Ex-mineworkers marched to demand transparency from government on the monies owed to them.
A group of ex-mineworkers and their families supported by civil society organisations under the banner of the Unpaid Benefits Campaign (UBC) protested outside Parliament on Friday to demand their pension and provident fund money owed to them. On this day, the marchers also commemorated Marikana Day.
UBC is an informal network of organisations working towards accessing the R41.7-billion (2016) in unpaid pension and provident fund benefits owed to more than four million people. According to the press statement from the UBC, the funds are held by financial service providers and employer entities.
“These funds are held by both financial service providers and employer/occupational entities, overseen by the statutory public regulator – the Financial Services Board (FSB) [now the FSCA]. This amount is likely to sharply increase when aggregating the total amount in all pension and provident funds, including the Government Employees Pension Fund and the Transnet Funds,” reads the statement.
Whilst addressing the protesters outside Parliament, the Western Cape chairperson of the ex-mineworkers, William Chasiwe, said that they have been trying to trace their funds since 1996 without once receiving a positive response from government. “We are poor and most of us are dying without getting our monies back. They keep telling us about the occupational disease money and not our provident fund or pension money,” said Casiwe. He was referring to the settlement reached between seven gold mining companies and lawyers representing mineworkers suffering from silicosis that has given compensation for occupational disease much prominence. The Gauteng High Court approved the settlement to the country’s largest ever class action law suit this past July.
“We are also here to say we haven’t forgotten what happened in Marikana, in that workers were butchered by our government, a black government, for asking for a salary raise,” he said.
According to Casiwe, they want to have a round-table meeting with government officials so that they can hear when they are going to be given their money.
Nolutu Kani from Philippi, whose husband, a mineworker, died in 1998, said that she joined the protest so that she can get the money that is owed to her late husband. “Our children could not further their studies because we did not have money. My husband worked at Western Holdings and he had tuberculosis,” said the mother of two.
“We have tried numerous times to make contact with the government through relevant ministries but they have not responded to us. They do not care about us or our plight,” said Noludwe Mazula from Nyanga. According to Mazula, her husband was a mineworker at different mines until he was retrenched in 1990 after working in mines for 17 years.
The protesters also demanded “an inquiry into the management of the money of workers who have died in the mines and those who did not receive their benefits due to corruption and maladministration involving the FSB, fund managers, lawyers and other agents.”
Earlier this week, the Marikana Support Campaign, Right2Protest, Right2Know and Socio-Economic Rights Institute partnered to commemorate the massacre and to demand justice for the families of the miners by marching to the Mankwe Magistrate’s Court in Mogwase, in the North West.
According to the statement by the four organisations, the purpose of the march was to raise awareness about the trial of Major General William Mpembe, who is accused with others of covering up the death, in custody, of Modisaotsile van Wyk Sagalala.
According to Thami Nkosi from Right2Know, they want progress in the trial. “We are protesting to actually pressure the court to speed up the case as we feel it has taken way too long,” he said.
The protesters were also calling for the prosecution of officers implicated in crimes committed on 16 August 2012 and for the release of the Expert Panel Report on Public Order Policing recommended by the Marikana Commission. The report deals with the shortcomings of the SAPS, global best practices in managing both peaceful and non-peaceful gatherings, methods of avoiding conflict and using proportionate force. It was submitted to the current Minister of Police, Bheki Cele, in April 2018 but has yet to be released to the public.
On Thursday 16 August 2012, the state and its heavily armed police force, under pressure from the mine bosses, government officials and the National Union of Mineworkers’ leadership, decided to smash the strike by rock drill operators at Lonmin platinum mine. As a result, 34 people died and about 250 were arrested while scores were hospitalised in South Africa’s bloodiest labour dispute since the end of Apartheid.