JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – A campaign is under way in the mining industry to find more than 200 000 former mineworkers who are owed at least R5-billion in unpaid provident fund, occupational disease and service-award claims.
Disabled or sick former mineworkers can potentially gain upwards of R500 000 each and provident fund payouts for 10 to 15 years’ service can amount to hundreds of thousands of rands apiece.
Research shows, however, that at least half of the 200 000 are unaware that money is owed to them, despite having valid, uncontested claims.
Of those who are aware, some undertake long-distance journeys to the institutions representing these funds while others, often out of desperation, accept help from third parties, who have been known to pocket more than half of the value of the settlements.
The high number of long-service claims that predate the provident fund era are problematic as they tend to be of less value than the cost of tracing the claimants.
However, changes to the Pensions Fund Act now allow for a proportion of the interest that has been accruing on the claims to go towards tracing costs.
If the current unsuccessful disbursement methods are continued, however, the already large financial backlog will grow even larger, which is why Teba Limited CEO Graham Herbert, who spoke to Mining Weekly Online in a video interview (see attached), is advocating new ways of resolving the problem.
The 112-year-old Teba – headed by executive chairperson Dr James Motlatsi, a former 40c-a-shift mineworker and founding president of the National Union of Mineworkers – has a database of more than 1.5-million records, which Herbert believes could assist in eliminating the backlog in three years.
However, while records from the early Eighties onwards are all electronic, many claims are so old that manual records would have to be sifted through, which is costly and difficult.
Teba, which is seen to be in an ideal position to find the missing former mineworkers, is already dealing “very constructively” with the Medical Bureau for Occupational Diseases in tracing 200 000 mineworkers with assessed lung damage, so that they can be paid the money owed to them.
Teba is also managing the search for mainly former gold and coal mineworkers who have outstanding claims under the the old shift-linked long-service Chamber of Mines awards that predate the provident fund era.
In February, Southern Africa Trust deputy executive director Dr Bheki Moyo said the absence of correct documentation and the lack of awareness of proper procedures was standing in the way of 500 000 mainly Mozambique, Lesotho and Swaziland former migrants receiving what the trust estimated to be R6-billion in undisbursed funds.
The eight-year-old Southern Africa Trust, which has a mandate to eradicate regional poverty, told Mining Weekly Online that an estimated R3-billion of the R6-billion was in the hands of the Mineworkers Provident Fund.