August 15, 2013
Produced by Amos Phago

As the country comes face to face with the increasing statistics of former mineworkers who retire – most of them to rural areas – without enough health provision, the stark reality also sets in that these former mine workers are increasingly becoming a state liability due to illnesses such as pneumoconiosis and silicosis. In this episode of Special Assignment we expose mining companies’ alleged deliberate non-disclosure of their former employers’ illnesses. We interrogate this practice and speaks to former mineworkers who say they cannot claim compensation because their real health condition was hidden from them, and because they left these companies before the onset of the diseases.

We tell the story of 36-year old Hein Strombeck from Port Alfred in the Eastern Cape who worked in the gold mines for 15 years. He joined Gold Fields in 2007 and resigned in 2011 after he started experiencing chest pains. His exit medical certificate states that he had Bilateral UZS fibrosis which is an early stage of silicosis. However, he says these results were not explained to him. Hein claims that he only realised that he had a serious lung condition when he performed tests in February this year at another mining company for prospective employment. His condition means that he can no longer work at a mine. According to the law he is supposed to receive compensation from the department of health’s medical bureau for occupational diseases. His application is still pending.

Hein is one of the many mineworkers who have to confront life-long illnesses due to the alleged non-disclosure of their diseases, many of whom are still struggling to get compensation.

This episode explores this phenomenon and the weaknesses within the compensation system for ailing mine workers, particulary those who suffer from lung diseases. The fund is estimated to have over 700 000 outstanding claims which have not yet been processed and the unions are worried that many more workers will die before they are compensated.

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