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SarWatch Writer
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Justice for Miners Campaign Press Release: 10 July 2020

The Justice for Miners Campaign is concerned about the slow rate at which the Tshiamiso Trust is executing its mandate to pay out sick miners.

The Trust was set up to pay the landmark R5-billion compensation to at least 500 000 sick miners who contracted TB and silicosis from working on gold mines.

Gold miners have been falling ill in Southern Africa with no assistance for over a century. It took 12 years to reach the 2018 out-of-court settlement between mining companies and claimants.

In its engagement with the Tshiamiso Trust, the Justice for Miners Campaign raised serious concerns about the Trust’s approach to identifying claimants in the Covid-19 context.

The Trust held its first meeting with members of the Justice for Miners Campaign chapters and organisations from labour-sending countries on 23 June 2020.
(Eds’ note: For a list of Justice for Miners campaign members who attended this meeting, please see the bottom of this release.)

Campaign members posed many questions during the meeting so that information could be fed back to claimants. Following that meeting, an ex-miner from Swaziland said: “It was an important meeting but many questions remain unanswered.”

Subsequently, Justice for Miners members wrote to the Trust raising unanswered questions and offering proposals for ensuring effective payment of compensation. The Justice for Miners Campaign is happy the pilot phase of compensation has been started, and we hope the Trust will be transparent and will work with the Justice for Miners Campaign.

We have written a letter to the Trust addressing, amongst others, the following issues.

1. Pilot phase
In a statement sent out on 30 June 2020, the Trust announced its pilot phase, saying it was instituted on 26 June 2020 and that “an initial set of claimants” would receive compensation “in the next few weeks”. We look forward to the Trust sharing the details about how and where the pilot phase will be rolled out.

2. Covid-19

The Trust says that due to Covid-19, “we are limited to considering claims only from individuals [or, if deceased, their dependents] for whom there are existing medical records”. This approach will severely delay the payment of compensation to claimants. Those who are not on the Trust’s database are required to to register as claimants, to upload documents to the website, and to “self check” on the progress of their claims.

This assumes that ex-miners can send text messages or access the telephone help lines. We do not believe that this is the case. Sick ex-miners require a lot of assistance to engage with the electronic portal to the Trust as proposed. We strongly believe that the Trust must come to the miners and not expect the miners to come to the Trust – least of all through online, data-based technology.

We propose that peripheral offices are opened region wide utilising the paralegals and organisations that were involved in the class action. These people are our members and well known to ex-miners. They have been the only point of contact for many ex-miners since the beginning of the class action process until now.

Such peripheral offices with access to scanners, internet and data would be the human interface required to make the proposed system work. These places can also double as check points for crucial medical examinations needed to apply for compensation.

 

Ex-miner Albino Tivane from Chibuto, Mozambique.

3. Qualifying for compensation

The Trust has said that lung function tests cannot be used due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Again, this will cause huge delays in claimants qualifying for compensation. The Campaign urges the Trust to urgently find alternative ways to determine the level of damage to the lungs.

The Campaign would like to engage the Trust on this issue to find a way forward.

Another major concern is that when a miner dies of Covid-19, their families will not be eligible for payouts as they have not been informed that they can send the lungs of their family members for autopsy – a critical point in deciding on compensation.

The Trust, as per its mandate, needs to inform family members of miners that should their loved one die, the lungs can be sent for autopsy to determine the level of silicosis or TB that is present. This determines the amount of compensation is due to the deceased’s family.

In the context of over a century of failed compensation for black miners, we believe the Trust has a duty to ensure transparency and accountability to mining communities and Southern
African societies.

The Justice for Miners Campaign is an initiative of Breathe Films and the Southern Africa Resource Watch (SARW).

JFM Campaign members who attended the Tshiamo Trust meeting:

Bishop Seoka, Chair Justice for Miners Campaign Civil Society Forum
Moises Uamusse, Justice for Miners Mozambique, Mozambican Miners Association (Amimo)
Booi Mohape, Justice for Miners Lesotho, Executive Secretary
Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace, Lesotho
Putseletso Salae, Justice for Miners Lesotho, CEO Miners Development Agency, Lesotho
Kitso Phiri, Justice for Miners Botswana, Bolama
Vama Jele, Justice for Miners eSwatini, Swaziland Migrant Mineworkers Association,Southern Africa Miners Association
Hendrick Mokoena, Justice for Miners, Welkom
Ziyanda Manjati, Justice for Miners, Eastern Cape
Dr Rhett Kahn, Justice for Miners Medical Advisor
Janet Kahn, Justice for Miners, Welkom
Catherine Meyburgh, Justice for Miners, Breathe Films
Richard Pakleppa, Justice for Miners, Breathe Films
Claude Kabemba, Justice for Miners campaign, Southern African Resource Watch

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