Speech by Honourable Godfrey Oliphant Deputy Minister of Mineral Resources Social Protection benefits for ex-mineworkers
I greet you all.
The mining sector is an integral part of our economy. It contributes significantly to our GDP and that of the region and employs about 500 000 workers directly. The recent downturn in the sector was due to depressed commodity prices but we welcome the steady rebound and growth.
I am led to believe that there are about R30 billion in unclaimed benefits. A substantial portion of the R30 billion are for ex-mineworkers who partly as a legacy of the migrant labour system have not accessed these funds. These are substantial sums that would do a lot to rejuvenate rural economies and labour sending areas where the mineworkers come from – within South Africa and in neighbouring countries.
In 2013, the then Deputy President Motlanthe delegated me to find solutions for the ex-mineworkers in the Eastern Cape who had unclaimed benefits in the Department of Labour and Department of Health. Through our efforts about 14 000 ex-mineworkers received compensation benefits amounting to R40 million and 8000 received UIF benefits amounting to R14m.
Our lessons from that activity have shown that the majority of ex-mineworkers are in rural villages and have little knowledge about their benefits. Where they have knowledge, it is virtually impossible to access their benefits owing to multiple barriers. The ex-mineworkers also queried their monies locked in the pension and provident funds as well as funeral benefit deductions that we had no answers for at that stage.
As a consequence of that process, the Department of Health initiated the One Stop Service Centres in Mthatha and Carletonville in April 2014 to provide medical examinations and compensation services on a decentralised model. Historically ex-mineworkers and their beneficiaries have had to come to Johannesburg for medical and compensation services. This new approach to piloting services closer to the ex-mineworkers has improved service delivery. There are efforts underway to add rehabilitation services for injured mineworkers to provide a fully integrated service covering occupational diseases and injuries.
There have been delays in establishing the One Stop Service Centres in Kuruman and Burgersfort which are being actively pursued by the Department of Health to construct and commission these centres in this financial year.
In May this year the first mobile one stop facility comprising claims management, a health clinic including X-ray and lung function testing facilities and a mobile bank were rolled out in Kuruman; in June – in Piet Retief and as we speak has just completed mobile outreach activities in Matatiele covering 459 ex-mineworkers for medical assessments and claims management. The One Stop Service Centres have seen about 6000 ex-mineworkers with 4000 referrals to the head office in Johannesburg since their opening in April 2014.
Further mobile outreach activities are planned for Bizana, Lusisiki, 4 other districts in the Eastern Cape, Welkom and in Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique and Swaziland over the next 4 months. This has been made possible by funding from the World Bank, Chamber of Mines, Gold Working Group and support by the provincial and local governments, traditional leaders, NGOs, banks and social partners.
We have participated in the process to develop the proposal to the Global Fund for AIDS, TB and Malaria for the TB in the Mines project covering 10 countries in Southern Africa and amounting to $30m. The grant is managed by the University of Witwatersrand Wits Health Consortium and will be building 2 one stop centres each in Lesotho, Mozambique and Swaziland and 1 one stop centre in Botswana. These should be operational by April 2017 and will greatly enhance service delivery for ex-mineworkers.
We have participated in various socio-economic projects that involve the ex-mineworkers and mining communities in various parts of the country.
The Macadamia nut initiative provides an alternative economy for the rural communities in the wild coast and could serve to create new economic opportunities for ex-mineworkers and their families.
The DMR has examined the Macadamia business model and has found it to be ideal for building progressive economic partnerships between mining companies, government, ex mineworkers and their families. A hectare of Macadamia creates a job for life and generates R40 000 net profit in perpetuity. The trees last no less than 100 years if we measures ourselves against Australians who now have Macadamia plantations as old as 127 years.
In May 2015, the Honourable Minister of Health and I together with the trade unions and the Chamber of Mines launched Operation Ku-Riha to pay R1.5b to approximately 103 000 ex-mineworkers with unclaimed compensation benefits. While progress has been slow owing to setting up the tracking and tracing system, since February 2016, we have paid 1443 claimants approximately R56m and R3m has gone to neighbouring countries.
In November 2015, the Honourable Minister of Health wrote to me to convene a Steering Committee and Technical Task Teams to develop an integrated workers’ compensation system with the support of Deputy Minister Phaahla from the Department of Health and Deputy Minister Inkosi Holomisa from the Department of Labour. There are 2 compensation systems for work related injuries and diseases in South Africa – one under the Department of Health covering workers in mines and works for heart and lung diseases and one under the Department of Labour covering all other workers.
As you may know, apart from the unequal benefits and access issues, these two systems also created confusion amongst mineworkers who had to go for heart and lung diseases to Minister Motsoaledi and head and leg injuries to Minister Oliphant.
We hosted a summit in May 2016 with the support of the Mine Health and Safety Council and the International Organisation for Migration that brought together 230 delegates from trade unions, government departments, employer groups, social partners and neighbouring country governments that shared ideas and made inputs on an integrated compensation system. We are well on our way to creating that integrated and uniform compensation system!
As part of the Special Presidential Package for the Revitalisation of Distressed Mining Communities and Labour Sending Areas; jointly with the Departments of Health and Social Development, we have conducted outreach and awareness programmes in all provinces in the country. These take the form of mass meetings, social dialogues and round table conversations, for example, we are inviting you to join us on Tuesday 26th in ePhongola with ex-mineworkers and their families hosted by the Honorable Minister of Labour, Minister Oliphant.
The outreach activities have supported ex-mineworker projects in the various provinces while dealing with social assistance interventions for the poor and vulnerable.
A key factor that impeded the tracking and tracing of workers for their social protection benefits was the lack of a database of current and ex-mineworkers. The Department of Health has subsequently developed a database of ex-mineworkers that covers both the demographic details and medical records of the ex-mineworkers. This database covers 700 000 claimant records and will assist all agencies across government to track and trace persons with unclaimed benefits. To enrich the database we have started discussions with the Chamber of Mines to cover the current workforce of 500 000 mineworkers.
Collective activities around this master database of workers and ex-workers and integrated tracking, tracing and payment solutions are being developed following the 24th of June workshop hosted by the Presidency and the Financial Services Board.
The 24th of June workshop was a critical milestone as it brought together all the stakeholders required in unlocking the benefits to workers and ex-workers and enhancing the social protection system that was built through the collective efforts of workers, employers and government. A steering committee and task teams on legislation, the database and tracking and tracing activities has been set up.
These multiple initiatives and activities have resulted in the setting of a logistics and coordinating Centre in my office and a sub office at the Chamber of Mines. The logistics and coordinating Centre will provide coordination and regular reports to various stakeholders and role-players as well as monitor outputs.
A sharecall number is in operation to support the tracking and tracing activities for the Compensation Fund. It is 0801000240.
In conclusion as we draw to the end of the AIDS 2016 Conference in Durban, we acknowledge the contribution of the Chamber of Mines in the screening project for TB of the current 500 000 mineworkers which is also linked to an active HIV counselling and testing campaign. The mining sector is rising to the challenge of the roll-out of the 90-90-90 strategy by 2020-90% diagnosed, 90% on treatment and 90% with viral suppression!
I thank you!
Source: South African Government.