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Batswana ex-miners in 3 billion rands windfall

Close to 3 billion rands is sitting in the bank accounts in South Africa and are destined for the ex-mine workers including Batswana who have worked in that country whom will be able to be traced to get their dues.

 

Weekend Post has established that the R3 billion was mobilised for the South African, Botswana governments as well others in Southern Africa to come up with the plan to compensate the ex-miners who had worked at SA mines.

 

In fact there was a large number of claims that were unpaid of labour miners particularly the ex-miners mostly who were originally from the neighbouring countries like Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland, Mozambique and Malawi.

 

Therefore the Weekend Post has gathered that the World Bank is funding a pilot project that instigated in November 1st in which they have gathered that the ex-miners are facing some challenges that were affected by their jobs in the SA mines particularly contractual occupational diseases.

 

This publication has also gathered that their issues other than occupational matters that the ex-miners encountered while working at SA mines include injuries although were never compensated, and non-payment of insurance and pensions.

 

According to a Senior Health Officer under the Botswana Ministry of Health and Wellness, under Tubercolosis (TB) Program, Thandi Katlholo the delayed claims are a  priority for the World Bank and they are getting assistance to look for the ex-miners and dully compensate. Katlholo also coordinates a project called TB in the mining sector in Southern Africa which is directly responsible for the ongoing compensation process.

 

Katlholo told Weekend Post on the side-lines of a meeting in Molepolole that most of those who had submitted claims have not yet been paid so the South African government through the World Bank said they have around 3 billion rands on the bank account that must be disbursed to the ex-miners.

 

The Ministry of Health official emphasised that Botswana already has around 105 people who are due for the claims – although the project and registering is continuing.

 

“When you also look at our records, they illustrate that in Botswana we have about 105 people that are due for second degree compensation. Second degree compensation can be up to R100 000. So out of the top of the head when we calculate that’s close to R11 million due for Botswana ex-mine workers that is if we get these and trace the 105 people so that they get their dues.”

 

Katlholo explained that a second degree compensation can be up to R100 000 and then there is first degree which can be up to R40 000. She said the medical doctor, after assessment determines the compensation looking at the amount of damage and disease stage. 

 

Katlholo continued to explain that the 3 billion rands is from World Bank and the Global Funds is in the amount of 30 million US dollars which will be disbursed to 8 countries and that the projects are running parallel.

 

The World Bank, she said it is covering the pilot program that ran from November which will later become a national project and, the long term project is covered by the Global Fund which is in the mining sector and that they are already looking at the miners and their occupational disease in the project.  

 

“World Bank comes in after realising that we have a list of people who have been submitting applications over the years which delayed because of our bureaucratic system of our government and that of SA,” the Ministry official pointed out. 

 

World Bank is in the 5 countries and Global Fund is for the 10 countries excluding Namibia and Angola. World Bank disbursed funding to track ex-miners and the Global Fund money is managed by Wits University.

 

“We had limited time and money for administration costs and therefore World Bank got the governments together to pay the former miners,” Katlholo further told Weekend Post.

 

In addition, a South African partner and Project Manager at Medical Bureau for Operational Diseases (MBOD’s) which falls under the National Department of Health which falls under the regulation called occupational disease in mines which governs the entire occupation process for ex and current mine workers, Aretha Naidoo, stated to this publication they have built a backlog that needs to be fast tracked.

 

She said that over the years they have built up a backlog because of various systems and processes and the difficulty they had in contacting the ex-miners as previously they did not have contacts like cell phones for the mine workers and that is why they have now built up a backlog of 100 000 claims that are due to the mine workers.

 

“We have started on various processes of restructuring the MBOD’s and in the last 3 or 4 years we have changed the processes around so that we can have a close contact and we can begin to have the mine workers that we are looking for who has an existing claim on our day to day basis,” Naidoo told this publication.

 

She said as a result to that the World Bank has given them funding to go out to track and trace as this time around the funding involves areas of Swaziland, Lesotho, Botswana, Mozambique and South Africa. “We will register any person who has worked at the mines at SA as we also want to build a data base. We are also assisting the ex-miners do a chest x-ray and lung infection test.”

 

She also highlighted that Botswana Labour Migrants Association (BoLAMA) is on registration exercise on door to door in the country to track these ex-miners.

 

According to the Project Manager for the SA MBOD’s the criteria of how much they compensate is legislated. “Whatever disease is calculated on the client’s salary, the type of work and the number of risk shifts they had that is how many times they have been underground and the duration,” she pointed out.

 

So 2 mine workers having different jobs and salary scales and having different diseases do not necessarily get the same compensation because it based on a calculation on individual bases, she added.

 

A Coordinator for the project at BoLAMA also said in a separate interview that the process of paying claims for former mine workers in SA was already there but it had challenges. It is understood that through the MBOD’s under the Department of Health in South Africa it needed only fast tracking because they were dealing with a large number.

 

Phiri asserted: “now we are saying that because of the flawed system under the MBOD’s, the World Bank approached the government of SA to say what can we do to address this issue how can we ensure that all these unpaid claims are paid to reach their intended recipients or beneficiaries and expedite the process?”

 

Local Ministry of Heath which runs the program of ex-miners compensation he said they had already had a program which they were running of trying to compensate ex-miners, so as a result of that, a lot of the claims which were being sent to SA by that department was “slow and the turnaround period was very low as well.”

 

“So what they did was they found that there were administrative flaws within the department of SA so they came up with a plan of ensuring that these claims are paid up. World Bank then assured them that they will fund them to start a pilot project for two months or so where they can see the challenges and how best they can address the issue,” BoLAMA Coordinator said.

 

Phiri continued to state the challenges faced by former mine workers that includes lack of documentation and therefore that it’s very difficult to access some of the processes without mine documentation to proof that they were really working at the mines. Also widows of ex-miners do not know which mines their husbands were working at so it’s difficult to assist them, he added.

 

Phiri also maintained that the reason why Molepolole was chosen as a centre for the project was precisely because there is a high concentration of ex-miners in Kweneng District. Initially we were supposed to get 1 500 ex-miners but we got them in Molepolole alone before we can go to other parts of the country, he justified the move.

 

It is understood that also under the Global Fund project, there will be an occupational health centre which will be set up by that fund also in Molepolole at Boswelatlou. A mobile clinic for medical assessments and administration of unpaid compensation claims of ex-miners is as well scheduled for Molepolole.

 

BoLAMA is housed under the auspices of DITSHWANELO – The Botswana Centre for Human Rights and they are in partnership with the National Department of South Africa and the Ministry of Health and Wellness on a pilot project to tackle the legacy problems of non – delivery of medical services and payment of compensation to current and ex-mineworkers.

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DPP halts JSC, Judge’s back to work plan

25th January 2021
Kebonang

The Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP)’s decision to reject and appeal the High Court’s verdict on a case involving High Court Judge, Dr Zein Kebonang has frustrated the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and Judge Kebonang’s back to work discussions.

JSC and Kebonang have been in constant discussions over the latter’s return to work following a ruling by a High Court panel of judges clearing him of any wrong doing in the National Petroleum Fund criminal case filed by the DPP. However the finalization of the matter has been hanged on whether the DPP will appeal the matter or not – the prosecution body has since appealed.

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BDP rejects Saleshando payment proposal

25th January 2021
MP saleshando

Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) top brass has declined a request by Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) to negotiate the legal fees occasioned by 2019 general elections petition in which the latter disputed in court the outcome of the elections.

This publication is made aware that UDC Vice President Dumelang Saleshando was left with an egg on his face after the BDP big wigs, comprising of party Chairman Slumber Tsogwane and Secretary General Mpho Balopi rejected his plea.

“He was told that this is a legal matter and therefore their (UDC) lawyer should engage ours (BDP) for negotiations because it is way far from our jurisdiction,” BDP Head of Communications, Kagelelo Kentse, told this publication.

This spelt doom for the main opposition party and Saleshando who seems not to have confidence and that the UDC lawyers have the dexterity to negotiate these kind of matters. It is not clear whether Saleshando requested UDC lawyer Boingotlo Toteng to sit at the table with Bogopa Manewe, Tobedza and Co, who are representing the BDP to strike a deal as per the BDP top echelons suggested.

“From my understanding, the matter is dealt with politically as the two parties are negotiating how to resolve it, but by far nothing has come to me on the matter. So I believe they are still substantively engaging each other,” Toteng said briefly in an interview on Thursday.

UDC petitioners saddled with costs after mounting an unprecedented legal suit before the court to try and overturn BDP’s October 2019 victory. The participants in the legal matter involves 15 parliamentary candidates’ and nine councillors. The UDC petitioned the court and contested the outcome of the elections citing “irregularities in some of the constituencies”.

In a brief ruling in January 2020, Judge President Ian Kirby on behalf of a five-member panel said: “We have no jurisdiction to entertain these appeals. These appeals must be struck out each with costs including costs of counsel”. This was a second blow to the UDC in about a month after their 2019 appeals were dismissed by the High Court a day before Christmas Day.

This week BDP attorneys decided to attach UDC petitioners’ property in a bid to settle the debts. UDC President Duma Boko is among those that will see their property being attached with 14 of his party members. “We have attached some and we are on course. So far, Dr. Mpho Pheko (who contested Gaborone Central) and that of Dr, Micus Chimbombi (who contested Kgalagadi South) will have their assets being sold on the 5th of February 2021,” BDP attorney Basimane Bogopa said.

Asked whether they met with UDC lawyers to try solve the matter, Bogopa said no and added. “Remember we are trying to raise the client’s funds, so after these two others will follow. Right now we are just prioritising those from Court of Appeal, as soon as the high court is done with taxation we will attach.”

Saleshando, when contacted about the outcomes of the meeting with the BDP, told WeekendPost that: “It would not be proper and procedural for me to tell you about the meeting outcomes before I share with UDC National Executive Committee (NEC), so I will have to brief them first.”

UDC NEC will meet on the 20th of next month to deal with a number of thorny issues including settling the legal fees. Negotiations with other opposition parties- Alliance for Progressives and Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) are also on the agenda.

Currently, UDC has raised P44 238 of the P565 000 needed to cover bills from the Court of Appeal (CoA). This is the amount in a UDC trust account which is paltry funds equating 7.8 per cent of the overall required money. In the past despite the petitioners maintaining that there was promise to assist them to settle legal fees, UDC Spokesperson, Moeti Mohwasa then said the party has never agreed in no way to help them.

“We have just been put in debt by someone,” one of the petitioners told this publication in the past. “President’s (Duma Boko) message was clear at the beginning that money has been sourced somewhere to help with the whole process but now we are here there is nothing and we are just running around trying to make ends meet and pay,” added the petitioner in an interview
UDC NEC has in December last year directed all the 57 constituencies to each raise a minimum of P10, 000. The funds will be used to settle debts that are currently engulfing the petitioners with Sheriffs, who are already hovering around ready to attach their assets.

The petitioners, despite the party intervention, have every right to worry. “This is so because ‘the deadline for this initiative (P10, 000 per constituency) is the end of the first quarter of this year (2021),” a period in which the sheriffs would have long auctioned the properties.

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Boko-Khama axis viewed with suspicion

25th January 2021
boko-and-khama

President of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Duma Boko’s alliance with former President Lt Gen Ian Khama continues to unsettle some quarters within the opposition collective, who believe the duo, if not managed, will once again result in an unsuccessful bid for government in 2024.

While Khama has denied that he has undeclared preference to have Boko remaining as leader of UDC, many believe that the two have a common programme, while other opposition leaders remain on the side-lines.

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