Progress made towards the payment of ex-mine workers: briefing by the Department of Labour & Inter-Departmental Task Team

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Labour

22 August 2011
Chairperson: Mr M Nchabeleng (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

Representatives from Rand Mutual Assurance, CCOD, TEBA, the Chamber of Mines and the Departments of Health and Labour were invited to attend the meeting but failed to do so.  The meeting was attended by representatives of the ex-mine workers.

The Chairperson of the Inter-Departmental Task Team appointed to deal with the issue of payments to ex-mine workers briefed the Committee on the current status of the project.  To date, a total of 1196 payments to ex-mine workers had been made to the value of R 4.9 million. The outstanding number of claims was 888.  45 names were sent to RMA for processing but no feedback had been provided. A total of 53 claimants were referred to the CCOD for processing. Out of the 1884 names that the IDTT had received from ex-mine workers, the employment records of 1608 could not be verified by TEBA or the Task Team. TEBA had submitted a list of 174 names to the IDTT but no details of remuneration were provided.  The total amount available for disbursement was R20 million but only R2 million had been claimed to date.

The CCOD had submitted a report to the IDTT on the progress made to pay benefits to ex-mine workers. The project had commenced in 1994. The amount available for disbursement originally amounted to R30 million but had since escalated to R54 million.  The CCOD was unable to explain the increased amount.  The CCOD had identified approximately 11,000 mine workers who would receive an amount of R1,700 each. A task team was appointed by the Premier of the Eastern Cape in 2002.  A submission was made to the Minister of Health in 2003 on how the money should be disbursed and the benefit amount was increased to R2,700 per person.  A list of 18,500 names was received from ex-mine workers.  It was agreed that to make payments to all the 18,500 claimants, regardless of whether previous claims had been paid.  To date, a total of 11,200 ex-mine workers had been paid a total amount of R32 million.

The challenges included the inability to verify the employment records of claimants.  The IDTT acknowledged that the list of names could include fraudulent claims from persons who were never employed by mines.

The representatives of ex-mine workers confirmed that the information provided by the Task Team was factually correct.  The ex-mine workers complained that information and reports in Xhosa were not made available to them.  Concerns were raised over the refusal to pay benefits to daughters-in-law of ex-mine workers, who were considered to be legitimate claimants.

Members queried the source and exact amount of the funds that were available and asked how the benefit amount was calculated.  Members wanted to know how much interest had accrued on the funds, which was supposed to be utilised for development purposes.  Members expressed concern over the lack of employment records and wanted to know when the process would be finalised.  Questions were asked about fees allegedly charged by TEBA to trace ex-mine workers.

The Committee agreed that the issue of payments to ex-mine workers had not been resolved.  Invitations to attend the following meeting of the Committee would be issued to all the role players involved in the process.

Meeting report

Adoption of Committee Report
The Chairperson advised that the Committee’s report on the recent oversight visit had to be formally considered and adopted.  Reports on joint meetings held by the Parliamentary Committees had to be adopted by each Committee.

Ms L Makhubela-Mashele (ANC) proposed that the report was adopted at a later stage as the Committee did not have a quorum of Members.

Briefing on the payment of benefits to ex-mine workers
Mr Gona said that the Committee was expecting more Departments and entities than those that were present. Representatives from the Chamber of Mines and the Rand Mutual Assurance (RMA) were not present. The matter of the payment of ex-mine workers had been before the Committee and Parliament for a very long time. To date, Rand Mutual Assurance had not appeared before the Committee to report on the failure of ex-mine workers to lodge claims.  The matter had to be finalised speedily as potential claimants were passing away.

The Chairperson responded that the Inter-Departmental Task Team (IDTT) had been invited to appear before the Committee. If any gaps remained after the IDTT briefing, the Committee would decide on the way forward.

Ms Makhubela-Mashele suggested that the Chairperson of the IDTT named the entities that had been invited but were not present.

Mr Boas Seruwe, Unemployment Insurance Fund Commissioner and Chairperson of the IDTT advised that the delegates from the CCOD under the Department of Health (DoH) were unable to attend the briefing due to pressure of work but had prepared a presentation to the Committee.  Representatives from Rand Mutual were supposed to attend the meeting. The Chamber of Mines had declined to attend the meeting because it was convinced that all the issues relating to ex-mine workers had been dealt with. Representatives from the National Treasury and the DoH were also supposed to have been present at the meeting. The IDTT had escalated the issue of non-attendance of meetings to the Minister.

Mr. G Boinamo (DA) asked what would be achieved by the meeting if so many key participants were not present.

Ms Makhubela-Mashele noted that ex-mine workers were represented on the IDTT, which was supposed to provide a progress report to the Committee.

The Chairperson said that the meeting was a continuation of a process that had commenced many years earlier before some of the Members were elected to Parliament.  The Committee required a progress report, which should include details of the number of claimants and how much money was involved.

Briefing by the Inter-Departmental Task Team
Mr Seruwe commenced with an overview of the progress made to date (see attached document). Regular meetings with the Provincial Steering Committee were held. A number of recommendations to the Portfolio Committee on Labour had been made. Ex-mine workers had started to receive payments from the Department of Health and the Department of Labour. The IDTT had a very good relationship with TEBA although representatives from TEBA failed to attend meetings. The former Minister of Labour had addressed the ex-mine workers and had announced the work that had been done by the IDTT to the media. Ex-mine workers who had legitimate claims were urged to submit adequate documentation in order to validate their claims. The former Minister also urged TEBA to provide the IDTT with information on outstanding claims. The current Minister of Labour had met with the representatives of ex-mine workers. A code of conduct had been adopted by the IDTT, which would be translated in IsiXhosa.

As at 6 May 2011, 1126 payments to the value of R 4.6 million were made.  To date, a total of 1196 payments to the value of R 4.9 million had been paid to ex-mine workers, therefore an additional 70 ex-mine workers had received payments totaling R300,000. A list containing the names 1884 ex-mine workers was received after the May 2011 deadline.  45 claims were referred to RMA but no feedback had been received.  53 claims were referred to the CCOD for processing. To date, 40 of the 53 claimants referred to the CCOD had received payment.  Of the 1884 claimants, 1608 had no employment history on the IDTT or TEBA systems. The IDTT had received employment histories of 174 ex-mine workers from TEBA but details of remuneration were omitted. The Department of Labour (DoL) had seconded additional personnel for the project.

Ex-mine workers were provided with assistance to open bank accounts in which payments could be deposited. The DoL awaited feedback from the representatives of ex-mine workers leaders on the verification of addresses. The challenges included duplicated claimants and a lack of adequate documentation to support claims.  The total amount available for disbursement was R20 million but only R2 million had been claimed, i.e. 10% of the available funds.

A list of RMA claimants had to be submitted before the end of September 2011.  A list of ex-mine workers who claimed to be owed pensions had to be submitted by the 7 October 2011 by the Chamber or Mines. The lists would be regarded as the final submissions for validation.

A total of 4400 persons had submitted claims during phase 1 of the project of which 2100 potential beneficiaries were identified. Of these, 1196 were paid under the old Act and 16 were paid under the new Act. The outstanding number of claims was 888.  A total of 1884 claims were received during phase 2.  Of these, 1608 were found to have no record of the period of service and 174 provided no details of remuneration. A total of 997 claimants were received during phase 3.  Of these, 760 had no record of the period of service. 78 claimants were found to be eligible for payment.  Outstanding claims from TEBA totaled 115.

The CCOD had submitted a report to the IDTT to explain the events that had occurred and the attempts made to pay ex-mine workers. The project had commenced in 1994. The amount available for disbursement originally amounted to R30 million but had since escalated to R54 million.  The CCOD was unable to explain the increased amount.  The CCOD had identified approximately 11,000 mine workers who were owed no more than R1,700 each. A task team was appointed by the Premier of the Eastern Cape in 2002.  A submission was made to the Minister of Health in 2003 on how the money should be disbursed and an amount of R2,700 per person was determined.  The CCOD had appointed dedicated personnel to deal with the matter.

A list of 18,500 names was received from ex-mine workers.  It was agreed that to make payments to all the 18,500 claimants, regardless of whether previous claims had been paid. Affidavits provided as proof of relationship was accepted and branches of the Standard Bank were used as disbursement centers. Beneficiaries were allowed to submit applications at hospitals.  However, the ex-mine workers had attempted to disrupt the process.  To date, a total of 11,200 ex-mine workers had been paid a total amount of R32 million.

Discussion
The Chairperson asked the ex-mine workers present at the meeting to comment on the report presented to the Committee.

Mr M Xuza, an ex-mine worker, confirmed that the factual information provided in the report was correct.  He said that the Department of Health “was moving around like a frog”. He was not in a position to respond to the report as representatives of the DoH were not present.  The DoH had decided that beneficiaries that were the daughters-in-law of ex-mine workers were excluded but the sisters of ex-mine workers were included.  It was rumoured that neighbours of ex-mine workers were also entitled to submit claims.  The DoH continually added to the criteria applicable to the submission of claims, which caused the ex-mine workers to suspect that there was no money available to settle the claims.  The DoH had not provided information on the funds that were available for disbursement.  The ex-mine workers were concerned over the failure of the entities involved in the programme to attend the meeting with the Committee.  The ex-mine workers had not had contact with TEBA and the Chamber of Mines for a long time. The Premier of the Eastern Cape appeared to make no progress.  The representatives of the organisations involved in the process appeared to have little knowledge of the concerns of ex-mine workers.

Mr Patrick Nyamfu, an ex-mine worker, deplored the fact that the report was not available in Xhosa. The ex-mine workers were not provided with an agenda of the meeting and had not received the Xhosa translations of minutes of meetings. The amount of R54 million referred to had not been explained.  The total number of claimants was actually 18,563.  The ex-mine workers were not satisfied with the amount of R2,700 decided on and had expected more. It had to be understood that ex-mine workers would never be employed elsewhere. The high level of unemployment resulted in an increase in the rate of crime and robberies because people were unable to feed their families, an increase in alcohol abuse and the abuse of women and children. He welcomed the report on the health of ex-mineworkers.

Mr E Marais (DA) said that the IDTT needed to escalate the campaign to locate all the claimants.  The necessary funding was available and must be paid out to claimants as soon as possible.

Mr M Sonto (ANC) noted that the Committee was aware of an amount of R54 million being available in 2004 and that R32 million had been utilised.  The same amounts were quoted in 2011.  He asked how much of the R54 million had been paid out and how much remained available.  He wanted to know which other entities had funds that needed to be paid out to ex-mine workers.  He was unimpressed by the failure of TEBA to trace the ex-mine workers and to validate their details.  TEBA was supposed to have a database of all the ex-mine workers in place.  He asked if TEBA charged a fee for tracing the ex-mine workers.  He wanted to know what progress had been made on compiling a list of all the claimants and what had caused the delay.

Mr Boinamo noted that specific deadlines had been set for the submission of lists of claimants.  He saw no reason why the deadlines should not be adhered to, even if certain ex-mine workers could not be traced.  The fund of R54 million was supposed to accrue interest.  He wanted to know how the original amount of R30 million had increased to R54 million.  He asked how the amount of R2,700 per person was determined.  Any payments made to in-laws were contrary to the provisions in the Act and he wanted to know how such payments could have been made.  He noted that certain miners were paid twice and wanted to know where the money for the duplicated payments had come from.

Mr I Ollis (DA) observed that the process had commenced during the tenure of President Nelson Mandela. A number of key issues needed to be understood. The funds available were considered to be the employment benefits of ex-mine workers. The money was not intended to be pension or unemployment benefits. The benefits were applicable to people who were employed by the mines during the apartheid era. In certain cases the records had gone missing and if the IDTT was unable to determine the period of service of an applicant, an approximation should be made. The payments were not intended as a pension for the rest of the life of the ex-mine worker.  Applications for pensions and social security grants were separate processes.

Mr D Kgnare (COPE) queried the variance between the number of 11,000 identified claimants on page 6 of the presentation document and the number of 14,094 referred to subsequently.  He asked for an explanation of the acronyms used in the report.  There had to be more clarity on the purpose of the funds that were available.  He wanted to know who benefited from any interest that accrued on the remaining funds. The ex-mine workers were recruited by TEBA and were employed in the mines.  Either TEBA or the mines should have employment records for the ex-mine workers. He suspected the Apartheid Government of deliberately losing documentation.  He felt that there was a lack of cooperation between the entities involved in the process.

Ms Makhubela-Mashele appreciated the work that had been done by the IDTT.  She noted that no target date had been set to finalise the outstanding applications.  She asked if the Minister of Labour needed to intervene to ensure that the outstanding claims were settled.  She failed to understand why the Chamber of Mines was unable to obtain the records of beneficiaries yet the IDTT was able to get the records from TEBA. There was no reason why the Chamber of Mines could not have approached TEBA.  She wanted to know how many potential beneficiaries were identified by the Natal Coal Ex-Miners Cooperatives Union.  She suggested that the Committee summoned the CCOD to appear before Parliament to explain the current situation.

Ms H Line (ANC) asked what assistance was provided to ex-mine workers to approach the DoH, TEBA and the Premier of the Eastern Cape.

Mr F Maserumule (ANC) sympathised with the Commissioner of the IDTT.  He was extremely critical of the people who were responsible for the payment of benefits to the ex-mine workers.  He recalled his own experiences as a mine worker some 44 years ago.  He noted that the ANC had membership records and it was not acceptable that organisations that recruited mine workers had failed to keep records.  He asked what the deadline was for the list of claimants to be submitted.

The Chairperson asked if the report was distributed to all interested parties.  He requested the IDTT to submit the reports on its meetings to the Committee.  The Committee could assist the IDTT by reporting the failure of entities to attend the meetings to the relevant Ministers.

Mr Kgnare asked how the IDTT dealt with fraudulent claims.

Mr Gona asked if the ex-mine workers had contributed to the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF).  There was confusion about the exact amount available in the Fund.  As far as he was aware, the amount of R54 million was transferred to the office of the Eastern Cape Premier by the Chamber of Mines. The Department of Labour had undertaken a great deal of work and had increased the staff compliment to deal with the project. The DoL needed to be provided with clear direction. There were ex-mine workers in the other provinces as well, not only in the Eastern Cape. RMA was supposed to disclose to the Committee the extent of the unclaimed benefits.  The issue of occupational diseases was a very serious matter that had to be addressed.  The CCOD was supposed to brief the Committee on how the issue of occupational diseases was dealt with and what funds were available.

Mr Seruwe thanked the Committee for the assistance provided to the IDTT. He advised that the Chamber of Mines had identified an amount of R40 million in unclaimed benefits. The challenge in 2001 was that a list of 4,400 claimants was received but only 2,100 were considered to be legitimate claimants.  The suggestion that the Minister provided a workable solution to ensure that the claims were finalised was appreciated as no deadline had been set.  There were 880 claimants for whom the end date of employment could not be established.  The IDTT received the list of names and the information from ex-mine workers.  It was possible that the list could include fraudulent claimants.  The IDTT was not able to verify the data and had found that certain people on the list had never worked in the mines.

Mr Seruwe said that the Act had to be amended to address the issue of daughters-in-law. Any interest earned on the funds was supposed to be used for development purposes.  The IDTT was open for suggestions from Parliament on how the interest earned could be utilised. TEBA did not charge a fee to trace claimants.  However, complaints had been received from ex-mine workers that TEBA had demanded a fee. The CCOD was working with a composite list of 18,500 claimants and was looking at ways to reduce the number of people on the list. The remaining money available was approximately R18 million. The Fidentia issue had not yet been discussed and the IDTT would appreciate the assistance of the Committee on how the matter should be dealt with. The correct amount was R54 million but the ex-mine workers were not happy with the amount made available. He agreed that the benefit amount of R2,700 was inadequate.  The deadline to receive UIF documentation had been met.  The IDTT was considering how compensation could be paid to people without verified periods of service.  It was possible to estimate the amount of remuneration where the data could not be verified.  The deadline for the RMA was September 2011 and 7 October 2011 for the Chamber of Mines.

The Chairperson noted that the response gave no indication of when the process would be finalised. There was no need to request the intervention of the Minister as the Committee was empowered to intervene where necessary.

Mr Boinamo remarked that workers were required to clock in and out and the clocking records could be used to determine the period of service of a worker.

Mr Sonto remarked that many mine workers were given a number and that employment records did not necessarily include the name of the worker.  The worker effectively lost his identity if the number was lost.  He expected the IDDT to provide details of the source and amount of the funds that had been made available at the next briefing to Parliament.  Accrued interest had to be applied to development programmes.  It was necessary for the Committee to ascertain the surplus funds held by the RMA.

Mr B Tholi, an ex-mine worker reiterated the concerns over the failure of the entities involved in the process to attend meetings.  He requested the Committee to summon the RMA and the relevant Government Departments to provide an explanation.  He said that certain ex-mine workers who had suffered injuries in the mines were omitted from the list.  He repeated the instances where the claims of daughters-in-law were refused.

Mr Xuza was upset by the manner in which ex-mine workers were treated. The ex-mine workers did not need to be pushed or rushed and knew where applications for pensions and grants had to be made.

Mr Gona noted that it was clear that the issue of the ex-mine workers had not been resolved. He suggested that the IDTT, RMA, CCOD, Department of Health, Fidentia, Chamber of Mines, TEBA, National Union of Mineworkers, Department of Mineral Resources, the Eastern Cape Premier, the office of the Presidency and the National Treasury were invited to attend the meeting of the Committee in October.  The RMA had to report on the funds that were available at the next meeting.

The Chairperson said that the report from the IDTT and the attendance register would be submitted to Parliament. The emphasis should not be on how much money was available but on who qualified to receive the money. More than one day would be necessary for the meeting with all the role players.

The meeting was adjourned.

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