The Interdepartmental Task Team reported on the progress made in making payments to ex-mineworkers. The Committee was told that some ex-mineworkers who had their documents in order had started receiving payments from the Department of Labour and the Department of Health. The Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF), a body responsible for dispensing payments reported that a total of 343 payments, to the value of R1.5 million had been paid to ex-mineworkers in the Eastern Cape so far. Challenges with regard to payment included lack of valid bank accounts by ex-mineworkers, failure to submit all relevant documentation for processing of funds and capacity shortages within the department to clear the backlogs. The Department of Health reported that R54 million had been set aside to compensate miners who had been injured or who contracted diseases while working in mines. Only R2 million of that money had been paid in the form of a fixed amount of R2 700. Queries were raised by members as to what informed the allocation of the R54 million which was translated into fixed payments. The overall administration of the Fund was poor and members were not pleased with the progress made. On banking challenges, members suggested that the Department of Labour should assist ex-mineworkers to open bank accounts or use other forms of transferring the money. The Office of the Premier in the Eastern Cape acknowledged that it had not done enough to help ex-mineworkers in the Province. A commitment was made by the Province to work closely with all stakeholders in ensuring that the pain and suffering of ex-mineworkers came to an end.
Department of Labour submission
Mr Boas Seruwe, Unemployment Insurance Commissioner: Department of Labour, said that following a motion tabled in the National Assembly on 19 September 2007, the Ad Hoc Committee on matters relating to Ex-Mineworkers had agreed to establishing an Interdepartmental Task Team (ITT), consisting of the Department of Labour, Department of Health, Department of Minerals and Energy and the National Treasury to look into the plight of ex-mine workers and the concerns of the ex-mineworkers union. The main objectives of the task team were to process the findings and recommendations, trace the monies that belonged to ex-mineworkers and publish regular reports on both the electronic and print media. It was also agreed that the task team be headed by a senior official from the Department of Labour. All the claims had to be processed from one office which had to be co-ordinated and managed by the ITT. Those monies belonging to ex-mineworkers which were untraceable had to be transferred to the State. In addition, all documents kept by stakeholders that could assist in tracing beneficiaries needed to be submitted to the ITT, under the custody of the Department of Labour. The Portfolio Committee on Labour would play an oversight role in the implementation of the recommendations and would receive regular briefings from the ITT.
Mr Seruwe reported that progress had been made and more and more ex-mineworkers had started receiving payments from the Departments of Labour and Health. The Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF), a body responsible for disbursing the funds reported that it had made the following progress: a total 2 100 eligible people had been identified, 912 had been assisted to fill in application forms in the Eastern Cape, with a total of 343 payments to the value of R1.5m having been paid to ex-mineworkers.
A number of challenges had been identified by the ITT with regards to the unfolding of the process. Chief among those were that some ex-mineworkers did not have valid bank accounts. Some of the submitted applications were undeserving and capacity constraints meant only a few applications could be processed. The solutions proposed were that government should approach the banking industry to assist in the opening of bank accounts for ex-mine workers. More resources needed to be channelled into increasing the human personnel that could assist in the processing of documents much faster. Stakeholder involvement in the process should be strengthened.
Health Sector submission
Dr Monwabisi Goqwana, former Health MEC in the Eastern Cape, commented that what they had come across as the biggest challenge facing ex-mine workers was the issue of leadership and organisation. During his tenure as the MEC of Health in the Eastern Cape, they negotiated with far too many different groups of leaders claiming to represent the ex-mine workers on a month to month basis. Those groups were always fighting with one another and one could only hope that the leaders present in the meeting were the true leaders representing ex-mine workers. The Eastern Cape Department of Health had set aside R54 million to compensate people who worked in the mines and had contracted diseases. Many ex-mine workers had already died without having received a cent of that money. One of the challenges was that the provincial department could not identify who the rightful beneficiaries of the monies were. A task team was set up by the erstwhile Eastern Cape premier to look into how that money could be managed. Certain amounts were paid but not the total R54 million. Members belonging to certain groups received payments but not all deserving ex-mineworkers were paid. If the organisation of the ex-mine workers was not an issue, there could have been a chance that many beneficiaries could have benefited. There were officials from the Eastern Cape Premier’s Office present in the meeting and perhaps they could shed more light as to what was the current state of affairs in the province.
Ms A Rantsolase (ANC) thanked the department for the compilation of the report in such a short period of time since its establishment. Two issues bothered her. One was the method of payment used and the other was the capacity of the department. On the money banked, the amount paid to bank accounts was small so that a significant portion of it was likely to go to the individual banks as part of bank charges. One could only imagine R2000 being deposited into an account, and a bank immediately charging its 14% fee plus other charges. South African bank charges had long been identified as too high. If a plan could be devised wherein ex-miners were able to withdraw all the money at once without incurring massive bank charges, that would go a long way.
On capacity, the Acting Director General needed to do something to ensure that more staff was sourced to solve the problems facing ex-mine workers. The Provincial Labour Department in the Eastern Cape needed to come on board and assist but there were reports that it was not cooperating.
Mr Sam Morotoba, Acting Director General: Department of Labour, said the submissions by Mr Goqwana were true and his department was aware of the issues raised. There were some very good comments raised about how the challenges from the banking industry could be resolved. Many of those suggestions would be taken into account by the steering committee to see how they could be incorporated moving forward.
The Chairperson confirmed that she too, was aware of the reports that the Eastern Cape Provincial Department of Labour was dragging its feet in addressing matters concerning ex-mineworkers. Luckily, the Eastern Cape representatives were present in the meeting and perhaps they could assist the Committee with information about the alleged reports and what had been done thus far. In addition, the Committee was aware of the challenges raised by Mr Goqwana and had in the past attempted to get answers from the provincial task team but to no avail.
Ms Mbete from the Premier’s Office in the Eastern Cape acknowledged hearing of the reports that the province was not doing enough. She informed the Committee that there had been personnel changes within the provincial task team responsible for ex-mineworkers. The person who initially led the work of the steering committee in the province had since been replaced by Ms Mbete who promised to do everything in her power to ensure that the problems of the past did not occur again.
The Chairperson said it was encouraging to hear the Office of the Premier acknowledging that indeed there was a problem and that it was pledging its commitment in ensuring that the challenges faced were resolved speedily.
Mr E Nyekembe (ANC) asked the Committee not to confuse the role of the ITT and the purpose of the meeting. While the commitment pledged by the Office of the Premier was welcome, nothing was said about how the Office was to implement the report submitted by the ITT or how the two structures could work together.
The Chairperson complained that there was no one from the province or national department of Health who had been able to provide answers as to what informed the allocation of R54 million mentioned by Dr Goqwana. Why was it not R20m or R250m? At present they knew that the ex-mineworkers were paid around R2 700 for injuries sustained but no one knew what informed that amount.
Mr Madoda Sambatha, Parliamentary Pillar Head: National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), agreed with the Chairperson saying he too could not understand the reasoning behind a fixed R2 700 paid out for injuries sustained. It was common knowledge that the extent of injuries could vary from miner to miner and to allocate a fixed amount was just not logical. On capacity, the claim by the department that the processing of UIF claims by employees constituted an extra responsibility and did not form part of day-to-day activities was simply mind boggling.
Mr Nyekembe asked whether the ex-mine workers had been paid their pension fund monies. The report submitted was silent on the issue. It was comforting to learn that the Office of the Presidency had stepped forward to offer some form of help. Perhaps the representative from the Office of the Deputy President could brief them on what the Presidency was likely to bring in terms of finances and the boosting of capacity shortcomings.
Mr Elijah Mutsamai, Technical Advisor: Rand Mutual Assurance (RMA), said RMA was not responsible for the distribution of provident pension funds to ex-mineworkers. RMA had been granted licence by the Minister of Labour in terms of Section 30 of the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act to administer compensation for injuries while on duty only.
Mr Sibusiso Mimi, Researcher: NUM submitted that there were many provident funds and pension funds in the mining industry in general. In terms of the 1970 pension fund scheme, there were huge backlogs that existed which prevented speedy disbursement of funds. NUM was willing to assist the department in the tracking and verification process of claims to ensure that payments were processed with agility.
Mr Seruwe thanked NUM for coming forward and offering their assistance. The two bodies would get in touch soon to see how they could work together. The issues of coordination and capacity were ongoing and progress was being made by the department in that regard but asking for extra capacity could mean the department can do more work.
Mr P Dayi, leader of an organisation representing ex-mineworkers in the Eastern Cape, thanked the Committee for organising the meeting which gave them hope that their fate was being addressed at the highest level.
The Chairperson thanked all the parties who had made submissions and hoped these issue concerning ex-mine workers would be resolved soon.
The meeting was adjourned.
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