became better. Instead, he was becoming worse each day. In 2005 the mine retrenched him because he was no longer fit to work underground,” Kwili stated. 

“He took his TB medication but never got better. We did not know anything about silicosis till we went to Groote Schuur Hospital in 2012; that is where we were told he has silicosis. We were told to seek legal advice so that my husband can get his compensation.”

That compensation is thru the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act of 1993, which offers for compensation for occupational accidents or illnesses sustained or contracted by staff in the midst of their employment, or for loss of life ensuing from such accidents or illnesses.

“The MBOD has not reported to Parliament for many years and is accused of corruption. Applying for compensation governed by the ODMWA Act [Occupational Diseases in Mines and Works Act] is also very bureaucratic and onerous on the claimant, who often has already returned to rural areas or back to the migrant labourer’s country,” stated Catherine Meyburgh, who works with the Justice For Miners marketing campaign.

“Dependants whose loved ones have passed away are not aware that if their family member worked [in] South African mines, it is required that the body parts are sent to the NIOH [National Institute for Occupational Health] for the autopsy to diagnose occupation diseases, which would ensure the dependants are compensated [with costs covered by the South African government].”

Meyburgh says one of many issues is that the potential claimants are sometimes unaware of their proper to compensation for occupational illnesses. The Justice For Miners marketing campaign is asking for the federal government to participate in facilitating the paying of each statutory compensation and the Tshiamiso Trust claims.

The ‘thank you’ we get 

Kwili’s husband, Khayalethu Kwili, handed away in 2014 whereas nonetheless making an attempt to get compensation from Harmony Gold. “Two years after the passing of my husband, I did follow up on his compensation. I tried to get help from the Tshiamiso Trust but I was told that my husband’s compensation is with another trust called Qhubeka.”

Kwili then contacted Qhubeka. “I was told that they have tried locating me without success, therefore the money has lapsed. My husband dug gold for 25 years making the economy of this country better, and this is the ‘thank you’ we get. He is no more, he died because of the mine sickness. The kids and I are left with no one taking care of us.”

The Qhubeka Trust had not commented by the point of publishing.

Mzawubalekwa Diya, 62, from Bizana within the Eastern Cape, is without doubt one of the ex-miners nonetheless ready for compensation. He labored at Sibanye-Stillwater for 27 years. “In the late ‘80s I started coughing blood. I was taken to the mine hospital [and] the doctor said I have nothing, I can continue working,” he stated.

Diya says he was retrenched in 2005 as a result of the federal government stated all those that had labored on the mines for over 20 years have to be retrenched. 

“Richard Spoor [Attorneys] took me to the doctor in 2012. I was told that my lungs are damaged by the silica dust at the mine in a way that only one lung is functioning. It has been a long time. We have been going up and down with interviews and doctor’s appointments but the money is not coming,” stated Diya.

“I can’t afford to do anything. The trust is very slow and they must understand that the money in their bank account is not theirs, this is the money we worked hard for as South African miners. Can they just pay me before I die?”

Bangumzi Balakisi, 67, had labored for various gold mines since 1974 and was retrenched in 1999 by Randfontein mine due to silicosis and TB. Balakisi stated his life rapidly modified when he left work and will solely declare from the Unemployment Insurance Fund.

“I was no longer able to feed my children. I was sick, home with nothing,” he stated. “I had to sell my livestock to take my children to school, but we remained hungry because the only money I made from selling livestock was specifically for my children’s college fees.”

Balakisi has registered with the Tshiamiso Trust, however he doesn’t know when he’ll get his compensation.

“This whole thing is draining me all these years. I run from one place to another seeing doctors, signing papers all the time, but the money is not coming through,” he stated.

Miners don’t need Teba

The Tshiamiso Trust has negotiated a partnership settlement with Teba Limited, a personal company that recruits miners from neighbouring nations, to doc candidates’ particulars and facilitate their funds. Mineworkers are, nevertheless, not in favour of this resolution. They say Teba deserted them a very long time in the past and by no means served them effectively previously, and accuse the company of many instances of fraud.

“Tshiamiso Trust must end their working relationship with Teba,” stated Diya. “This organisation is with the mines that we are fighting against. So, how does the Tshiamiso Trust work with them regarding our claims?”

The Justice For Miners marketing campaign can also be towards the belief’s partnership with Teba, saying it should as an alternative use paralegals and the community-based organisations that have been instrumental in signing up miners to the class-action litigation. 

But Monako Dibetle, communications supervisor of the belief, defended the partnership. “Engaging with Teba, which has a single management structure, is for Tshiamiso far more efficient than would be the case dealing with multiple organisations which may lack the infrastructure Teba has,” he stated. “Lodgement centres in the future will not be only limited to Teba.”

Another organisation the Justice For Miners marketing campaign objects to is the Aurum Institute, however the belief received’t again down from this partnership both. Dibetle stated Aurum has “expertise all through mining areas and areas the place ex-miners are to be discovered. Furthermore, it has the present technological infrastructure wanted to hold out BME [benefit medical examination] companies and talk affected person findings.

“So they, like Teba, were a very strong candidate to carry out the work needed to quickly and efficiently allow Tshiamiso’s claims system to be launched. BME facilities in the future will not only be limited to Aurum.” 

This article was first revealed on New Frame

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