Feud over miners’ compensation erupts

 

As Tshiamiso Trust, TEBA refutes local ex-miners body claim of malpractice

MATHATISI SEBUSI

MASERU – A verbal bout has erupted between Tshiamiso Trust and TEBA on one hand and Ex-miners’ Association of Lesotho on the other. At the centre of the tussle are allegations by the Ex-miners Association of Lesotho that former miners or their beneficiaries are forced to open accounts only with TEBA in order to receive compensation for silicosis or TB-related deaths.

TEBA and Tshiamiso Trust strongly refute these claims. Tshiamiso is a South African Trust founded in February 2020 in terms of a settlement agreement concluded between six mining companies and claimant attorneys in a historic silicosis and TB claim case. The trust is responsible for ensuring that all eligible current and 500 000 former mineworkers across Southern Africa with silicosis or work-related TB, or their dependants where the mine worker has passed away, are compensated across different countries including Lesotho, eSwatini, Botswana and Mozambique.

Southern African countries served as labour forwarding areas 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 African key national priorities of expanding mineral production. Initially its role was solely focused on the recruitment of mining personnel. The local ex-miners’ association as well as some beneficiaries had revealed to Public Eye they are forced to receive their money only through TEBA, not any other bank.

The ex-miners’ spokesperson, Rantšo Mantsi, made the claims in a recent interview with this paper, further alleging the recipients of the compensation were, as a result, using the money recklessly. He said TEBA only allowed them to withdraw M10 000 per week, and declined them any opportunity to invest either within TEBA or any other financial institution. Mantsi said beneficiaries’ only option is to withdraw M10 000 every week so that they can invest the money at a bank of their choice, adding that this does not only cost the beneficiaries a lot of through avoidable bank charges but also puts them at the risk of being robbed.

“Imagine having to withdraw M10 000 every week to deposit to another bank. Withdrawal costs that are expensive for each transaction but these are not the only concern; walking around with that kind of cash is very risky. Also these people have to travel from their homes to towns where there is a TEBA office, that too costs money,” Rantšo stated.

TEBA’s regional manager Samuel Moeletsi refuted these allegations, telling Public Eye that Tshiamiso allows these beneficiaries to open accounts from a bank of their own choice, further noting that the majority of beneficiaries that have received their compensation have been paid through First National Bank Lesotho.

He said beneficiaries who are using TEBA are only those that already have accounts with the UBank and Tshiamiso, with their approval, continued with the account. He said to even clarify the matter, TEBA is not a bank and does not force anyone to receive their money through it, also stating that it has been proven it’s easier to send money via TEBA than local commercial banks for people who already had an account with UBank.

Contacted to detail its compensation progress, the identification of TEBA as the only conduit through which beneficiaries can access their money, and further react to claims that South African documents are required to process compensation, Senior Project Manager Natasha Kleyn denied all these allegations.

“As the Trust, we do not give any preference to any bank. Claimants have the freedom to use whichever bank account they wish, as long as it can be verified. “If a claimant is being compelled to open a Ubank account they have every right to refuse, and they should report to that to the Trust,” she said.

Commenting on allegations that widows of ex-miners who were granted citizenship in South Africa while still working in the mines are compelled to produce South Africa death certificates and their deceased husbands’ proof of residence to receive compensation, Kleyn said there was a time when this was required, but this was amended and the Tshiamiso Trust now recognises death certificates issued in Lesotho.

“These are the documents required for claims for mineworkers who are citizens of Lesotho: If the mineworker/ex-mineworker was deceased before 10 Dec 2019, a dependent (family member) may claim on their behalf and will need to produce dependent’s National ID/Passport, dependent’s proof of relationship to the mineworkers (e.g. Unabridged Birth Certificate or Marriage Certificate (available from the Ministry of Home Affairs), Mineworker’s valid National ID/Passport.

Also required are cause of death/medical records available. This could include an autopsy report/post mortem from the ministry of health, death certificate from the ministry of home affairs, medical records indicating that the mineworker had silicosis in life (if the date of death is between Jan 1, 2008, and Dec 9, 2019, or medical records indicating that the mineworker was diagnosed with tuberculosis within 1 year of last risk work shift (if date of death is between Mar 12, 1965, and Dec 9, 2019,” she noted.

She said they also demand a record of service for the mineworker – those being their employment records, exit certificate, payslip, appointment letter. In a case where a mineworker/ex-mineworker died after 10 December 2019, Kleyn said an executor must be appointed to claim on behalf of the mineworker, explaining that this can be a family member or someone appointed by the family. She said the documents required for the mineworker are the same as for mineworkers deceased before December, 2019, except that documentation for the dependent is replaced by that of the executor, who needs an executor’s valid National ID/Passport, a letter of executorship or letter of authority – which can be obtained from Ministry of Local Government in the district administration offices.

If the mineworker/ex-mineworker is still alive, required documents include mineworker’s valid National ID/passport, medical records which indicate silicosis or work-related TB in the mineworker (if available), record of service for the mineworker (e.g. employment records, exit certificate, pay slip, appointment letter). On progress in compensating beneficiaries, Kleyn said Tshiamiso Trust lodgement services were launched at the TEBA offices across Lesotho in February 2021 utilising TEBA’s extensive footprint to bring services closer to claimants.

She said the trust currently has a presence in Maseru, Hlotse, Mafeteng, Mohale’s Hoek, Teyateyaneng, Botha-Bothe, Quthing, Qacha’s Nek and Mokhotlong and 34 810 lodgments have been completed in Lesotho to date, making up 38 percent of all Tshiamiso Trust lodgments. She stated that 80 percent of eligible claimants have completed their Benefit Medical Examinations (BMEs), while 2 402 are yet to undergo their BMEs, further stating that 3 358 final certifications have been issued while the Trust works through a large backlog of claims for deceased mineworkers, which are more complicated and time-consuming to process.

She said as of July 19, 2 518 eligible Lesotho claimants have received their compensation, totaling R213 232.04. Asked what the trust has done to bring services closer to Basotho and ensure that they get their money without a struggle, she said Tshiamiso Trust has made every effort to make lodgment facilities and BME facilities available to all Basotho claimants, and will continue to expand on its services.

“This includes, alongside the ex-miners’ association, locating clusters of ex-mineworkers who cannot access current service points easily, and initiating outreach activities to send mobile facilities to those claimants. “The Trust is seeking close engagement with the Lesotho government, the Ministry of Health, and the ex-miners’ association to advise on approach mechanisms to reach claimants, setting up new BME sites, and fostering good working relations will all key stakeholders,” she stated.

 

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