Thousands of ex-miners win right to unpaid unemployment benefits

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

Thousands of ex-miners are lining up at the labour department’s doors for their unpaid unemployment funds, after years of waiting for their money.

The Western Cape High Court ruled this week the department should cooperate with a Cape Town law firm championing miner’s claims.

Xulu Attorneys Inc won an 18-month battle for ex-miner Sithethi Khephelele from an informal settlement in Delft South.

The firm’s Barnabas Xulu said this victory opened the doors for “in excess of 20,000 miners that we are helping” to claim their unemployment benefits.

A court order issued on Wednesday compels the labour department to process all Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) claims that Xulu forwards it.

The department’s spokesman did not offer an official statement on this matter by the time Weekend Argus went to print. The department did say though that processing paperwork takes time.

But Xulu slammed the department for an “administrative injustice”.

“It’s taken our client a year-and-a-half to get his UIF benefits of R3000. We will make claims on behalf of ex-miners. The department is now compelled to deal with us,” said Xulu.

He said numerous miners had difficulties with processing their UIF claims on their own.

“The forms are in English and many of them cannot read or even understand English. Many of them are uneducated. The only skills they have relates to being miners,” he said.

Xulu Attorneys Inc has set up offices in Western Cape, Eastern Cape, North West, Limpopo and Gauteng provinces to work with ex-miners who have not yet been paid UIF as well as pension and provident funds. It is also working with ex-miners across southern Africa with similar claims.

Xulu said thousands of ex-miners are unemployed and poor while they are owed money from various sources.

“They are unemployed and the mining industry has destroyed their capability of being employed. When you get out of the mines you are in bad health and have injuries. The only skill they have is to be mineworkers,” he said.

He said they took the labour department to court because they “were not co-operating”.

“That was the only way we could win our client’s rights. We are now going to assist miners countrywide to make their UIF claims,” he said.

“If there’s any form of resistance, we will go back to court. We’ve seen them drag their feet but our saviour will be the court.

“It’s shocking that the department has taken so long to pay the UIF.”

The court’s Judge Ashton Scheepers, who presided over the matter, said the labour department should “expeditiously deal with these claims because it’s unfair to the claimants”.

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About Yazeed Kamaldien

Self-employed journalist and photographer from South Africa.

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