Billions of rand meant to compensate former migrant workers from Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Lesotho, Mozambique and Malawi who toiled in South African gold, coal and diamond mines remain unclaimed because discrimination laws still prevail against blacks.
The Living Hands Umbrella Trust in South Africa has R$1,2 billion (roughly US$78,9 million) while the Mineworkers Provident Fund has at least R$3,6 billion (US$236,7 million) that remain unclaimed by former African migrant workers, according to an organisation that advocates conducive labour migration policies.
Tens of thousands of workers from several African countries migrated to South Africa in the 1920s to ‘80s and worked in mines there.
Many of these former miners were ignorant of laws that entitled them to compensation for occupational injuries and illnesses like silicosis that continue to kill many of them.
These compensatory laws, however, mainly favour whites, it emerged at a Sadc Parliamentary Forum meeting on criminalisation and stigmatisation disincentives to fundamental human rights in South Africa last week.
Parliamentarians from Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Tanzania, Lesotho, Swaziland and the host nation attended.
Swaziland Migrant Mineworkers’ Association secretary-general Mr Vama Jele gave a moving presentation on migrant workers who die from HIV/Aids and silicosis.
He also spoke about existing South African legislation like the Occupation Disease and Mine Works Act (1973) that would, in theory, pay compensation to former migrant workers from mainly Southern Africa.
The Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Disease Act is another key law.
Mr Jele told this reporter: “(The law) covers all those who worked here if they can be traced and have all the relevant documentation … In a rare case settled in 2014, 321 former Swazi migrant workers were paid R$11 million (US$723 000) in compensation.”
South African legislator Mr Moses Siphosezwe Masango (ANC) implored the Sadc PF to advocate laws that ensured compensation, while his Namibian counterpart Ms Agnes Limbo (RDP) called for comprehensive research covering all affected countries.
Sadc PF undertook to pursue legislation that covers several compensation funds in South Africa to facilitate compensation for migrants who meet all requirements as in Swaziland’s case. – New Era
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