Leonard Ncube, Victoria Falls Reporter
FORMER South African mines workers have been told to go for X-rays so that they get compensated if they contracted lung diseases such as silicosis during their period of employment.
The former workers in Zimbabwe received text messages on their mobile phones this week instructing them to go for medical check-ups.
Their lawyers, Xulu Attorneys of South Africa representing all Wenela (Witwatersrand Native Labour Association) ex-miners who hailed from Zimbabwe, Malawi, Botswana and Mozambique are engaging former employers to compensate those suffering from silicosis or related lung disease.
Silicosis is a lung disease caused by breathing in tiny bits of silica, a mineral that is part of sand, rock, and mineral ores such as quartz and mostly affects workers exposed to silica dust in occupations such as mining, glass manufacturing and foundry work.
The Chronicle spoke to prominent human rights lawyer Mr Barnabas Xulu of Xulu Attorneys Inc in South Africa who said transfer of the providence and compensation funds was nigh as talks are almost complete.
“We are in negotiation with the working group which represents mining companies about settlement packages for all our clients and ex-Wenela workers in Zimbabwe are some of them. We have encouraged them to undergo X-ray to check for diseases such as silicosis because there will be compensation for those with sickness related to that and the only way to prove this is through a medical check up,” said Mr Xulu.
He said he was hopeful the funds would be transferred soon as talks are at an advanced stage.
“We understand some have challenges with resources but where they can, they can get some form of proof for related sicknesses from health institutions,” Mr Xulu said.
He said they haven’t agreed on how much each would get but a meeting would be held in Zimbabwe next month to give an update.
The lawyers want funds transferred directly to beneficiaries or their surviving families although the Government indicated that the National Social Security Authority (NSSA) would receive the funds.
Thousands of locals who once worked in South African mines are poised to receive a windfall of pensions once talks currently underway in South Africa are concluded.
Mr Andrew Nleya, one of the facilitators of the talks, encouraged all former workers to urgently go for medical examination.
“People should understand that if they are found to have a sickness emanating from the mine they will be compensated. They should understand that there isn’t a third party to these funds and as such should not pay anyone for any service. Xulu Attorneys are not charging any client and anyone who is making them pay is acting fraudulently,” said Mr Nleya.
He was referring to an incident where locals were made to pay $5 each at some offices in Bulawayo for registration, whereas the process was supposed to be free of charge with all services paid for by former employers.
This excludes X-ray fees which former workers should pay for themselves.