The Botswana Labour Migrants Association (BOLAMA) has recently hosted a two-day workshop to close the information gap with ex-mineworker communities. It was emphasized that it was important for communities to be sensitised through all media platforms on how they can access their claims. There was representation from the Ministry of Health and Wellness which has a department dealing with TB in the mining sector under the Global Fund Project, Compensation Commissioner of Botswana and South Africa, Local Government, Ministry of Labour from Lesotho and Swaziland, Kgosi Kgolo ya Balete Kgosi Mosadi Seboko, Rand Mutual Assurance, and the Employment Bureau of Africa among the many organisations represented. BOLAMA Coordinator Kitso Phiri highlighted the importance of keeping a database to capture all current and ex-mine workers. The data capture is expected to take one to two years whereby consulate offices in South Africa would be furnished with the information once the database is completed. “The National committee, which includes all stakeholders, should be set up to look at issues for ex-mineworkers and bilateral cooperation issues between South Africa and SADC states regarding ex-mineworkers so that their matters can be handled diligently,” he said.
Kabelo Zwinila from the Ministry of Health and Wellness in Botswana said mining is one of the oldest occupations, and as such men from the southern region migrated to South Africa to work in the mines, Batswana included. He said there is no doubt that mining is hazardous operation which has a negative impact on a miner’s health with common health complications being TB and occupational lung diseases and injuries. He said screening for ex-mine workers started in 1999 and the screening is still done for compensation if they are found to have pneumoconiosis. “Those who have not been compensated before can apply and if they are dead and were diagnosed the relative of the ex-miner can process his claim if he has already been diagnosed,’ he said. Zwinila said screening should be done every two years and to date 5159 clients have been screened, 398 eligible for compensation,193 on second degree pneumoconiosis, 205 on first degree pneumoconiosis and 658 awaiting results. He said one of the challenges that they face is that some of the ex-mineworkers do not have the required mine documents which are needed for their applications to be processed.
He said some ex-mineworkers can’t produce the TEBA printouts, especially for those who went to mines before TEBA opened offices in Botswana. “There is also delay in getting feedback from South Africa on clients’ diagnosis and clients also have to open bank accounts and maintain them while awaiting compensation,” he said. Zwinila said anyone claiming on behalf of the late ex-mineworker has to attend a face to face interview and get fingerprints in South Africa. He said they have been making progress in dealing with these issues as they have opened occupational mining sector in Molepolole. Nomsa Silenege of the Ministry of Labour and Social Security in Swaziland said they will meet with the South African Ministry of Health in May to agree final details of their proposed Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). “Once the MOU is established, it shall provide that South Africa and Swaziland shall rationalise and harmonise their workmen’s compensation laws, especially those concerning the lists of compensable occupational diseases, treatment, rehabilitation, and cross border referral of the same, the lists of compensable percentages disabilities thereof and the procedures for claiming,” she said.