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Rights body condemns ex-miners’ plight

Business

Bereng Mpaki

Justice for Miners- Lesotho Chapter (JFM) has strongly condemned the inhumane treatment of former gold miners in the process of lodging claims for silicosis and (TB) tuberculosis compensation.

The body’s sentiments come after last week’s shocking scenes of very long queues of mostly sickly and frail ex-miners at TEBA offices in Maseru.

The claims regarding the M5 billion silicosis and TB settlement reached between lawyers of ex-gold miners and some of South Africa’s largest gold producers.

Tshiamiso Trust, the organization responsible for processing compensation claims by ex-miners and dependents of those who have been rendered chronically ill by gold mining, has this month been on a compensation roadshow in Lesotho to bring its services closer to the people.

From Wednesday this week, the outreach was in Maseru, where multitudes of claimants virtually brought traffic to a standstill in the country’s capital city.

This was after radio announcements had alerted claimants who worked on qualifying gold mines between 1966 and 2019 about the outreach, to take place at TEBA offices in Maseru.

JFM has since blasted Tshiamiso Trust for what it labelled an inconsiderate and outrageous outreach campaign, with no respect for the dignity of the ex-miners.

“The Lesotho Chapter of the Justice for Miners Campaign and the entire regional JFM Campaign condemns in the strongest term the inhumane and unacceptable disregard for claimants’ dignity, health, and human rights demonstrated by this ill-conceived and inconsiderate “outreach” program,” JFM said this week.

It was only on Wednesday afternoon that claimants were informed by a loud hailer that only those coming for Mineworkers Provident Fund claims and only those Tshiamiso Trust claimants who had received SMSes would be attended to.

“JFM condemns in the strongest terms the confusing and ineffective Tshiamiso Trust communications that produce the suffering and chaos witnessed today.”

The miners’ body has likened the claimants’ treatment to the way miners used to be treated by the gold mines in the past.  

“Not only is this a continuation of the brutal policies of the gold mines represented by the Tshiamiso Trust – it is in breach of the Tshiamiso Trust‘s mandate as outlined in the Tshiamiso Trust Deed.

“JFM calls on the governments of Lesotho and South Africa to immediately put a stop to the TT operations pending an urgent public inquiry into the operations and failings of the TT.

“JFM further calls on the Master of the Gauteng High Court which authorized the out-of-court Silicosis and TB settlement to suspend the operations of the Trust pending an investigation into the disastrous “outreach” we are witnessing in Maseru today and which will, according to TT announcements, continue till Friday 19 May.

In response, Tshiamiso Trust’s Training and Outreach Manager, Realeboha Shale, said claims are not processed during the outreach only, and claimants can visit their offices at TEBA beyond the completion of the outreach campaign in the country.

“There are long queues of people in Maseru waiting to be assisted by the various organisations. From the Trust’s perspective, it’s important for people to know that the location where we are, TEBA Maseru, is available to assist claimants permanently,” Shale said in a statement.

“They do not need to engage with us at this outreach specifically. Furthermore, the purpose of this activity is to assist people who have not yet lodged a claim with the Trust. Those who have already lodged their claims do not need to attend. Their claims are being dealt with centrally by the various teams. That said, we will assist as many claimants as we can over the next three days. Screening is done as the first step and only people who qualify to lodge a claim with the Tshiamiso Trust are assisted by the Trust officials.”

Shale also claimed their work during the roadshow has been threatened with false information about the eligibility criteria and payments made by the Tshiamiso Trust, adding to the suffering of ex-mineworkers and their families.

“It is very disheartening to see people spreading this false information and making promises to claimants that cannot be fulfilled. The terms of the Tshiamiso Trust Deed were agreed upon in a court of law and cannot be changed by the management of the Trust. We would also like to warn people against touters and we urge them to verify any information with us as the Trust directly,” Shale said.

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