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Outreach Campaigns on Unclaimed Social Security and Compensation Benefits for Former Mineworkers

The Southern Africa Trust hosted a task team convening and outreach on unclaimed social security and compensation benefits for mineworkers on 6-7 September 2017 in Malawi.

The two-day programme was aimed at addressing changing practices and historical injustices with regards to the recruitment of former mineworkers.

Stakeholders present at the task team meeting on August 6 included the South African Department of Health, Financial Services Board, NEPAD Agency, Southern Africa Miners Association (SAMA), TEBA Ltd, Botswana Labour Migrants Association, Mozambique Miners Association, Ex-Wenela Miners Association of Zimbabwe and Ex-Miners Association of Malawi.

More than R5.7bn is owed to former mineworkers in social security and compensation benefits. These are mineworkers who were employed in the South African mining industry and who hail from Lesotho, Swaziland, Mozambique, Botswana, Malawi, Zimbabwe and also South Africa.

“Former miners and beneficiaries in Malawi have not had the opportunity to engage with relevant compensation and social security institutions in South Africa. The unclaimed benefits owed to mineworkers remain significant,” said Christabel Phiri, mobilisation and engagement manager at the Trust.

The task team meetings provided an opportunity for stakeholders to provide an update on the status of disbursement of unclaimed social security and compensation benefits as well as challenges experienced by ex-mineworkers. It was also a platform to explore new opportunities for collaboration among the stakeholders.

Unclaimed social security benefits as of 2016:

Unpaid funds by the Mineworkers Provident Fund (MWPF) are worth R3,177 billion rands for 72,566 beneficiaries. Between 2015 and 2016 MWPF has paid R579m to the beneficiaries. Another fund, with significant amount of unclaimed benefits is Mines 1970 Unclaimed Benefits Preservation Funds, in 2016 the unclaimed funds amounted to R652m for 62,314 beneficiaries. In the period between 2015 and 2016, Mines 1970 Unclaimed Benefits Preservation Funds was only able to disburse R11m.

The task team advised that former mineworkers continue to live in poor conditions and face health risks, such as contracting silicosis, asbestos-related diseases, obstructive airways disease, with tuberculosis being the most common.

There is a knowledge gap among miners and widows on the status and location of their unclaimed funds. Furthermore, low literacy levels among the beneficiaries contribute to challenges for mineworkers to meet administrative and regulatory requirements to access benefits.

Two outreaches were held on August 7; one in the Lilongwe district, with 108 attendees and another meeting in the Ntcheu district with 2,042 attendees.

The task team communicated information on social security and compensation institutions, and eligibility and claims procedures during information-sharing sessions with former miners, widows and beneficiaries.

“The meetings provided former mineworkers and widows of mineworkers an opportunity to engage with stakeholders and receive responses on their queries about delayed receipt of benefits,” she said.

During the outreach meetings, miners shared that they were aware of benefits being owed to them but did not have the requisite information on the different funds and criteria to be met in order to access their benefits.

The widows said they felt frustrated by filling in forms without seeing enough action from organisations responsible for issuing the benefits.

Beneficiaries who attended the meetings were empowered with knowledge, particularly regarding the compensation-related benefits in terms of the criteria for eligibility, procedures and processes for claiming benefits. The Trust also provided information booklets published in the Chichewa language.       

National associations of mineworkers will continue to try to trace mineworkers on a national level and link them with beneficiaries.

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