Mr Wilson Dudmezela, on behalf of Disabled People South Africa (DPSA) presented a petition to the Committee in relation to the Compensation for Occupational Diseases and Injuries Act. The first request was that the Committee help DPSA to put pressure on the relevant parties to amend the COIDA which was lacking in various respects. Secondly, he asked that Rand Mutual Assurance (RMA) medical cover should be extended to cover the recipient’s family. Thirdly, he called for disabled people to be part of the social projects that were meant to benefit them, pointing out that currently they were run by people who did not know, understand or relate to their needs and struggles as disabled people. Finally, he requested better support from the government for disabled people. He highlighted several instances where ex-mineworkers left disabled did not receive the same compensation for the same injuries as their white counterparts who may have been on higher salaries because compensation was presently calculated as a percentage of last earnings. He noted that many of the initiatives, because they did not seek input from disabled people, were not useful, such as bathrooms that were inadequate. There was concern that cover ceased on death with no provision being made for families. The Department of Labour and Compensation Fund noted that it was already addressing several of the issues raised, by way of a draft new Bill that was to be taken to NEDLAC and that would hopefully be ready by August. The Commissioner of the Compensation Fund explained how the benefits were currently calculated and applied although he conceded that there were discrepancies, but it must also be remembered that if the injured parties asked for a larger commutation of the benefit by lump sum this would reduce their monthly payouts. In addition, he stressed that currently the legislation would not extend death or post-death benefits if the cause of death was not related to the injury. Members asked who was taking responsibility for coordinating social projects, who determined what victims needed and how this was done, whether costs spent on hospitalisation and care were deducted from awards, and how Rand Mutual Assurance was capitalised and how it invested. Further clarity was given on the calculation of benefits and social projects
Ms Fuzane presented her petition that was lodged in relation to alleged mis-treatment and assaults upon her daughter, Tamara Fuzane, at Groote Schuur Hospital and her unhappiness about the way in which her daughters health issues were managed. However, due to shortness of time, she was unable to finish her description and the matter was postponed.
Petition calling for amendment of the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act: Disabled People SA represented by Mr Wilson Dudmezela
The Chairperson welcomed Mr Dudmezela and informed him that he could speak and express himself in the language he felt comfortable with. Mr Dudmezela spoke in Xhosa and there was a translator present to translate what Mr Dudmezela was saying.
He explained that he was presenting this petition on behalf of all the disabled ex-mine workers who had been injured whilst working in the mines. A number of them were not happy with the compensation that they had received, and some were not receiving any compensation at all. He discussed the challenges of being a disabled person, coupled with being poor and disadvantaged. The current compensation that disabled ex-mine workers received was not sufficient to cover their costs, at most covering their groceries only but not allowing anything for their well-being. The compensation was calculated as 30% of the salary earned while the miners were working, in terms of the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act (COIDA).
He asked Parliament to help the disabled miners to challenge the COIDA because it dictated how much the miners would be paid and what benefits they received. He reiterated that they were living in very difficult conditions because of the Act.
He further explained that it was unjust and problematic that whites who had earned more would be compensated more than blacks for the very same injury. He argued that this was oppressive and an indication that black disabled ex-mine workers were not valued or seen as human beings. He said that this amounted to the ex-miners living under the same conditions as they had been during the apartheid regime.
He then went on to speak about the social projects run by government to help assist disabled ex-miners, but noted that it was problematic that the projects were run by people who are not disabled, because they did not understand and could not relate to or sympathise with disabled people. They did not know what they needed and could not adopt solutions or projects that effectively helped them, not being able to relate or understand their difficulties. He gave an example of the Sanitation Project that the government initiated, which focused on building toilets inside the victims’ home, which were not disabled-friendly.
He noted that there was also lack of medical support for their families; and explained that this was a common problem in Southern African Development Community (SADC) regions. Some sicknesses were not covered or included in the medical support, which was a further problem.
Although there had been a R180 increase, this was not enough for the well-being of the disabled ex mineworkers. He and other disabled ex-miners had had a meeting with Mr Jay Singh, Chief Executive Officer, Rand Mutual Assurance (RMA) and Mr S MKhorte/ Mkonto, the Commissioner of the Compensation Fund (CF), to discuss some of these issues and have them explained to them.
He also brought up the problem of the compensation stopping when the ex-mineworker passed away, which was another problem as the family was then left without support and well-being.
He complained about the exploitative system the mineworkers found themselves in, where they were getting paid very little while the companies they worked for were making and saving millions at their expense.
He concluded with a request that, firstly, this Committee should help to place pressure on the relevant parties to amend the COIDA. Secondly, he requested that the RMA medical cover be extended to the victim’s family. Thirdly, he requested that disabled people be part of social projects aimed at helping, supporting and developing them and have the opportunity to run these projects. Finally, he asked that the government should offer more support to disabled people.
Department of Labour comment
The Chairperson thanked Mr Dudmezela and called on the Director-General of the Department of Labour (DOL) to answer the challenges and problems raised by Mr Dudmezela directly.
Mr Thobile Lamati, Director-General, Department of Labour explained that the DOL and Compensation Fund were currently working on the issues raised by Mr Dudmezela. He explained that they were already in the process of amending the Act, and there was a Bill already in place, which was the subject of comprehensive ongoing work to cover issues of recovery, the improvement of benefits and continued benefits. When exactly this could be implemented and come into effect would depend on the time taken in the legislative process.
The Chairperson asked if there was a time frame for the legislative process.
Mr Lamati explained that their current deadline was the end of August. He explained that the Department anticipated some delay when it is taken to the National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC) because of the number of various social partners involved.
Mr Shadrack Mkhonto, Commissioner, Compensation Fund, added to the discussion and emphasised the context, saying that it was important that the Committee be fully apprised of what was involved. Those disabled in the workplace would receive nursing/care funding, so that they could hire someone to take care of them. However, this in itself was a problem because there was a discrepancy in the amounts allocated to the injured party by way of compensation, and the amounts paid to carers to look after them. The board was currently trying to work on this problem. He also spoke about the problem of the commutation of benefits by the ex-employees. Many of them asked for the larger part of their savings to be paid out by way of lump sum and that would of course affect their monthly paycheck. He identified a need to educate people about this, and the consequences of their decisions.
He explained that the current legislation did not cover the injured person if the death was not related to the injury, so if, for example, the person died of pneumonia not related to lung problems at work, the funeral would not be paid for and the cover would not continue. Part of the current amendments were aimed at putting mechanisms in place to ensure that victims would be covered, and supported fully, and would prepare employers to try to ensure a place for the injured person back at the workplace, or to put in place an adequate support and medical plan for the victim after the accident.
Mr L Nzimande (ANC, Kwa-Zulu Natal) asked who would take the final responsibility and co-ordinate the social projects? Who determined what the victims needed and how was this done. He believed that the RMA needed to deal with what the mining companies and houses provided.
Mr Nzimande asked whether the mining companies claimed the costs that they spent on the care and hospitalisation of injured people, arising from the RMA, and whether this money was considered to be part of the capital settlement. He asked how the RMA was recapitalised and how it was investing its money.
Mr Nzimande also asked whether the percentage calculation of a person’s disability was linked to their salary and benefits.
Mr B (Jay) Singh, Chief Executive Officer, Rand Mutual Assurance, explained that companies had never done such, and that the company (RMA) was not aware that including costs as part of the settlement was being done, but if it were, it would be illegal. The manner in which the RMA was investing its money was published on its website, and he offered to send details to Mr Nzimande.
Mr M Mhlanga (ANC, Mpumalanga), sought clarity on the composition of the Act, specifically Chapter 4. He explained that he was under the impression that the dependants' health was covered and part of the benefits. He also sought clarity around the methods used in social projects, especially ones aimed at empowering the disabled ex-mine workers.
Mr Mkhonto explained that they do qualify for benefits and that the dependants would continue receiving benefits when the victim passed on, but he remarked again that this would only apply if the death was caused by the injuries received and would not if the death was due to unrelated causes.
Mr Singh explained that both the RMA and the mining houses would take on social projects. He explained that some mining companies already had plans and projects in place to support and aid their ex-employees, such as building wheelchair ramps at their homes and toilets within the house. In such cases the RMA would not be directly involved but instead it was a project run by the mining houses doing something for their ex-employees, although sometimes they may ask RMA to help fund these projects.
He was aware that many of the people felt that the projects should be run by disabled people and so the RMA would be considering this in the future and involve them more. Generally speaking, it would work with local people from the area on different projects that helped to support them. Sometimes some people decided they wanted to be entrepreneurs and work on something specific. There was a focus, through the projects, on skills development and helping disabled ex-mine workers to find something that they liked and enjoyed doing and excelled at; looking to what skills they already had and what could be developed. Some of the projects that it was currently involved in included sewing skills and chicken farming. The RMA would also help people to run businesses and they could ask for extra money. He explained that the additional money would come from the employees that RMA insured.
The Chairperson explained that the Committee would develop an interest in this and work on it, and then present any information, findings and suggestions to the National Council of Provinces. He also explained that the Committee would be tracking the progress of the DOL and Compensation Fund on this matter and would be monitoring how soon they were able to deliver the amended legislation. He thanked those who had presented and informed Mr Dudmezela that he would be informed of and be part of the decision made by the Committee.
Ms Fuzane Petition: on behalf of Tamara Fuzane, alleged assaults at public hospital
Ms Fuzane was late and explained that this was due to the fact that the transport that was meant to fetch her did not come, so she had to make her own way to Parliament.
She explained that she was presenting this petition on behalf of her daughter, Tamara Fuzane, who had passed away whilst she had been in Groote Schuur Hospital. She explained that the problem started in 2011. She had received rude and dismissive treatment from Dr Thomas. She informed the Committee that she informed Belinda Bailey about this and she had advised that she must email Professor Taylor.
The Chairperson asked that a copy of all communication via email and fax, and any letters received, would be copied and given to the Committee.
Ms Fuzane explained that whilst her daughter was in hospital, her health had worsened and she was informed that her daughter's "drain pipes that were inserted" were blocked and that she would need an operation. Ms Fuzane signed the papers that were given to her to give her consent to the operation. However, when she arrived to visit her daughter, she had been put in a normal ward and not in the Intensive Care Unit, although she should have been in the ICU because of the seriousness of the operation. She informed the Committee that she was refused a medical report on her daughter’s condition and was told that she could take her daughter home since there was nothing the hospital could do for her. While she was dressing her daughter she saw marks on her body as if she had been assaulted, and the nurses could not explain where these marks were from.
Ms Fuzane took this story to the media and it was published in the City Vision of Khayelitsha on 25 August 2011. Following the publication of the article she received a call from the Groote Schuur Management, asking her to please meet with them. Management re-admitted her daughter to the hospital, and then referred her to Conradie Care Centre to foster her rehabilitation. Ms Fuzane explained to the Committee that she had informed management that she could not afford this facility, and she voiced her scepticism , whether the Care Centre could, by its nature, help her daughter, but she had still approved the transfer.
Three months later, Tamara Fuzane was discharged from Conradie Care Centre. The Centre made an appointment for her to go to the hospital for a check up towards the middle of November 2011. Ms Fuzane took Tamara to Groote Schuur Hospital for her check-up and the doctor assigned to treat Tamara told Ms Fuzane that her daughter would be discharged and referred to Khayelitsha Day Hospital. However, no referral letter was issued by the doctor, and because of this, Ms Fuzane had great difficulty and problems in accessing Khayelitsha Day Hospital.
The Chairperson interrupted Ms Fuzane’s account of events at this point and apologised that he had not anticipated that the meeting would take as long as it had, and the Committee was faced with time constraints. He apologised for the inconvenience to her and other external parties who had attended the hearing, who were representatives from the national and provincial Departments of Health, and advised that he would have to postpone the remainder of the account and deliberations until the following Wednesday.
Mr D Ximbi (ANC, Western Cape) asked if the Committee could know who was present so that the same people may be present at the next hearing. tomorrow. He also asked that the doctors and lawyers involved in the case should also be present.
The Chairperson noted that the Indaba scheduled for 8 and 9 May had been indefinitely postponed.
Mr G Michalakis (DA, Free State) suggested that the Committee discuss the Indaba and engage in this topic because it was very important.
The Chairperson reiterated that the Committee was pressed for time and said that it would be discussed in the following week. The meeting was adjourned.
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