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SarWatch Writer
Press Release: Widows and ex-mine workers appeal to the South African government to commit to the portability of social security benefits

The High-Level Meeting on Unclaimed Benefits from the mining sector took place in Johannesburg from 16-17 March 2022 to find solutions to the question of unclaimed and unpaid benefits.  Key stakeholders–SADC governments (South Africa and Eswatini), Southern Africa Ex-Miners Association (SAMA), mining pension and retirement funds and administrators, Mineral Council of South Africa, International Labour Organisation (ILO,) Southern Africa Trade Union Coordination Council (SATUCC) and ex-miners (from Mozambique, Eswatini, Lesotho, Zimbabwe and Malawi) and widows of deceased ex-mineworkers. The meeting heard first-hand from widows of ex-mineworkers (many of them remain unpaid despite their husband having died many years ago) and ex-mineworkers the challenges they face to be paid the money due to them.

The ex-mineworkers shared explicit accounts of the impact that the delays in payments have had on their families, with accounts of some claimants not being able to take care of their families and some dying as they await payment. The widows left to take care of the families, spoke of how their children are being forced to drop out of school as a result of the delayed payments.

The ex-mineworkers echoed a strong need to move beyond talk and find innovative ways to be paid their money without obstacles and delays. The meeting identified obstacles to unpaid benefits which include: non-acceptance of letters of authority obtained outside of South Africa; database challenges; a lack of systems to support the processing of payments; verification processes to ascertain ex-mineworkers and the non-binding of the portability of benefits guidelines; lack of tax numbers by claimants, the unavailability of relevant documents and compliance with regulations. The meeting recognised that there had been too much talking and less action. The problem of unpaid benefits has been discussed since 2012, and no clear pathway has been found.

The delegates were unanimous in calling out the lack of leadership from the South African government and labour sending SADC countries (Lesotho, Mozambique, Eswatini, Malawi and Zimbabwe) to resolve the many problems identified. The SADC secretariat was also identified as not playing the regional response role to coordinate and harmonise policies on unpaid benefits across Southern Africa. The mining industry, despite the progress made to reform and support the process, was strongly urged to continue pushing and to monitor the funds to ensure that they pay ex-miners their money.

There are some South African based mining pension funds administrators that are taking progressive initiatives to find best solutions to the issue of unpaid benefits to ex-miners and their families. Delegates, however, called on the South African government particularly to come on board and help fast-track the payment to ex-mineworkers and their families. Although this meeting focused on the mining sector, the problem affects many other sectors.

ENDS

.

 

Contact for Enquiries:

Masutane Modjadji

SARW Communications Officer

Cellphone: +27833078355

Email: masutanem@sarwatch.org

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