Employment and Labour Minister,Thulas Nxesi and Lesotho’s Foreign Affairs and International Relations Minister, Mpotjoana Lejone have committed to speed up the disbursement of funds to Basotho ex-mine workers.
Nxesi said the compensation of former mine workers is a big Southern African Development Community (SADC) issue, as former mine workers are owed by the mining companies, with some being injured.
“The main issue is the mechanism to use on how we channel compensation to the recipients,” Nxesi said.
He said the Department of Employment and Labour will continue to work with the Department of Health and Department of Mineral Resources and Energy in the search for beneficiaries and speeding up payments.
Nxesi was speaking in Pretoria on Tuesday during the start of a visit by Lejone, who is leading a delegation of Lesotho government officials.
The delegation will be in South Africa for three days. They will also meet with the Compensation Fund, the Unemployment Insurance Fund, National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC) and the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA).
The Minister said the meeting was long-overdue and the visit would allow for the strengthening of existing relations, and learning and sharing of information and each other’s experiences.
On labour migration, Nxesi said the matter is a complex one that needs cooperation.
“We have good bilateral relations with Lesotho and do not want to spoil that. We have to recognise the reality that Basotho are entrenched in the development and history of this country. When we come with migration policy, it will not be a one size fits all. How we deal with migration with Lesotho will be different from other SADC countries,” he said.
Lejone reiterated Nxesi’s view that the relationship between the two countries is similar to that of a bond between a “mother and child”. He said Lesotho is learning a lot from its developed neighbour.
“We need to take stock of milestones achieved together, as well as setting other milestones in the future. We need to review our old Memoranda of Understanding to align that with new developments.
“South Africa stands to benefit immensely from the Highlands Water Project and we are working on a number of projects in agriculture production, energy and exploration for collaboration with South Africa,” Lejone said.
The Minister said these projects will ease the unemployment burden and minimise migration between the two countries.
He said remittances account for 15% of Lesotho’s gross domestic product (GDP).
According to Lejone, while the Basotho workers have carried the burden of disease and injury, there have been benefits to Lesotho’s economy.
Lejone said the Lesotho government supports legal migration. With the Lesotho Special Permit dispensation due to expire in December, Lejone said the country is looking forward to the legal extension of the stay of Basotho workers in SA.
He said his country is looking at convening a dialogue in September, which will include a South Africa delegation, to share best practices on how to speed up payments of benefits to ex-mineworkers.