File picture: Nadine Hutton/Bloomberg
Pretoria – Deputy Mineral Resources Minister Godfrey Oliphant on Thursday conceded that efforts to reach out and compensate former mineworkers, many of whom from neighbouring countries, have not been satisfactory.

In his keynote address at the Southern Africa Trust summit on social security and compensation benefits, the deputy minister said government was exploring ways of expediting the identification and payment to the former miners across the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC).

"This is not about money only. It is about the health of these ex-mineworkers. The number one former mineworker in the country is Nelson Mandela, the former president. He also worked in the Crown Mines," Oliphant told delegates at the gathering in Pretoria.

"We do have a system that is working [to compensate the former mineworkers] but it needs to be perfected. We need to go on. But this is not enough ... from the 100 000 people that we have identified, we have paid less than 10 000. This means there is a problem."

Oliphant said some of the major bottle necks emanated from the former mineworkers not having the requisite documents.

In the case of South African "migrant" mineworkers, Oliphant said the identification process has had the assistance of entities including the home affairs department and the Electoral Commission of South Africa.

"Definitely we have made some progress. We need to increase the progress we are making. The story I am trying to tell here is that this situation was worse than where we are today. The South African government has met with the governments of Lesotho, Swaziland, Mozambique and Botswana. The Presidency is coordinating this work in South Africa," said Oliphant.

In a statement, the Southern Africa Trust said in the 1980s, migrants from neighbouring countries were mostly legally employed under corporate work permits in terms of bilateral agreements signed with South Africa. They are therefore eligible to receive employment related social security benefits.

"Reports indicate that former mineworkers from neighbouring countries who contributed to South African social security schemes or their dependants often face huge constraints regarding the portability of social security benefits when they return to their countries of origin, and in getting access to follow-up services, such as medical benefit examination, required by South African legislation," said the Southern Africa Trust.

"This has led to about R5.7 billion in 'unclaimed' or unreachable benefits in various social security schemes that have lapsed, that is benefits that have not been claimed for two years or more."