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City’s informal miners are ‘desperate’

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A large group of artisanal miners in Kimberley, many of whom are from other provinces, are reportedly on the brink of starvation after having been left destitute due to the lockdown.

A LARGE group of artisanal miners in Kimberley, many of whom are from other provinces, are reportedly on the brink of starvation after having been left destitute due to the lockdown.

A spokesperson for the group, Daisy Dawson, said on Tuesday that the group of about 70 informal miners is “desperate”.

“Many have come from other provinces to mine here but with the lockdown they are not able to go back home, while their families also cannot send them food or money,” said Dawson.

She said that since the start of the lockdown they had been unable to continue with their informal mining operations.

“They are very, very hungry, and don’t know what to do anymore.”

Dawson said they had been trying for more than a month to organise assistance from the SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) but added that this had been in vain. “I have phoned several times but each time I get told a different story.”

She stated that she had been told that if any of the informal miners were recipients of Sassa grants they would not be able to receive additional assistance. “They don’t qualify for grants, however, and as a result they have absolutely nothing.”

She added that some members of the group were stealing from others. “They sometimes steal mealie meal from those who have, just so that they can get something to eat. But if they are caught, they are badly beaten up.

“We respect what the president has said and we support his call to prevent the spread of the coronavirus but we also need assistance. Living here in the veld, we are not infringing on the social distancing policy but many feel that the ANC is not doing its share in ensuring that the people do not starve to death. It seems that we have been forgotten.”

Dawson added that some of the informal miners wanted to march in groups of two people to the offices of Sassa on Wednesday, but added that they were not sure that these would be open. “They also don’t want to get into trouble with the authorities. They are just trying to focus attention on their plight so that they can get food to eat and benefit from the relief programmes. 

“What is happening here is very sad.”

Sassa spokesperson in the Northern Cape, Inno Khunou, confirmed that a spokesperson for the informal miners had contacted the local office and that the procedure to be followed had been explained to them.

“For any Sassa-related enquiries about grants, people must call 0800 003 077, which is free,”  Khunou said. She pointed out that as the need was great, the call sometimes took long to be answered, but she urged people to be patient. “We log all requests for food parcels and we will get everyone who requests assistance.”

She reminded the public, however, that recipients of social grants did not qualify for food parcels from Sassa, and any enquiries about assistance in this regard needed to be directed to the Department of Social Security.

She also urged people not to march to Sassa’s offices. “The offices are closed and this is also contradictory to the president’s call for social distancing.”