New lease on life for ex-miners

Thousands of struggling ex-mineworkers in the OR Tambo district have been given a second chance in life following the launch of an ambitious skills development programme to help them become more employable, including turning some into artisans.
The multimillion-rand training programme is a joint venture between the Unemployment Insurance Fund, which is a public entity of the department of labour, Ntinga OR Tambo Development Agency and Walter Sisulu University.
It was officially launched in Mqanduli on Monday. About 2,000 ex-mineworkers will be equipped with apprenticeship, learnership and skills training for two years, according to Ntinga acting chief executive Loyiso Mbiko.
WSU will focus on a learnership programme comprising plant and beef farming, business management and entrepreneurship, among other things.
Around 5,500 ex-miners are set to form part of the training.
“In partnership with the Seda, we applied for funding and received around R89-million from the UIF for the programme,” said Mbiko.
“Beneficiaries will be trained as boilermakers, carpenters, agriculture, manufacturing, welders – 1,000 of them will then be assisted to find employment while another 1,000 will be assisted to start their own businesses.”He said the beneficiaries were between the ages of 18 and 50 and would spend the first year learning theory before being placed in workplaces to acquire experience in the second year.Of the beneficiaries, 70% would be ex-miners and their families, while the remaining 30% would be unemployed youths and women from communities in the five local municipalities making up OR Tambo district.“Our responsibility is to support municipalities grow their economies. [However] we realised that there is a problem of a skills gap.”Port St Johns youth Odwa Majali, who passed her matric in 2012 but battled to find employment, said she was thrilled to be chosen as a beneficiary as she wanted to open agricultural projects in her Majola village once she completed training.Mqanduli resident Mzuvukile Bhushula, who worked in the mines for 35 years until returning home in 2014, said many ex-miners were battling to make ends meet.But he was sceptical if the programme could actually make a difference in their lives.“Some of them are sick and never received any financial compensation from the mines. I was lucky because I invested some of the money I earned. I have been surviving from it, ever since I returned home.”
WSU’s director for advancement Silvanus Welcome said they would also train people in plumbing and entrepreneurship.“The idea is about sustainability. We will help some of the beneficiaries to enter the job market but others, we hope, will be able to start their businesses,” he said.The launch was attended by communications minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, agriculture, forestry and fisheries minister Senzeni Zokwana, sports minister Thoko Xasa, labour deputy minister Phathekile Holomisa, Eastern Cape rural development and agrarian reform MEC Xolile Nqatha and acting AbaThembu King Azenathi Dalindyebo.Holomisa said the Eastern Cape was the biggest labour-reservoir for the mines.But it was discovered that when people were laid off by mines, they came back home without any skills to sustain their livelihoods.“We want them to be employable and others to be able to create their own businesses,” he said. Holomisa said even informal traders would be considered for the training programme. Ndabeni-Abrahams said it was important for government to work together on development programmes.As such, her department had decided to join hands in the programme, particularly because technology nowadays played a big role in people’s

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