The hurdles of getting benefits for ex-miners

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minersBy Mpho Rakoto

BASOTHO MEN who have worked in South African mines face a hurdle when they have to receive their dues after retrenchment.

An even more serious predicament surfaces when Lesotho men die in mines in their line of duty, leaving a burden for beneficiaries such as spouses, parents or children who face the uphill task of claiming their husbands’, sons’ or fathers’ monies.

The South African desk at the Ministry of Labour and Employment says ex-miners from South African mines are required to submit the relevant documents in time to the department so that it follows up on their outstanding monies.

A claim has to be launched within twelve months, failing which they lose their monies if claims are presented after this time, the department says.

A representative of the Ministry of Labour and Employment on the South African Desk, Moliehi Ramonate, indicated that mines are regulated by the Employment Act of South Africa, 130 of 1993.

She said that there is no law in Lesotho that protects former miners if they fail to regain their monies from South Africa.

According to the South African Desk at Labour, the South African government signed an agreement with countries that have sent their men to work in South African mines.

Recently, an initiative was taken by the Mineworkers Provident Fund (MPF) from South Africa to pay outstanding monies to ex-miners and those who had died and those who have been retrenched. According to Kikine only 70 out 5 000 have received their due monies.

However, the Ministry of Labour said it has not received a full report on how the MFP has worked and what challenges it faced and how it intends to address them.

Meanwhile, the Employment Bureau of South Africa (TEBA) Ltd, a recruitment agency for South Africa, says its duty is to trace the outstanding monies owing to miners working in South African mines and document collection.

The Regional Manager of TEBA, representing Lesotho, Kikine Kikine, indicated that there is no problem for ex-miners to get their dues after retrenchment, but a huge challenge surfaces when a miner has been dismissed as this costs them a lot to trace his employment record with other mines in which he had worked.

The problem, according to Kikine, is that some mines close down and it becomes difficult to trace their monies as it takes a long time to trace monies.

A representative of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) in Lesotho, Montoeli Masoetsa indicated that the problem of ex-miners getting their monies is that they sometimes deceive TEBA on their marital status when they fill the nomination form, where they provide their full personal details. It makes it difficult for their spouses when they come to claim benefits after their death since their names would not have been cited in the form as exact beneficiaries.

He said that it complicates matters when their spouses, who were not cited at the time of employment in the nomination form, have to get the dues of their deceased husbands.

Claims are done using the Pension Fund Act NO. 24 of 1956 and failure to comply with requirements of this Act means ex-miners claims’ for their monies cannot succeed.

A number of non-governmental organisations have been established to help ex-miners demand their dues and they have been calling on government to intervene in their predicament, but little has come out of their efforts.

A representative of the Matsora Labour Legitimate Dealings (PTY) Ltd, a local company helping ex-miners regain their monies, had promised to give details on the matter but it later reneged on the promise.

The number of Lesotho mineworkers in South African mines has gradually declined from a high of around 111 000 in 1987 to approximately 31 000 in 2012.

This is due partly to the introduction of work permits that meant that only experienced people were employed according to the Migration Act of 2002, which saw scores of Basotho men being retrenched.

This has had severe implications for household survival, given the extreme reliance on remittances from South African mines by Lesotho, which cannot create jobs for its people.

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