I am getting near to the end of the trip now and am realising that I have heard the same stories over and over again. I am really aware that this shouldn’t take away from the importance of the issue, in fact it should add to it because there are so many people in the same position.
In Lesotho many people survive on subsistence farming and it is easy to think that, although these men have lost their jobs through sickness, they have farming to fall back on. The reality is very different though. It is by no means a way of making money that can pay for medication, their children’s education or fuel to cook with. It is really just a means of survival, enough to feed themselves and their family and it is come by with hard, hard work for someone sick with silicosis. This was brought home to me when we visited Mr Tau (below) and, as he arrived home from looking after his cattle, he was struggling to breath, wheezing and puffing from the relatively short walk.
Matiisetto Nong is the widow of Samuel Leponesa Nong. She is 58 years old and lost her husband in 2007. He worked on the mines for 31 years and was taken home ot Lesotho in a company ambulance when he was retrenched due to 2nd degree silicosis and TB. He did not receive any compensation.
After he was retrenched, the mines promised to recruit his son but did not end up employing him when he went to them. He ended up looking after his father until he died.
Noebejara Tau is 70 years old and lives in Mafeteng, Lesotho. Hw worked on the mines between 1972 and 2000 as a loader driver. He was diagnosed with silicosis and retrenched. Although he did receive a small amount of compensation, he now has to depend on subsistence farming and bartering with his neighbours in order to acquire the food he needs to feed himself and his wife.
Toulang Mako, 65, lives in Mohales Hoek, Lesotho. He worked on the mines for 21 years as a miners assistant and would sing in a traditional group at the weekends. During this time he contracted TB on 3 separate occasions and in 2012 he discovered that he had silicosis. Although he had a medical when he was retrenched he was not informed about the silicosis and was never compensated.