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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Constitutional Court affirms Reparations for Ex-workers

Mine Veteran compensation for occupational diseases

     The recent ruling by the Constitutional Court ruled that mine veterans suffering from lung diseases are eligible to claim compensation directly from the companies they worked with. This overturned the status quo in which miners suffering from debilitating lung diseases were compensated by the Occupational Diseases in Mineworkers with a one-off compensation of less than R25,000. This let the mines bosses off the hook from any further responsibility. But the Constitutional Court turned this up side down and ruled that this indemnity from further responsibility to pay adequate compensation in unconstitutional. It also ruled that R2,6 million is an adequate and fair compensation.

      While this is good news the mine veterans are still responsible to produce proof that they are suffering from phthisis. This is a snag for many. The law stipulates that once every two years miners who leave service have their lungs x-rayed. This never happens. So as things now stand, mine veterans have to ensure that they are medically examined. Besides this all the hassles currently being experienced like getting proof of service, identity papers are still the responsibility of the mine veteran. In short, the Constitutional Court has opened a window of opportunity this is still subject to a long process that can take up to five years to go through the High Court. Secondly, the need for medical examinations can still present a significant stumbling block for mine veterans.

     While it true that the Chamber of Mines as well as Teba say that they are 100% up-to-date with their documentation relating to each and every single miner  over the last century, we have reason to doubt that. Both these organizations representing mine bosses admit that up to 70% of the workers they have on their books are no long traceable.

     The point is that the compensation claims are real and we have to fight for them. We still have a far way to go. It is going to be an uphill battle!

Jubilee Eastern Cape

 Soon after the first democratic elections in 1994 there was concern that the A N C government would come under intense pressure to repay the debts made by the Apartheid Government. To pressurize the A NC Not to repay the Apartheid debt,  a national movement called “Jubilee South Africa” advocating that the new government under Nelson Mandela not repay these debts which at that time amounted to R 40 billion.

      The motivation is clear. The imposition of taxes on the black people was a form of debt slavery meant to drive the people off the land to work in the mines. While mining companies such as Anglo American earned billions in profits, black workers were paid almost nothing  Most of the earnings of the Gold Mining Companies ended up in the pockets of rich shareholders over seas.

     Today these gold mining companies, when confronted by these injustices they like to reply that they not only scored nicely in profits, but built up cities like Johannesburg and left infrastructure like roads and railways which make South Africa what it is today.

     These mining companies forget to say that they paid the black workers nothing. Also they refuse to respond when reminded that blacks in general had no vote and that while it is true that rich cities were built, this only happened at the expense of stealing the land and impoverishing the rural areas, later to be called “Bantustans”. 
     So the case for objectionable debt slavery of the black people is well motivated. If the Mining Companies say that they were the backbone of the South African economy, the truth is that cheap black labor was the backbone of mining in South Africa.

      Unfortunately the Mbeki government refused to listen to the wisdom to scrap the apartheid debt. So this evil debt, which is even against what the Bible tells in Leviticus Chapter 25, which calls on debt cancellation and land restoration every Sabbath year, is still being repaid today.

     Thabo Mbeki strongly opposed it, and the Jubilee South Africa campaign fell apart. There was no progress and the Mbeki government strongly opposed it. This was due to the A N C government’s stubbornness to satisfy the big overseas companies at all costs.

     In 2009 Jubilee South Africa broke up. But because of a number of projects that were being driven by Jubilee Eastern Cape (JEC), these were taken together and placed in a “safety net”: JEC registered with the Dept. of Social Development and has its own IPO number.     

     So Jubilee Eastern Cape is now registered and is independent of any other organization. Jubilee South Africa still exists as an umbrella body, but has no direct connection with JEC.  
     These projects relate to advocacy work for ex-mine workers, stimulating community volunteers/marshals, and ensuring safe communities through participation in Community Policing Forums.


     A number of facts of great concern emerge from Mbhodamo’s testimony. First, he was never examined by x-ray for lung disease. Second, while he never was sick or lost a day at work underground, he and the full complement of underground workers were given “pills” without explanation. “It was like a farmer dosing his sheep”, he said.
      Mine Companies are doing no favors in paying adequate compensation for diseases like phthisis. According to the Constitutional Court compensation in the order of R 2 million is fair for lost working years, suffering and medical costs.   In the end we are speaking of reparations that have to be made to their families and above all, to compensate for the underdevelopment of their communities caused by the evil migrant labour system!! 

 Oral History Project  / Jubilee Eastern Cape / Non Profit Organization  Nr. 077-412-NPO