Mine workers who had sustained injuries while working in South African mines say they find it nearly impossible to claim for compensation. They say the process is difficult to navigate and that tracing their medical records is difficult.
It emerged during the Ex-mine Workers Summit held in Sun City, in the North West, that some are denied compensation by the criteria used to determine the extent of disability. The National Department of Health reports that more than R1 billion has still not been claimed from the Compensation Commissioner for Occupational Diseases. These benefits are meant for former mine workers in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region.
According to the Compensation Commission for Occupational Diseases, over 18 000 former mine workers have lodged claims with the commission so far. The claimants are South African, Mozambican and Lesotho nationals. About R1.1 billion has been paid to claimants in the last five years.
About R1 billions remains unclaimed miners
Some of their injuries happened during blasting and subsequent rock falls. David Kuter, who started working in gold mines in the Dr Kenneth Kaunda District in 1986, says he broke his back in 1993 during a grave rockfall. He received a nominal pay-out at the time but was recently medically boarded after another serious back operation. Kuter says despite medical records presented to Rand Mutual Assurance, he is unable to claim.
“Here I have proof. I have put the first claim, so they said to me they cannot help me then I did a dispute and after the dispute they also got the letters. I had it on my cell phone and I could not print the doctor’s report. The lady that made the assessment on my total work assessment told me they cannot compensate me for that and I got proof of that,” says Kuter.
Mine worker unions say the process of assessing workers’ claims needs to change. National Union of Mineworkers, Secretary for Health and Safety, Masibulele Naki says there should be one stop health offices all over where the majority of mines are.
“Here you only find it in Carletonville and in Kimberly. They are too scattered. You will find one in the Eastern Cape, where else our workers are suffering and they cannot get documents when they go to public hospitals. They should be done by people who understand who they are and what are they suffering from,” Nake adds.
The insurer, Rand Mutual Assurance, says it pays R 8.2 million to over 1 600 pensioners in the North West every month. The scheme says although it has made progress with payments to qualified beneficiaries, there is still a backlog.
Head of Stakeholder Partnership at Rand Mutual Assurance Adam Letshele says sometimes employers do not submit accident claims on time and workers remain without receiving payments.
He explains further, “We found out lately that when the employer has long closed that the person got injured, no compensation can be paid because there is no proof that the accident actually occurred.”
The Deputy Minister of Health Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo says a multi-pronged approach is needed to decrease the backlog of processing claims for ex-mine workers.
“We have to do a multiple approach, one is to get Mr Molefe who works in this mine he is well known and can produce the records. Let’s fast track the process and get their records and move on. Now there is Mr Nchabeleng who worked in the mine and went to hospital and was examined for silicosis but there are no records of that, but we have to engage class action. Can we not examine Mr Nchabeleng as of today that he has silicosis? Yet, there is a record that he was with a particular mine 15-20 years ago and was refused a claim on the basis of an affidavit being required.”
Meanwhile, Rand Mutual says it will approach the Southern African Miners Association to assist in identifying former mine workers who are eligible for claims.
[File video] Silicosis affected mine workers yet to receive compensation: