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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ENVIRONMENT ISSUES: Masisi asks Virginia for help
President Mokgweetsi Masisi says the issue of sustainable natural resources management has always been an important part of Botswana’s national development agenda.
Masisi was speaking this week on the occasion of a public lecture at Virginia Polytechnic, under theme, “Merging Conservation, Democracy and Sustainable Development in Botswana.”
Botswana, according to Masisi, holds the view that the environment is fragile and as such, must be managed and given the utmost protection to enable the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“It is necessary that we engage one another in the interchange of ideas, perspectives, visualizations of social futures, and considerations of possible strategies and courses of action for sustainable development,” said Masisi.
On the other hand, dialogue, in the form of rigorous democratic discourse among stakeholders presents another basis for reconfiguring how people act on their environments, with a view to conserving its resources that “we require to meet our socio-economic development needs on a sustainable basis,” Masisi told attendees at the public lecture.
He said government has a keen interest in understanding the epidemiology and ecology of diseases of both domestic and wild animals. “It is our national interest to forestall the dire consequences of animal diseases on our communities livelihoods.”
President Masisi hoped that both Botswana and Virginia could help each other in curbing contagious diseases of wildlife.
“We believe that Virginia Tech can reasonably share their experiences, research insights and advances in veterinary sciences and medicines, to help us build capacity for knowledge creation and improve efforts of managing and containing contagious diseases of wildlife. The ground is fertile for entering into such a mutually beneficial partnership.”
When explaining environmental issues further, Masisi said efforts of conservation and sustainable development might at times be hampered by the emergence and recurrence of diseases when pathogens mutate and take host of more than one species.
“Water pollution also kills aquatic life, such as fish, which is one of humanity’s much deserved sources of food. In this regard, One Health Approach imposes ecological responsibility upon all of us to care for the environment and the bio-diversity therein.”
He said the production and use of animal vaccines is an important space and tool for conservation, particularly to deal with trans-border animal diseases.
“In Botswana, our 43-year-old national premier pharmaceutical institution called Botswana Vaccine Institute has played its role well. Through its successful production of highly efficacious Foot and Mouth vaccines, the country is able to contain this disease as well as supply vaccines to other countries in the sub-region.:
He has however declared that there is need for more help, saying “We need more capacitation to deal with and contain other types of microbial that affect both animals and human health.”
Masisi saddened by deaths of elephant attacks
President Mokgweetsi Masisi has expressed a strong worry over elephants killing people in Botswana. When speaking in Virginia this week, Masisi said it is unfortunate that Batswana have paid a price with their own blood through being attacked by elephants.
“Communities also suffer unimaginable economic losses yearly when their crops are eaten by the elephants. In spite of such incidents of human-elephant conflict, our people embrace living together with the animals. They fully understand wildlife conservation and its economic benefits in tourism.”
In 2018, Nthobogang Samokwase’s father was attacked by an elephant when travelling from the fields, where he stayed during the cropping season.
It was reported that the man couldn’t run because of his age. He was found trampled by the elephant and was pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital.
In the same year, in Maun, a 57-year-old British woman was attacked by an elephant at Boro and died upon arrival at the hospital. The woman was with her Motswana partner, and were walking dogs in the evening.
Last month, a Durban woman named Carly Marshall survived an elephant attack while on holiday in the bush in Botswana. She was stabbed by one of the elephant’s tucks through the chest and was left with bruises. Marshall also suffered several fractured ribs from the ordeal.
President Masisi Botswana has the largest population of African elephants in the world, totaling more than 130 000. “This has been possible due to progressive conservation policies, partnerships with the communities, and investment in wildlife management programmes.”
In order to benefit further from wildlife, Masisi indicated that government has re-introduced controlled hunting in 2019 after a four-year pause. “The re-introduction of hunting was done in an open, transparent and democratic way, giving the communities an opportunity to air their views. The funds from the sale of hunting quota goes towards community development and elephant conservation.”
He stressed that for conservation to succeed, the local people must be involved and derive benefits from the natural resources within their localities.
“There must be open and transparent consultations which involve all sectors of the society. It is against this backdrop that as a country, we lead the continent on merging conservation, democracy and sustainable development.”
Masisi stated that Botswana is open to collaborative opportunities, “particularly with identifiable partners such as Virginia Tech, in other essential areas such as conservation, and the study of the interplay among the ecology of diseases of wild animals and plants, and their effects on human health and socio-economic development.”
Gov’t commit to injecting more funds in fighting HIV
Minister for State President Kabo Morwaeng says government will continue to make resources available in terms of financial allocations and human capital to ensure that Botswana achieves the ideal of eradicating HIV and AIDS as a public health threat by 2030.
Morwaeng was speaking this morning in Gaborone at the High-Level Advocacy event to accelerate HIV Prevention in Botswana. He said the National AIDS and Health Promotion Agency (NAPHA), in partnership with UNAIDS, UN agencies, the Global Fund and PEPFAR, have started a process of developing transition readiness plan for sustainability of HIV prevention and treatment programmes.
“It is important for us, as a country that has had a fair share of donor support in the response to an epidemic such as HIV and AIDS, to look beyond the period when the level of assistance would have reduced, or ceased, thus calling for domestic financing for all areas which were on donor support.”
Morwaeng said this is important as the such a plan will guarantee that all the gains accrued from the response with donor support will be sustained until the end when “we reach the elimination of HIV and AIDS as a public health threat by 20230,” he said.
“I commit to continue support efforts towards strengthened HIV prevention, accentuating HIV primary prevention and treatment as prevention towards Zero New Infections, Zero Stigma, Discrimination and Zero AIDS related death, to end AIDS in Botswana.”
He reiterated that government commits to tackle legislative, policy and programming challenges that act as barriers to the achievement of the goal of ending AIDS as a public health threat.
In the financial year 2022/2023, a total of 119 Civil Society Organizations, including Faith Based Organizations, were contracted with an amount of P100 million to implement HIV and NCDs prevention activities throughout the country, and the money was drawn from the Consolidated Fund.
Through an upcoming HIV Prevention Symposium, technical stakeholders will use outcomes to develop the Botswana HIV Prevention Acceleration Road Map for 2023-2025.
Morwaeng stated that government will support and ensure that Botswana plays its part achieving the road map. He said there is need to put hands on the deck to ensure that Botswana sustains progress made so far in the fight against HIV and AIDS.
“There are tremendous achievements thus far to, reach and surpass the UNAIDS fast track targets of 95%- 95%- 95% by the year 2025. As reflected by the BAIS preliminary results of 2021, we now stand at 95- 98- 98 against the set targets.”
“These achievements challenge us to now shift our gears and strive to know who are the remaining 5% for those aware of their HIV status, 2% of enrolment on treatment by those aware of their status and 2% of viral suppression by those on treatment.”
Explaining this further, Morwaeng said shift in gears should extend to coming up with robust strategies of determining where these remaining people are as well as how they will be reached with the necessary services.
“These are just some of the many variables that are required to ensure that as a country, we are well positioned to reaching the last mile of our country’s response to the HIV and AIDS pandemic.”