The plight of disabled ex-mineworkers who had to retire due to the severity of their injuries can only be addressed through an amendment to the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act. This was the view of a former mine worker who came to table a petition to the Select Committee on Petitions and Executive Undertakings.
Mr Wilson Dumzela, a representative of disabled ex-mineworkers, said the law was last amended in 1993, during the apartheid era, and blamed this for the challenges they had with claiming adequate compensation for injuries.
Mr Dumzela said the current act excludes family members from ex-mineworkers’ medical aids. “We have children and wives who we would have been able to take care of, were it not for the injuries we suffered. Excluding them from medical aid benefits is unjust,” he explained.
Mr Dumzela said that many ex-mineworkers did not understand why payments to their families were discontinued when the ex-miner died due to a sickness that had not resulted from the injury suffered by the miner.
What is more, the small payouts ex-miners received from the fund are not enough to live on. With monthly payouts of between R1 000 and R4 000, they could not afford to fix their dilapidated homes, pay school fees and clothe their families, among other responsibilities.
The Committee also heard that the social projects aimed at improving ex-mineworkers’ living conditions were led by people who lacked understanding of what would work best for disabled people. “For these projects to achieve their objectives, the disabled mineworkers must be involved in leading the projects,” Mr Dumzela added.
Responding to these concerns, the Department of Labour’s Director-General, Mr Thobile Lamati, said his department was aware of these challenges as they have interacted with the petitioners before. To address these concerns, Mr Lamati told the Committee that they were in the process of amending the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act. “We already have a bill in place, but it must still follow the law-making processes. We want to assure the Committee that we will do our best to ensure that this bill reaches Cabinet by end of August this year,” he added.
The Compensation Fund Commissioner, Mr Shadrack Mkhonto, added that there were plans to ensure that, in addition to compensation, workers injured at work and who have to go on pension received one that is not lower that a social grant.
The Select Committee Chairperson, Mr Thobejane Setlamorago, said the Committee was pleased to hear that there were steps to address gaps in the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act for the betterment of all South Africans as any worker was at risk of suffering injuries at work. He assured the petitioner that the Committee would monitor how the Department of Labour was progressing with the amendments until all South Africans have a Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act that is representative of the people’s aspirations.
Source : Parliament of South Africa