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‘Ex-miners association failed former miners’

Caswell Tlali

MASERU — The Employment Bureau of Africa (Teba) says the Ex-Miners Association of Lesotho has failed to help former mine workers and their relatives to claim pensions from South African mines.
Teba’s Lesotho representative, Montoeli Masoetsa, who also said he represents the National Union of Mineworkers (Num), was responding to Ex-Miners Association’s claims last week that Teba and Num together with South Africa’s Chamber of Mines and Provident Fund have failed to assist ex-miners.

The association said scores of ex-miners, their widows and orphans, most of whom are either illiterate or semi-literate, have difficulties claiming monies due to them from mining companies in South Africa and the four organisation do too little to help them. Masoetsa this week told the Sunday Express that it is actually Teba that helps Ex-Miners Association members when they have problems claiming their benefits from mining companies in South Africa.

Referring specifically to a case in which Ex-Miners Association claimed credit in helping a Mafeteng widow, ’Mamohlomi Letlailana, Masoetsa said the association failed dismally until its general secretary Rantšo Mantsi asked for help from Teba. Mantsi told a press conference last week that Letlailana’s efforts to claim her husband’s pension who died while still an employee of Masimong No. 5 in Welkom had hit a brick wall until Ex-Miners Association intervened.

“That is not true,” Masoetsa said. “The correct version is that Mr Mantsi came to me and said their member was urgently in need of our help and we helped her to claim, because that is our role as Teba.” “We helped her to acquire relevant documents in Ladybrand after we learnt that she could not claim because her husband was registered as a South African,” he said. “The fact that he had a South African ID made it difficult for her to claim and we solved the problem and she was paid.”

Masoetsa said he is often approached to help in such cases and “we, as Teba, happily stretch our helping hand to such ones because it is our mandate”. “This story published in the Sunday Express gives an impression that once mine workers leave the mines we abandon them,” he said. “We have helped scores of them and Mr Mantsi’s association is one of the associations that bring people to us for help.”

He said Teba did not attend a dialogue Ex-Miners Association had called because Mantsi had only told them verbally that there would be such a meeting and he never bothered to remind them of the date.
“I honestly did not know the date because the last time I met Mr Mantsi he told me that he was planning the meeting but he never told me of the actual date,” he said. “Even if he said the date, he said it verbally and he never reminded me when I approached them and so he cannot blame me for failing to attend the conference.”
Mantsi claims to have invited Teba, Num, Provident Fund and Chamber of Mines to the dialogue with the purpose to have people’s questions as to why it is difficult for them to claim pensions answered.
All the associations, Mantsi told the press conference, failed to show up and Teba specifically said the invitation had not reached it on time. Mantsi had to cancel the conference as a result.

He said the cancellation had dispirited the association’s members who were eager to ask why it is so difficult to claim their monies. Mantsi, who is himself a victim of delayed payment of pensions, said members of his association’s major weakness is lack of understanding of financial matters because they are either illiterate or semi-literate.

Some have died of HIV/Aids-related illnesses or TB due to the dust they inhaled while working in the mines. “Many of them have died of HIV/Aids-related illnesses, TB and other occupational diseases unaware that there are special funds to compensate them,” he said. In February this year, a South African newspaper Mail & Guardian discovered that mining companies owe former workers a whopping M5.7 billion.

Most mineworkers in South Africa are from Lesotho and Mozambique.

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