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R1.5bn payout milestone for TB- and silicosis-affected miners reached six years after settlement agreement

R1.5bn payout milestone for TB- and silicosis-affected miners reached six years after settlement agreement
Former mine workers must meet a specific set of criteria in order to be eligible for compensation. (Photo: Herman Verwey / Gallo Images / City Press)

Six years after the historic silicosis and TB class action settlement agreement was reached on 3 May 2018, the Tshiamiso Trust reveals it has paid out R1.5-billion to 16,000 eligible miners. It also explains how it is streamlining its processes to ensure claims are processed timeously and why so many claimants are ruled ineligible.

The Tshiamiso Trust, the body set up to administer the compensation to former gold miners and the families of miners who suffered permanent lung damage from silicosis and TB as a result of their work underground, has paid out R1.5-billion to more than 16,000 claimants 

The Trust achieved the milestone in April, six years after the landmark class action victory that preceded its establishment. 

The highest concentration of payments is in Lesotho with 44%, followed by the Eastern Cape with 28%. 

Since its last annual general meeting in August 2023, the Trust has expanded its services to Eswatini and Mozambique, which constitute the bulk of the remainder of the Trust’s disbursements, to assist claimants with benefit medical examinations (BMEs). Botswana is scheduled as the next focus area, and the Trust says discussions are under way to expand its services to Zimbabwe and Malawi.

However, frustration and disappointment persist among claimants – either because their claims are certified as ineligible or because the Trust faces several challenges in certifying their claims. According to the Trust, at least 70% of all claims certified are ruled ineligible during the medical review process, which is where many disputes arise.

As of March 2024, the Trust reported having processed 2,979 disputes, of which 2,510 medical review decisions (84%) were upheld and 233 (8%) were rescinded.

Explaining the reason for the ineligibility of 70% certified claims, the chairperson of the Tshiamiso Trust, Professor May Hermanus, told Daily Maverick: “Many ex-miners and families believe they ought to be compensated. But the likelihood is that of the many miners who have worked at the qualifying mines, the number of individuals who ultimately have valid claims and meet the set criteria are a proportion and quite a significantly smaller proportion than the potential claimants would have expected … 

“My impression as someone who has worked in the sector for a very long time, around occupational health particularly, is that miners and the mining community’s work is hard and incredibly demanding, and at the end of their stint working they are invariably not in the peak of health. So it’s easier for them to look at initiatives like Tshiamiso Trust to secure some additional income. The difficulty with the Trust is that the requirements and criteria set out […] are very finely defined and that results in the disappointing outcomes seen.”

Read more in Daily Maverick:Ex-miners’ families reveal the hardship of securing silicosis compensation from apartheid’s gold mines

Eligibility criteria

Following the establishment of the Tshiamiso Trust at the end of 2019, no one had a clear idea of the number of people expected to claim and it also was not made clear that compensation was reserved for prospective claimants who had permanent lung damage as a result of contracting silicosis or TB on the mines. Instead, it was suggested that any ex-gold miner who had worked at the stipulated gold mines between 12 March 1965 and 10 December 2019 was eligible for a claim. This had left many potential claimants very discontented.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Apartheid’s gold mines: Landmark R5bn class action to compensate ex-miners with lung disease a mark of ‘symbolic justice’

According to Trust CEO Dr Kwinda Munyadziwa: “The net was cast wide initially to allow people to come forward and check if they qualify for compensation or not. However, the criteria for compensation is very clear if you have worked in a qualifying mine, in the qualifying period doing risk work, and have TB or silicosis that has caused cardiorespiratory impairments then you can claim and qualify for compensation.”

Munyadziwa added: “We send a very clear message with potential claimants and claimants themselves, which doesn’t only talk to the issue of the disease but also the amount of compensation because the process itself involves benefit modification where one may get less than what is prescribed in the Trust Deed.”

Almost halfway through its 12-year lifespan, the Trust has recorded several wins in disbursing the compensation, which serves as a symbolic justice for ex-miners and their families.

 The Trust, however, also faces key challenges including:

  • The Trust Deed requires silicosis or pulmonary TB to be stated as the primary cause of death on an official death certificate or post-mortem/autopsy report. In most cases across the Southern African Development Community, the medical cause of death is not included on official death certificates issued to families. Furthermore, autopsies performed by the National Institute for Occupational Health only assess the cardiorespiratory organs and cannot necessarily determine the primary cause of death.
  • Significant numbers of claimants are unreachable because the contact details provided at claim lodgement are out of date. This significantly delays progress and substantially contributes to the time it takes to process claims, with many failing to progress beyond stage 3, where the Trust needs to book them for a BME. Many claims do not progress beyond Medical Certification at stage 5, due to lack of documentation.
  • Parties have different interpretations of the Trust Deed. A key issue is the interpretation of an Approved Occupational Diseases in Mines and Works Act Certificate, an issue that parties to the Trust Deed are in the final process of resolving.
  • A shorter period for reviewing claims (12–18 months), which has been amended to 24 months for BME.
  • Backlog of claimants awaiting BMEs for their claims.

Learning as we go

Hermanus said the Trust is trying, by all means, to improve the entire process and ensure sufficient facilities are available to make the process easier. She added that part of the process is streamlining the Trust’s procedures. 

“For us, this is a learning process and we learn as we go. Every time we learn something it gets implemented across the processes that we follow. In the beginning, there was a great deal to learn and as we go along there are still learning points that come through. Also, we are looking at how we can streamline our processes so that we can work faster and give feedback to potential claimants far more quickly than we do to bring in some efficiency.”

Future of the Trust

To bolster the Trust’s efficiency and deal with BME backlogs, Munyadziwa said they are introducing prescreening to ensure that those who do not have the disease do not even progress to further steps that may give false hope. He added that they are also working with the Department of Home Affairs to help families of ex-miners obtain unabridged death certificates that clearly specify the cause of death.

On the next steps, Munyadziwa said: “As the Trust nears the halfway mark of its lifespan, we are hard-pressed to implement measures aimed at enhancing efficiencies in claims-processing times and resource allocation, alongside more effectively managing claimants’ expectations right from the beginning of the claims process.

“These initiatives include the introduction of additional steps for medical screening and ensuring that claimants provide all necessary documentation upon lodging a claim. New measures will be introduced as the Trust benefits from mining its data for lessons and better targeting of eligible claimants. 

“Incremental efficiency optimisation is necessary to ensure that the Trust’s administrative budget is up to the task of locating and paying as many eligible claimants as possible in the remaining six years of its 12-year life span.”

“We are grateful for the support of our stakeholders who continue to walk with us as we work to deliver on our mandate. At the core of the Tshiamiso Trust lies the commitment to make good and bring positive change in the lives of our claimants by compensating all eligible claims.” DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • I lodge my claim 3 years back still there is nothing to show for it,we submitted the medical report long time bt still we haven’t got any news from Thiamiso. I want to know if my claim is eligible or not we deserve to know. Bt what is most painfull is that our father died of this unknown TB of them yet they said that the claim still at stage5 for a very long time why,yet here in eSwatini many people have been paid except me maybe and others.please check .

  • This trust is so frustrating we lodged our claim in2021 we are still in stage what’s even more depressing they keep adding more documents they keeping asking for more impossible documents instead of paying

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