Multi-mil­lion mal­oti pay­out for Ba­sotho min­ers

Lesotho Times - - News - ’Marafaele Mohloboli

About eighty eight for­mer ba­sotho mine-work­ers are set to re­ceive com­pen­sa­tion worth M8.6 mil­lion from Q(h)ubeka trust of South Africa for health com­pli­ca­tions suf­fered while work­ing in that coun­try’s mines, the Le­sotho Times has learnt.

Qhubeka Trust was founded in March 2016 on the back of a lengthy com­pen­sa­tion bat­tle by at­tor­neys rep­re­sent­ing ex-minework­ers who have con­tracted sil­i­co­sis while work­ing for var­i­ous mines owned by An­glo Amer­i­can and An­gl­o­gold Ashanti Limited.

The trust was es­tab­lished with the spe­cific pur­pose of distribut­ing the M395 mil­lion set­tle­ment which An­glo Amer­i­can and An­gl­o­gold Ashanti Limited agreed to pay to claimants in March 2016 as com­pen­sa­tion to ex-min­ers who con­tracted sil­i­co­sis work­ing for the two com­pa­nies in South Africa.

the trust’s chair­per­son, Sophia Kist­ing-cairn­cross, said Qhubeka “recog­nises and honours the thou­sands of claimants who have strug­gled for decades with the de­bil­i­tat­ing ef­fects of Sil­i­co­sis, but have never re­ceived any form of com­pen­sa­tion from the min­ing com­pa­nies re­spon­si­ble for their ill­ness”.

The 88 are the first batch out of 1 154 min­ers who sub­mit­ted their claims for com­pen­sa­tion for oc­cu­pa­tional dis­eases con­tracted while work­ing at mines owned by the con­glom­er­ate An­gl­o­gold Ashanti Limited.

All in all the trust has a to­tal of 4365 claimants from var­i­ous parts of South Africa, Le­sotho and Swazi­land.

A press state­ment is­sued this week by the Minework­ers De­vel­op­ment Agency (MDA), states that the 88 are min­ers “who may be suf­fer­ing from oc­cu­pa­tional lung dis­ease- sil­i­co­sis, as a di­rect re­sult of the fail­ure of the mines to en- sure ad­e­quate pro­tec­tion mea­sures against the dis­ease for their mine work­ers”.

“To date ap­prox­i­mately 35 per­cent of the claimants in Le­sotho have been tested, and have been deemed to be suf­fer­ing from the dis­ease, thereby qual­i­fy­ing them for the claim pay­outs.”

the multi-mil­lion mal­oti pay­out is the out­come of ne­go­ti­a­tions for a set­tle­ment be­tween the min­ers’ le­gal rep­re­sen­ta­tives and their for­mer em­ploy­ers.

“Now that the at­tor­neys rep­re­sent­ing these min­ers have suc­cess­fully ne­go­ti­ated a set­tle­ment, the Trust has part­nered with the Minework­ers De­vel­op­ment Agency (MDA) in Le­sotho to fa­cil­i­tate the pro­vi­sion of com­pen­sa­tion to all Q(h)ubeka Trust qual­i­fy­ing claimants.

“the process of as­sess­ing the el­i­gi­bil­ity of claimants is a lengthy one and be­gins with a com­pre­hen­sive med­i­cal eval­u­a­tion aimed at es­tab­lish­ing that each claimant suf­fers from sil­i­co­sis,” the state­ments reads.

Sil­i­co­sis is a pro­gres­sive and in­cur­able lung prob­lem ail­ment caused by long-term in­hala­tion of sil­ica dust in the mines.

Q(h)ubeka trust has since part­nered with lo­cal health ser­vice providers to pro­vide med­i­cal tests to min­ers.

After the tests, the re­sults are sent to a panel of qual­i­fied med­i­cal spe­cial­ists who make a fi­nal de­ci­sion as to whether or not those tested have con­tracted sil­i­co­sis.

Dr Kist­ing-cairn­cross said al­though the trust had made progress in as­sist­ing ex-min­ers, there were still a lot of chal­lenges that needed to be over­come in or­der to de­liver on the Trust’s man­date within the given time frame which has been set at April 2019, for the com­ple­tion of the med­i­cal as­sess­ments and the first tranche of com­pen­sa­tion pay­ments.

one of the ma­jor chal­lenges is that of trac­ing the claimants whose con­tact de­tails have changed since the set­tle­ment law­suit was first ini­ti­ated.

the other chal­lenge is that of prov­ing that the miner worked for the mine for the min­i­mum two years to be el­i­gi­ble for com­pen­sa­tion.

“To qual­ify for com­pen­sa­tion claimants must be able to show proof of at least two years of ser­vice in An­gl­o­gold mines. How­ever em­ploy­ment record keep­ing by the mines has gen­er­ally been found to be very poor,” Dr Kist­ing-cairn­cross said.

She said while no amount of money could re­store the claimants to good health or re­turn the de­ceased claimants to their loved ones, “the set­tle­ment pay­ments rep­re­sent a mea­sure of the com­pen­sa­tion that these claimants and their fam­i­lies de­serve for the suf­fer­ing they have en­dured as a re­sult of this de­bil­i­tat­ing dis­ease”.

To date, 2350 of the 4365 claimants have un­der­gone med­i­cal as­sess­ments but less than half of these have been de­ter­mined to be suf­fer­ing from Sil­i­co­sis.

As of 30 Novem­ber 2017 a to­tal of R102m had been awarded to claimants from dif­fer­ent coun­tries.

In terms of the Trust Deed which sets out the claims cri­te­ria the trust has un­til April 2019 to com­plete the med­i­cal as­sess­ments of all claimants, and make the first tranche of com­pen­sa­tion pay­ments to qual­i­fy­ing claimants.

After this, the trust will make a sec­ond tranche of pay­ments where the re­main­ing set­tle­ment funds that were not paid out in the first tranche will be dis­trib­uted to the qual­i­fy­ing claimants as well as the fam­ily mem­bers of qual­i­fy­ing de­ceased claimants.

AT least M61.6 mil­lion has been paid to for­mer South African mine work­ers as part of their out­stand­ing so­cial se­cu­rity ben­e­fits ac­quired dur­ing their em­ploy in the mines. — file pic.

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