The Sunday Mail
AT LEAST 1 000 Zimbabweans who worked in South African gold mines under the Witwatersrand Native Labour Association (Wenela) are set to benefit from the provisional compensation pool of R5 billion that has been set aside.
The number of ex-Wenela workers from this country could, however, double, as the vetting is still underway.
The authorities are currently involved in engagements to ensure full operationalisation of the payment process.
The workers will receive payments ranging from R10 000 to R500 000 per individual, for contracting silicosis and tuberculosis (TB) from the mines.
Tshiamiso Trust, which was set up in 2020 after ex-Wenela workers won a class-action lawsuit in the High Court of South Africa in 2019, is responsible for handling the compensation process.
In an interview with this publication, Tshiamiso Trust executive for stakeholder relations and communications Ms Lusanda Jiya said enough money had been set aside for payment to the beneficiaries.
“The settling parties agreed to an amount of R5 billion. This amount is uncapped; the settling parties agreed to pay beyond the R5 billion if the trust finds more eligible claimants.
“Our database shows that there are over 1 000 potential claimants in Zimbabwe.
“We see that there is a possibility of getting more than 1 000 potential claimants, and we are projecting that we might get any figure between 1 500 and 2 000,” said Ms Jiya.
“This means the total amount that will be disbursed to Zimbabwe cannot be specified until we get the exact number of those who passed our vetting process.
“Once the operational framework is in place, the funds will be disbursed accordingly,” said Ms Jiya.
She added that the trust respects each country’s laws, and they are waiting for the greenlight from Government.
According to Ms Jiya, each claim will be assessed individually, and the amount a claimant receives depends on the class that he/she is certified for.
Other factors that are considered include the period worked at a qualifying mine, the risk level of the work, and severity of the lung impairment due to silicosis or work-related TB.
“There are processes that we are following before our full operationalisation of the country payouts this year.
“All eligible claimants (living and dependants of the deceased) who lodge a claim will be compensated. Claimants would need to lodge a claim with the trust at one of our lodgement offices. However, in Zimbabwe, we do not have these services pending our negotiations with Government,” she said.
The trust is considering workers who were employed by African Rainbow Minerals, Anglo American South Africa, AngloGold Ashanti, Gold Fields, Harmony Gold and Sibanye-Stillwater.
The compensation is applicable to employees who carried out risky work at these mines between March 12, 1965 and December 10, 2019, and were diagnosed with silicosis before December 2021 — or those who contracted tuberculosis while working at the mines — or within a year of leaving the mines.
As of March this year, Tshiamiso Trust had paid over R1 billion for more than 11 000 claims from ex-workers from other countries such as Malawi, who went to South Africa at the same time as Zimbabweans.
Recently, Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Permanent Secretary Mr Simon Masanga said the compensation was long overdue.
“This is what ex-Wenela workers have been yearning for. What they need to do is to compile all the necessary documents to prove that they worked for the said companies.
“Contractual documents are crucial if they are present, but affidavits cannot be taken as evidence in the process, according to the Tshiamiso Trust representatives who visited the country late last year,” said Mr Masanga.
Ex-Wenela Miners Association of Zimbabwe national chairperson Mr Charles Nyawacha said the process is going on well, as Government’s intervention helped to lay the roadmap.
“The process, although it seems to be long, is going on well.
“Government’s procedure requires Tshiamiso Trust to sign a memorandum of understanding with the National Social Security Authority, and this week, we are having a meeting with Government representatives on the matter,” he said.
“Once the process is complete, eligible beneficiaries will start to get their dues.”
During the mid-century gold rush, thousands of Zimbabweans migrated to South Africa, where they ended up contracting respiratory diseases such as TB and silicosis as a result of poor ventilation in the mines.