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SA raises social health aid in mining towns

The SA state has allocated R18-b for social health aid and wellness in 15 mining towns.

Government had undertaken a socio-economic diagnostic study of 15 prioritised mining towns and 12 prioritised labour-sending areas, to get a better understanding of the extent of the challenges in each town and to determine the most appropriate actions to address these.

Operation Phakisa (‘Hurry Up’) is being extended to mining, It is headed by the inter-ministerial committee (IMC) in charge of revitalising mining communities in the Eastern Cape, Free State, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and North West, said SA president Jacob Zuma in July.

The bulk of this funding is from government, with mining companies contributing a third of the funding.

Some government announcements linked fast-tracking of offshore oil and gas exploration, as well as shale gas fracking, to the project.

Zuma appointed the high level committee shortly after the Marikana tragedy, in which over 44 people lost their lives during labour unrest at the Lonmin mine in North West in 2012.

The Marikana strike massacre marked a number of economic and social turning points, including the start of increased state aid to mining towns.
The Marikana strike massacre marked a number of economic and social turning points, including the start of increased state aid to mining towns. (PHOTO; ENCA)

Health and safety have social aspects

On the wellbeing of the miners, the Department of Health, together with the departments of Labour and Mineral Resources, is working towards the alignment of the industry’s occupational health and safety policy.

The goal is to build an enhanced social protection system, as well as reorganise the compensation system and access to benefits for former and current mineworkers.

“The Department of Mineral Resources is employing mine accident and occupational diseases prevention mechanisms through improved mine inspections, audits, investigations and monitoring of occupational exposure levels,” Zuma said.

Enforcement and inspections have been beefed up through 40 regional medical inspectors, analysis of annual medical reports from the mines’ provision of standards on workplace exposures, implementing inspection and audit tools for occupational health services, promotion of occupational health in the mining industry, and reviewing research relevant to occupational medicine in the mining industry.

The departments of Mineral Resources and of Health are employing strategic interventions to promote healthy and safe working conditions.

These include ensuring the reduction in falls of ground accidents by 20% annually; actively promoting awareness of the National Strategic Plan on HIV, STIs and TB; preventing personal over-exposure to silica dust; and promoting active linkage of dust exposure to medical surveillance.

The Department of Health has established one-stop service centres to bring health and compensation services to former and current mine workers in the mining towns and in labour-sending areas.

There are centres in Mthatha in Eastern Cape as well as Carletonville in Gauteng. More one-stop service centres will be established in other provinces, beginning in Kuruman in Northern Cape and Burgersfort in Limpopo.

The state will also set up mobile units in neighbouring countries such as Lesotho and Swaziland during the 2015/16 fiscal year.

Government is driving a number of fast-tracked projects under the banner of job creation. These include exploitation of marine, oil and mineral resources.
Government is driving a number of fast-tracked projects under the banner of job creation. These include exploitation of marine, oil and mineral resources.

Operation Phakisa extended

Zuma said he was making good on his promise in his State of the Nation Address to launch a mining version of Operation Phakisa, the integrated delivery system in the health and oceans economy sectors.
It would be discussed when the National Consultative Forum on the Mining Sector met later this year.

“To date, the Presidency has engaged in more than 15 consultative meetings with the [chief executives] of mining companies, representatives of civil society and national office bearers of labour unions and there is overwhelming support for the Phakisa process.”

His government was determined, working together with other stakeholders, to steer the mining industry towards increased investment, growth and transformation while being mindful of the social, environmental and health impacts on people in mining towns and labour-sending areas.

“The migrant labour system has been the backbone of the mining industry in South Africa and continues to have an enduring impact on both mining towns and rural labour-sending areas,” he said, urging all stakeholders and communities to work with the government to try to revitalise the mining sector.

Social sustainability goal

The committee mandate is to oversee implementation of integrated and sustainable human settlements, improve living and working conditions of mine workers and determine the development path of mining towns and the historic labour-sending areas.

“The fundamental mandate of the IMC is to change the face of mining in South Africa working with business, labour and other sectors.”

“In changing the face of mining, we are also drawing lessons from other countries,” Zuma said. He noted the Australia-Africa Partnership Facility, saying the country was benchmarking the policy and regulatory system governing the mining sectors in Australia, Chile, South Africa, and Zambia.

Housing for social wellness

Regarding housing, the Department of Human Settlements was implementing about 66 public sector housing projects in the 15 prioritised mining towns.

In the 2014/15, financial year more than R419-million was spent from the ring-fenced budget for upgrading informal settlements in prioritised mining towns in Limpopo, Free State, Gauteng, Mpumalanga and North West.

Overall over 7 000 units have been delivered in the mining towns. For this financial year about R1-b had been ring-fenced, which would deliver about 19 000 new houses.

Two of the housing projects were in Marikana, where about 500 houses would be built on land donated by Lonmin.

In addition to the ring-fenced human settlement grant funding, the department’s housing agencies have contributed over R1-b to integrated human settlements in mining towns.

This includes 17 341 loans of R239-m for incremental housing from the Rural Housing Loan Fund; R673-million delivering 3405 mortgage and social housing units from the National Housing Finance Corporation; bridging loans of R95.6-m for 1177 affordable houses and R36-m for 4546 subsidy units from Nurcha’s Construction Finance and Programme Management.

Zuma said the government embraced partnerships with labour and business.

Led by the Department of Trade and Industry, the departments of Co-operative Governance, Traditional Affairs, Rural Development and Land Reform and Small Business Development, are facilitating large and small scale industrial projects in the 15 mining towns.

These were critical in creating business and employment opportunities. In addition, Trade and Industry is helping selected municipalities and regions to develop and implement regional industrial development plans.

These include interventions in Bojanala and the Greater Tubatse local municipalities for the establishment of a platinum group metals special economic zone (SEZ).

Feasibility studies, business plans and the appointment of a project management unit have been completed and the SEZ designation and land acquisition is being finalised.

Others include the establishment of an agri-hub in Bojanala, Madibeng and Marikana for agriculture production and a processing facility, as well as the Vulindlela Industrial Park Revitalisation in King Sabata Dalindyebo Municipality, in Eastern Cape.

These projects, which include a multi-sectoral business park, will promote sustainable manufacturing investments into the region.

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