Govt nullifies miners' medical examinations
MBABANE – Government has finally nullified ex-asbestos miners’ medical examinations that were done by a doctor hired by a South Africa company.
The testing process which began in 2008 was objected to by the ex-miners last year after they suspected foul play as most of them were diagnosed negative.
The Asbestos Relief Trust (ART) based in Johannesburg had engaged the services of Mbabane-based attorney Lindifa Mamba to facilitate the testing of former miners in the asbestos mines which were operated by Gencor Limited and Gefco.
Apparently this was done without the involvement of the government of Swa-ziland. People who tested positive to asbestos related illnesses were to qualify for compensation from the Trust, which at that moment had E380 million set aside for this purpose.
According to Tina Da Cruz of the Trust, this was a lump sum settlement which was invested with professional asset managers to ensure that there are sufficient funds, based on current actuarial projections, to compensate claimants who develop compensable asbestos related diseases over the lifetime of the Trust.
She said the money will not only benefit former asbestos miners in Swaziland, but also in neighbouring countries where the companies operated. Of the people who later on tested negative, some claimed they had tested positive while they were still at work and they were compensated.
They then wondered how the disease could have vanished since most of the asbestos related illnesses are not curable.
Out of about 300 former miners who had registered for testing in Swaziland, about 200 have been tested so far and most of them were given results that showed they were now negative.
Shakes Tsabedze, who heads the ex-miners in Swaziland, said the re-registration has begun and testing will begin this month. He said government, through the ministry of Labour and Social Security, has secured another doctor to conduct the tests.
Da Cruz said despite several meetings between Trust officials and the Department of Labour spanning a number of years, the Trust was unable to conclude a Memorandum of Understanding with the department and set-up a presence in Swaziland.
She said, "In about 2005, the Trust received applications from several individuals who had been exposed to asbestos from qualifying operations and who were living in Swaziland. In order to facilitate the process for these and potentially other individuals, the Board of Trustees took the decision to investigate the possibility of setting up a presence in Swaziland."
She said this is a voluntary process, where individuals who were exposed to asbestos from qualifying operations and believe that they may meet the medical criteria to claim, may choose but are not obliged to pursue a claim with the Trust.
"LR Mamba and Associates have been assisting potential claimants to investigate whether they qualify to receive compensation from the Trust and continue, to the best of our knowledge, to provide excellent service and invaluable assistance to these individuals," said Da Cruz.
Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security Nomathemba Hlope said they have constituted a workman’s compensation board that will conduct the examinations.
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