9 April 2014
The South African government has launched a one-stop health and social welfare centre for current and former mineworkers at the Nelson Mandela Academic Hospital in Mthatha in the Eastern Cape province.
The centre will work to set up a comprehensive database of current and ex-mineworkers, and provide them and their dependents with health and rehabilitation services, social services, and compensation and benefit management services.
Speaking at the launch of the centre on Monday, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe said that, historically, there had been a fragmented approach to the provision of social services for mineworkers.
“Of particular concern for a very long time has been the issue of the inhumane conditions under which mineworkers live and work, the challenges emanating from the migrant labour system, and the treatment meted out to ex-mineworkers once they are too ill to work or are retired due to other social and health-related complications.
“These are issues we have been grappling with since the dawn of our democracy, and we continue to do so today,” Motlanthe said. “[But] instead of allowing this reality to dampen our efforts, we should be encouraged that by continuing to confront these challenges we will be able to find solutions, as evidenced here today.”
Mining is an integral part of the southern African economy. The industry currently employs about 500 000 people, many of them from the Eastern Cape.
“Government acknowledges the importance of the mining sector for the economy, job creation and contribution to social and economic development,” Motlanthe said, adding that the initiative had received the support of employer organisations, the private sector, various development partners, civil society and associations of ex-mineworkers.
The governments of countries such as Mozambique, Lesotho, Swaziland and others in the region from which mineworkers came had also backed the initiative.