Monday, October 25, 2021

Ex-miners call on Govt to take interest in their lung disease lawsuit

The Botswana Labour Migrants Association and the Botswana Centre for Human Rights have called on the Botswana Government to play a crucial role in the South African Gold Producers out of court settlement lung-disease case.

Last week, Anglo American Plc, Harmony Gold Mining Co. Ltd and other global mining houses agreed to resolve a lawsuit filed by workers who said they contracted deadly lung diseases during their time working in South African gold mines.

The lawsuit has become the country’s largest class-action settlement deal.

BoLAMA urged the Government of Botswana to establish an inter-ministerial committee comprising of key Ministries, Health, Labour, Finance, Local Government and BoLAMA to address the plight of ex-miners as per recommendations of the 2017 Regional Widows Forum in the Mining Sector.

For its part, Ditshwanelo also called upon the Government of Botswana to support the Silicosis case and its associated outcomes by disseminating the outcome of this case through state media.
Ditshwanelo also wants government to assist beneficiaries with medical records of their deceased loved ones and afford Botswana Labour Migrants Association (BoLAMA) an opportunity to present to the relevant Ministries the benefits of the case.
“DITSHWANELO believes that all employers are obliged to provide a safe working environment for their employees. The settlement seeks to address broader social protection issues. In this light the settlement is a welcome development.”

The settlement is a result of many years of long and difficult negotiations. The settlement was reached as a response to various factors, including the escalation of legal costs, the lengthy court processes, the increasing number of claimants who are dying from silicosis and the consequential need to fast-track the compensation of remaining claimants. 
Ditshwanelo said the settlement notwithstanding, “the agreement needs to be endorsed by the Gauteng High Court before it can be enforced.”

The Silicosis Class action was a lawsuit brought on behalf of former and current mineworkers who worked in apartheid era gold mining companies in South Africa, who due to over exposure to silica dust contracted TB/Silicosis and other occupational lung diseases. 
Ditshwanelo has been working with ex-mineworkers on the Silicosis Class suit since 2012 with Richard Spoor Attorneys, a South African law firm.

DITSHWANELO was responsible for the country registration of claimants including collection of evidentiary documentation for the suit. It was as a result of this project that BoLAMA ÔÇô Botswana Labour Migrants Association was formed.

BoLAMA is an ex-miners association advocating for the rights and interests of former mineworkers and their beneficiaries. A significant number of Silicosis beneficiaries are BoLAMA members. 
BoLAMA the only known ex-miners association in Botswana working holistically on issues of social protection and post-employment management would like to call on all former mineworkers and their beneficiaries to come and register with BoLAMA.

“Our focal persons in the Districts will be registering those who have not had the chance to register. BoLAMA will be working with DITSHWANELO and supporting all processes required to ensure access and facilitation of these disbursements,” the association said.

Parties agreed to a R-5 billion settlement which will be disbursed as follow;.

– Those who contracted silicosis and tuberculosis compensation will start at 70 000 ÔÇô 500 000 depending on the extent of the lung impairment and degree of the disease.

– Tuberculosis compensation will start at 50 000 to 100 000 depending on the number of years worked and degree of tuberculosis (1st or 2nd degree).

– Historical Tuberculosis will also be compensated, 10 000, with the eligible claimant having worked from 1 March 1965 to 28 February 1994.

– In December of 2016 BoLAMA coordinated country activities, tracking and tracing ex-miners for compensation as per the government compensation scheme. The class action in no way disqualifies those who might benefit from the government scheme from benefitting from the class action. The effect is that ex-miners will get double compensation from government and settlement.

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