Former mineworker takes labour department to court
Written by Yazeed Kamaldien
An ex-mineworker from Cape Town will face the labour department in court next month in an ongoing battle for unpaid unemployment benefits.
Sithethi Khephelele, who lives in an informal settlement in Delft South, has launched legal action at the Western Cape High Court against the department.
Xulu Attorneys is representing him in the matter to be heard on December 10.
Attorney Barnabas Xulu, who runs a law firm currently dealing with various mineworkers’ court cases, says this matter is a landmark case.
If victorious, Xulu would seek to have the unpaid unemployment benefits of thousands of other ex-miners paid.
Khephelele’s founding affidavit informs that he worked in the mining sector in the 1970s. An injury at the mine led to his unemployment.
Khephelele says in court documents that he “was injured on duty by a table fall, which killed seven people and left me and another person injured”.
“I woke up at hospital, injured, with no recollection of what had happened,” he claims.
“Pictures were taken of the accident scene. However, when I asked for the pictures, as I wanted to see what had happened, the representatives of the company refused me on the grounds that I might claim damages for my injuries.”
He added: “I was sent home from the hospital with no money or food and told I would receive my money from TEBA (The Employment Bureau of Africa), the recruitment agency for the mine.”
“I had not fully recovered from the accident. As a result I was on the verge of death when I arrived home and had to sell all the cattle I had to pay for my medical expenses.”
Khephelele said he never received any unemployment benefits and remains unemployed. His only income is an old age monthly grant of R1,200.
He said the mine injury also led to his loss of hearing.
“I have also instructed my attorney to claim compensation from the compensation commissioner as I have been advised that the injuries I sustained are covered under the compensation for occupational injuries and diseases act,” he said.
The labour department’s responding affidavit claims Khephelele is at fault.
It says he never applied for unemployment benefits and missed the application deadline. It said the claim should have been in “by the end of August 2013”.
Xulu says his client deserves to be paid out as he contributed monthly to the government’s unemployment fund meant to assist workers once unemployed.
“We are challenging the department of labour. It should consider his claim,” said Xulu.