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Beware of conmen: ex-miners told

Limpho Sello

BASOTHO who have previously worked in South African mines should be wary of unscrupulous opportunists bent on ripping them off by charging them money to facilitate their compensation in the recently won silicosis class action settlement. Instead, the service will be done for free.

This was said by the Ex-Miners’ Association of Lesotho in a recent press briefing in Maseru.

This comes after the Southern Gauteng High Court on 26 July this year approved R5 billion class action settlement for former workers who contracted Tuberculosis and silicosis while working in South African mines.

The association’s coordinator Rantso Mantsi said the settlement allows for the ex-miners’ legal representatives and mining companies to for a trust which will administer the funds and compensate the affected miners.

“This fund of R5 billion will be disbursed over the next 12 years and each miner will be medically assessed in order to confirm eligibility for compensation,” Mr Mantsi said.

“Dependents of deceased ex-mine workers will also be entitled to lodge their claims.

“It is expected that the claims will be received towards the end of this year. The trust is obliged to come to Lesotho through its structures or appointed persons to assist the former mineworkers who have been affected by these conditions to lodge their claims easily.”

He also urged all former miners and affected families to remain patient and wait for official information adding that if they need any further clarifications thy should visit the association’s offices.

Mr Mantsi said the settlement is a result of a lengthy process which started in 2015 when miners and ex-miners sued several gold mining companies after acquiring TB and silicosis during their service in the mines.

“A large part of these miners and ex-miners and gold mining companies came together and negotiated a settlement which was geared towards the compensation of the miners who had contracted TB and silicosis,” Mr Mantsi said.

After the negotiation, the parties then took the agreement to the high Court for approval as stipulated by the country’s laws last year.

“In 2018, the parties requested the High Court to approve the agreement upon the terms proposed in the negotiations. The Ex-Miner’s Association of Lesotho was involved in the negotiation through its regional body, the Southern African Miners Association in collaboration with Tharollo Consultancy,” Mr Mantsi said.

Silicosis is a lung disease caused by breathing in tiny bits of silica, a mineral that is part of sand, rock, and mineral ore such as quartz. It mostly affects workers exposed to silica dust in occupations such as mining, glass-manufacturing, and foundry work. Over time, exposure to silica particles causes scarring in the lungs. In its acute form, silicosis is characterised by breathing difficulty, cough, fever, and cyanosis (bluish skin).

Although the actual numbers have not been ascertained, in 2016, the Mineworkers Development Agency (MDA) said an “alarming number” of Basotho, who formerly worked in South African mines, were suffering and dying from occupation-related illnesses.

MDA is the development wing of South Africa’s National Union of Mineworkers (NUM). The agency runs several programmes aimed at helping ex-mineworkers and their families find new ways to make a living.

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