Labour Committee Report on Oversight Visit to assist Ex-Mine Workers in Eastern Cape

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Labour

31 May 2010
Chairperson: Ms L Yengeni (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee met to discuss and adopt its Report on its Oversight Visit to East London to meet with Ex-Mine Workers. A multi-party delegation from the Portfolio Committees of Labour and Mineral Resources went to East London in the Eastern Cape to meet with the two splinter groups of the Ex-Mine Workers Union. It met with the main group on 9 May and both groups on 10 May 2010. The visit was in the wake of a small splinter group of Ex-Mine Workers camping outside Parliament in cold weather with a list of grievances. The Committee would meet again to plan a way forward on the matter and to ensure that the Interdepartmental Task Team led by the Department of Labour acted on their mandate properly.

Meeting report

Report on Oversight Visit to Eastern Cape
The Chairperson reminded Members of what had led the Committee to undertake an oversight visit to East London in the Eastern Cape. A group of ex-mine workers had camped outside the gates of Parliament. Although the group initially refused to be accommodated, they were later given food and shelter by local ANC branches. The issue of outstanding UIF payments for Ex-Mine Workers had come to Parliament in 2007 and an Interdepartmental Task Team had been set up to effect these. As many of these UIF payments were still outstanding due to the challenges the task team faced in locating beneficiaries and in authenticating identification of claimants, a splinter group of the Ex Mine workers Union led by Mr Ketile had come to Parliament to complain about the slow pace.

Initially the Ex-Mine Workers Union was one group, but after the death of their leader, Mr Nomazele, the Union had splintered into two groups. The main grievance of the disgruntled splinter group was that they were not well looked after by the Government Task Team appointed to attend to their grievances and provide the outstanding UIF compensation and other services needed from the government. Also they were not represented on the Task Team and decisions and information were not reaching them. They alleged that the main group was well taken care of and were receiving monies while they was not receiving any. The disgruntled group was under impression that their money was available at Parliament as they claimed they had been told so by a Member of Parliament. The Portfolio Committee Chairpersons, Ms Yengeni and Mr Gona, convinced the disgruntled splinter group to return home, pledging a follow-up commitment by the Committee. Initially the group wanted to see the President. However when the Chairpersons had met the group at Parliament, the President was overseas. The Chairperson said they had had a very long discussion with the group convincing them to go back home as it would have been difficult to attend to only one group leaving out the main group. The Committee requested the disgruntled group to return home. There they would bring both groups together and ascertain the root problem.

The Committee delegation first had a briefing session on 9 May with the Task Team headed by the Director General of the Department of Labour, Mr Jimmy Manyi to establish the nature of relations amongst the Task Team members, the progress on the work already performed by the Task Team and also to establish the reasons for the group of ex-mineworkers going to Cape Town. The delegation then met with the main group Ex-mineworkers union led by Mr Tholi to establish the reasons for the group splitting and if it was possible for the two groups to reconcile in order to work together. On 10 May 2010, it met with both groups, the disgruntled Ex-mineworkers union led by Mr Ketile and the main Ex-mineworkers union led by Mr Tholi. Attempts by the Committee to get the two groups to unite failed. The Committee therefore proposed that the two groups should rather, as a way forward, select representatives for the Task Team and keep the channels of communication open. The Ex-mineworkers union led by Mr Ketile appointed someone to represent it on the Task Team and to disseminate information to the group.  The Chairperson suggested that the Committee should come up with a way forward in the next meeting to resolve the problem once and for all.

Mr I Ollis (DA) asked the Chairperson to clarify which meeting the KwaZulu Natal Ex-mine coal-gold workers was in.

The Chairperson said the Ex-mine coal workers group went to the meeting of 10 May from which Mr Ollis was absent. She emphasised that that group was useful in assisting the Committee in resolving the problems faced by the main group and the disgruntled group.

Ms L Makhubela-Mashele (ANC) added that the Natal Ex-mine coal-gold workers had representation on the National Task Team and were not part of those who were protesting

Mr E Nyekembe (ANC) echoed the same sentiments the Chairperson had mentioned that instead of meeting with the disgruntled group visiting Parliament, they had rather met the main group left behind in the Eastern Cape. Hence the Committee met with the main group on 9 May and with both groups on 10 May 2010 as well as the Natal Ex-mine coal-gold workers who were well organized and co-operative.

Mr Nyekembe noted the history, saying that there had been a national strike in the mines in 1987. People were dismissed without being given their benefits. Also tribal violence that had taken place within the mines had been a significant contribution to the problem. Hence people were turning to the present government for intervention to get their benefits. He said in the next committee meeting, a way forward should be mapped out. The joint meeting on 10 May 2010 had agreed that an Interdepartmental Task Team meeting on the 31 May 2010 would chart the way forward. The Department of Labour had given an assurance that it would embark on a campaign to publicise this. The Committee should use the outcome of the 31 May meeting to map a way forward on the matter.

Ms Rantsolase raised concerns over what the role of the Task Team from now would be. She understood that as the Committee they would meet the Task Team again but it was important to know what the Task team would be doing. Her concerns were based on whether the Task Team would make a follow-up on where the money of these ex-mine workers was sitting and also check up on whether people were paid their money. What would be the role of the Minister as the matter was outside the jurisdiction of how ordinary UIF was paid. She suggested that the Committee meet with Minister to determine the payment.

Mr Ollis proposed that the Committee should ask the Department of Labour that it once a month present to the Committee a written list of people that the Department had managed to pay. Each month there must be more people on the list paid by the Department, so that when the Committee met with these peoples, it would be easier to say who and how many had been paid. If the list kept growing, the Committee would be in a position to say something was happening.

Ms Rantsolase suggested that the Committee should first get a list of how many people had not been paid and how much each were owed. That list needed to be compiled. The Committee needed to meet with the Minister to discuss how the Department would provide the Committee with feedback.

Ms Makhubela-Mashele agreed with Ms Rantsolase and Mr Ollis that the Department should provide the Committee with a report each month, adding that some people had already got their money. The legislation was amended to compensate the dependants of the beneficiaries in the event the beneficiaries passed away. She noted  that the fact that the two ex-mine workers group insisted that they did not want the Department of Labour to go to the villages to give people access to information was not reflected in the report. Adding that the Department wanted to afford these two groups with outreach programmes to inform people about the UIF. Access to information was thus hindered by these two groups. They equally benefited from the whole process. They wanted people to be registered in their organization and then claim money from them. At the end of the day the Committee would blame the Department for not doing its work yet there was a group at center-stage charging people for services provided by the Department free of charge.

The Chairperson replied that the report was still a draft and all the matters raised would be included.

Mr Nyekembe suggested that the written list should be made available once the leaders of the three Ex mine workers group (main group, disgruntled group and the Natal Ex-coal-gold Mine Workers group) meet in the Inter-departmental Task Team meeting with the Department of Labour, Department of Social Development and the Department of Health as well as the Office of the Presidency He said the strike of 1987 was a long time ago. Some of those people who had worked in the mines had passed on. The only ones still alive were their dependants. He asked members not to discuss a way forward for now but to stick to the agenda item which was the adoption of the report.

The Chairperson emphasized that the Minister was not off the hook in the process as the Department of Labour was leading the process. She agreed with Mr Nyekembe that a way forward should be dealt with in the next Committee meeting. The Committee should stick to what still needed to be added or amended on the report. When the Committee met again those members of the Committee who were absent during the Oversight Visit would have the benefit of looking at the report. In the next meeting members should come up with a way forward that would address problems of this nature and not be limited only to the Ex-mine workers in the Eastern Cape.

Ms Rantsolase said the points that were raised by Ms Makhubela-Mashele should not be left out of the report as the Department of Labour was playing a role. She was more concerned about the outcome of this process that could complicate matters.

The Chairperson assured the Committee that all the concerns raised by members would be included as they were also discussed at the meeting held in East London.

Mr Ollis suggested that on 17 or 18 July 2010, the Committee should request the Department of Labour to give it an update report on what they had already done. That information would be useful for the Committee on making a decision on the way forward.

Ms Makhubela-Mashele agreed with Mr Ollis. Furthermore, she suggested the report should also reflect the fact that the Inter-departmental Task Team was not up to scratch in doing their work. In the meeting in the Eastern Cape, the Inter-departmental Task Team admitted to the Committee that that they were not doing what they were supposed to be doing - according to the mandate. They also lacked in performing their responsibility of mediation. The matter has been dragging on for a very long time. The Committee should act decisively on the matter. It would also push them to start working if they knew the Committee expected an update report from them

The Chairperson agreed and assured members all the proposals made would be added to the report. She reminded members that the Department of Labour had the task of dealing with the matter, hence the Inter-departmental Task Team was led by the Department of Labour. Indeed they did not live up to expectations. Some issues could have been resolved. Camping outside of Parliament could have been averted.

The Chairperson said that she had been approached by Minister of Sport Makhenkesi Stofile who informed her that she was dealing with something she “does not know”. The people who started this issue were MP M Goqwana and himself. In the first meeting on the way forward, the Committee would invite all stakeholders including Minister Stofile and Mr Goqwana (as the people who had started the matter) to share with the Committee what they know and why they think the process “was still here” at Parliament.

The Report was adopted with all the amendments .The Chairperson said she would forward the report to the Speaker of Parliament as he had long been waiting for the report.

Trip to International Labour Organisation (ILO) Conference in Geneva
The Chairperson this trip had been placed on the Committee programme last year and was initially rejected by the Speaker Office. However, the trip was later approved by Parliament, but allowing only the chairperson to attend the International Labour Organisation Conference (ILO). As she was not comfortable going alone, she had approached the Minister for assistance so that she could be accompanied by three to five additional people, whatever could be afforded. The Department had offered to provide for three additional members for the trip. Subsequently, she had used her discretion as was her mandate enshrined in the rules of Parliament by looking at the list of members attending the meetings of the Committee and identified those who were regular - including the opposition parties. Of course the ANC was the majority party. She had taken one member of the opposition parties from the DA who always attended committee meetings. She also liased with the Committee section to ascertain who else should be considered for going to Geneva. Mr Nyekembe and Ms Makhubela-Mashele were named as some of the members attending committee meetings on regular basis. They would be leaving on 5 June 2010.

Ms Rantsolase said she was not going to contest some of the decisions made even though she believed they were wrong, suggesting that in the near future, the Committee needed to debate the issue of overseas trips. She had been at a meeting on Saturday looking at the Money Bills Amendment Act. In that meeting it was found that Portfolio Committees were not utilising their international funds, though she was not suggesting the Committee was not utilising its funds. She had asked in that meeting why their committee budget money was returned all the time due to their not taking their international trips. She had been told that it was a committee problem. She believed that the Chairperson’s discretion should be used to unify. In future, the Committee should debate who would be going on international trips.

The Chairperson replied that she was just being the Chairperson of the Committee on Labour. Her experience in Parliament about going on international trips was that it had been very difficult for Parliament to pay for members of the Committees. She had been in a meeting of committee chairpersons where the same complaint had been made about tight budgets. Using her discretion was not something that was going to please everybody.

There was an exchange of words between the Chairperson and Ms Rantsolase.

Ms Rantsolase asked the Chairperson to provide the Committee with the Committee Budget.

The meeting was adjourned.

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