M400 million spent on ex-miners claims



MASERU – Basotho miners and ex-miners that contacted silicosis while working in the South African mines and are eligible for compensation have as of March 7, 2023, received compensation worth M440,558,145.00, Public Eye can report. In an interview with Public Eye, Acting CEO at Tshiamo Trust, Lusanda Jiya, said about 5 128 Basotho claimants have been compensated. The Trust has received 40 909 claims from Lesotho and together with TEBA they have been working hard to ensure that beneficiaries get their dues.

She noted that the Tshiamo Trust does lodgements, through TEBA, as well as Benefit Medical Examinations (BMEs), through their medical service providers in Maseru, Leribe, Mafeteng, Butha-Buthe, Mohale’s Hoek, Mokhotlong, Qacha’s Nek, Quthing and Teyateyaneng. Jiya said as much as the Trust together with TEBA are trying their best to help beneficiaries get their money, the biggest challenge is the absence of documents to support the claims. She said contributing to this is the fact that these documents date back decades before digitisation.“When we receive these documents, we need to be able to verify them and this is where we need different government ministries on board to assist us. The Trust on its own cannot solve the issue of documentation.

“We are therefore in the process of engaging the government of Lesotho and its different ministries, and we are hopeful that the collaborations will soon be a success so that we can process the Basotho claims within reasonable timelines,” she said. Asked what is restricting Basotho from getting their settlements on time, Jiya said the Trust relies heavily on documents, and without the required documents, claims cannot progress on time. She said the trust deed that governs all that the Trust does is very clear on what documents are required to certify a claim. Claimants often struggle to obtain these documents, she said, adding that deceased claims are even more complicated as the death certificates often state natural causes, unnatural or undetermined, while for most of the compensation classes available, the trust deed clearly states that a death certificate should state TB or silicosis as the cause of death.

“A claimant would then need to obtain an autopsy report stating the exact cause of death,” she said. In an effort to find how the challenges can be addressed, the Trust had several engagements with the government of Lesotho to resolve documentation issues. These engagements are ongoing, and they trust that they will soon find solutions and be able to assist the Basotho claimants, she said. She also told Public Eye that the Trust has partnered with the South African Health Department’s Medical Bureau for Occupational Diseases (MBOD) to access whatever records they have for claimants. “If a mineworker suffered from silicosis or TB, it is very likely that they would have claimed from the MBOD, in which case we can access their records through the MBOD. “For living claims, the Trust Benefit Medical Examination (BME) is free to all potential eligible claimants who have done risk work at a qualifying mine, during a qualifying period, for a minimum of five years,” she noted.

Jiya said the eligibility criteria include, among others, that the mineworker must have carried out risky work at one of the qualifying Gold mines during the qualifying period between March 12, 1965 and December 10, 2019 (bearing in mind that some mines changed ownership during that time and are only considered during the periods that they were owned by the participating mining companies). She said living mineworkers must have permanent lung damage from silicosis or TB that they contracted from doing risky work at these mines, while for deceased mineworkers, there must either be evidence that they died from TB within a year of leaving the mine (if it’s a TB claim and the mineworker died before December 10, 2019), or evidence that they had silicosis or died from silicosis if it’s a silicosis claim.

She further revealed that the once-off compensation amounts were updated in February 2023 in line with the CPI, and range from as little over M10 000 to just under M534 000, with most claims paid to date being around M74 000. Jiya said the maximum amount payable for each of the 10 compensation classes may be reduced based on risky work done on non-qualifying mines or outside of the qualifying periods, including if the qualifying gold mine changed ownership between 1965 and 2019. For decades, southern African countries served as labour pools for South African gold mining industry.  TEBA is an institution that was established more than a century ago to support mines in meeting one of South Africa’s key national priorities of expanding mineral production. Initially, its role was solely focused on the recruitment of mining personnel.

Tshiomo’s mandate is to pay compensation to an estimated 500 000 ex-gold miners across southern Africa including Lesotho, eSwatini, Botswana and Mozambique, which served as pools of labour for the South African gold mines. The settlement reached in the Johannesburg High Court (South Africa) in 2016 covers employees who worked on the cited mines for a period of two years or more between March 12, 1965 and December 10, 2019 and who contracted silicosis or TB due to their work. Many of these compensable claims (about 28.4 percent), a large proportion of which have been longstanding, were from Mozambique, Lesotho, eSwatini, Botswana and elsewhere in Southern Africa. In an interview with Public Eye, Ex-Miners Association General Secretary Rants’o Mantsi confirmed that a lot of Basotho have received their compensation. He said even though he is not sure of the exact figures progress has been witnessed by the ex-miners’ association. Mantsi, however, noted that Basotho residing in remote areas of the country still struggle to lodge claims as most of them have to travel more than 70km to the nearest service centre. He said these are a group of people who have no financial means and transport to the urban areas is a challenge for them.

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