Ex-mineworkers protest outside Mining Indaba

A group of about 50 protestors sang and shared stories about their life situation as former mineworkers suffering from especially respiratory diseases they got from work underground. Photo by Mzi Velapi

A group of ex-mineworkers protested outside the Cape Town International Convention Centre where the Mining Indaba is being held.

Ex-mineworkers led by their associations and supported by activists and civil society organisations protested outside the Mining Indaba that is taking place in Cape Town. The group was calling for justice and their speedy compensation following the historic silicosis class action case that resulted in a 5-billion rand settlement that was approved by courts in July 2019. The ex-mineworkers also want swift compensation for their unpaid benefits that are with investment companies. A report by Open Secrets revealed that there is over R42-billion owed to four million people and that industry players continue to benefit from withholding these benefits.

“We want justice and speedy compensation for ex-mineworkers and their families, but we are also aware that the policymakers from all over Africa have gathered here at the Mining Indaba and are focusing on and pushing for more investments in the industry, the sunshine industry, and we want to inform them that there are ex-mineworkers who are dying without being compensated and that there are over 5,000 miners who have applied for compensation but have not received anything,” said Ntokozo Moloi, the manager for the Justice for Miners campaign from Southern Africa Resource Watch.

According to Moloi, there has been no money that has been paid by the Tshiamiso Trust which was set up following the settlement agreement between gold producers African Rainbow Minerals, Anglo American, AngloGold Ashanti, Gold Fields, Harmony and Sibanye Gold, and mineworkers’ lawyers to pay current or ex-mineworkers who got sick with silicosis and/or TB, or their surviving dependents.

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“Instead the ex-mineworkers are being sent from pillar to post and are sometimes asked to register their claims online,” said Moloi.

Vama Jele who is from Swaziland representing the Southern African Mine Workers Association – which is an association of former mineworkers in 8 countries in the region – said that besides raising the issues of unpaid benefits, the protest was about highlighting human rights issues as it pertains to the widows and orphans of ex-mineworkers.

“Women especially in the rural areas in the region are the ones who are suffering the burden of mining the most. They are the ones who are expected to look after their families when their husbands have died from silicosis,” said Jele.

“Ex-mineworkers in the region are frail and sickly from lung diseases,” he said. According to Jele, they formed the regional association because trade unions have neglected ex-mineworkers even though they built the unions.

Mining Indaba Advisory Board member and former National Union of Mineworkers general secretary, Frans Baleni, walked past the protesting ex-mineworkers and refused to comment on the protest. Photo by Mzi Velapi

Nowam Dlilanga, whose husband died from silicosis, said that she and her children have not received money as part of the compensation settlement. “He got sick when he was at Tshepong (Harmony Gold) and we have not received a cent yet. We have submitted the claims and I do not have money to travel to Johannesburg to ensure that we get the compensation money as I work as a domestic worker. Our children as widows of ex-mineworkers are the ones who are filling up jails around the country because we cannot provide for them or give them a better future,” said Dlilanga.

Kitso Phiri from the Botswana Labour Migrants Association said that ex-mineworkers in his country live an appalling life and many have died from lung diseases. “Life is hard for ex-mineworkers in Botswana and many have died from TB. Most come from far-flung areas like Maun and Shakawe. They do not have money to come to Johannesburg to personally claim for their monies. They were told to go back home and they would receive their money… but their monies are not forthcoming,” he said.

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“You go back to your home country and when you get home there is no money but you are faced by a deferred payment system that was as a result of a labour agreement between South Africa and Botswana,” added Phiri.

“This protest is no way a show for today, but we will continue to fight until we get compensation. They deserve it, it’s their money,” concluded Moloi.

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