Gift of the Givers founder, Dr Imtiaz Sooliman. File picture: Independent Media

Cape Town - Former miners in the Kroondal region would on Thursday receive assistance from disaster relief organisation Gift of the Givers, its founder Dr Imtiaz Sooliman said.

“Gift of the Givers will be responding with food aid today (and) distribution will take place at 2pm,” Sooliman said on Thursday morning.

The organisation agreed to assist the miners after the Legal Resource Centre’s Neo Nong contacted them requesting an intervention.

The living conditions of the former Aquarius Platinum Mine workers made news recently when their desperate plight was revealed in the media. They said they were forced to live on cats, rodents, wild animals and wild vegetables, along with handouts from individuals.

According to the former miners and Nong, their story can be traced back to 2009 when 3 921 miners embarked on an unprotected strike.

“After the initial action about 1 000 miners were dismissed from the mine and released from their contracts. Several were arrested and charged with public violence,” said Nong.

During this time, the former miners said they had been abandoned by both the National Union of Mineworkers and Metal and Electrical Workers Union of South Africa.

Thereafter, Nong said the miners were blacklisted, with many of them still unable to find employment.

“The ex-miners were evicted from their original hostel by the mine through police raids and many lost their documents and possessions,” he said.

Nong said about 200 miners were now living in a hostel called Circle and Labour accommodation. The group was made up of 145 from Lesotho, Swaziland, and Mozambique as well as 58 South Africans. Because of a lack of documentation and money, most of the foreign nationals in the group could not return to their homes.

No documentation and no money also meant no access to medical treatment. According to Nong, 158 miners had died in the six-year period. Others, who had allegedly been exposed to toxic chemicals during employment at the mine, had various related illnesses. Additionally, there were those among them with HIV, Aids and tuberculosis.

“We request the intervention of the relevant authorities to bring to closure this unacceptable human suffering,” said Sooliman, “Foreign nationals should be assisted with documentation and repatriated to be united with their families.”

He added that a solution was needed urgently.

“A compassionate, amicable solution should be finalised; six years is too long,” said Sooliman. “Within the next few weeks we hope this suffering will be over.”

* Those looking to assist or to find out more were asked to contact the Gift of the Givers’ social worker, Tapiwa Marima, on 0843227575 or Nong on 0760790513.