By: Mahadio Mohapi, Lebohang Maitsile , Disebo Ntisa
It is terrifying that Tuberculosis (TB) is a major killer disease in Kanana Township, and that the mines are causing it through the silica dust exposure from its underground activities. Our community lives in poor economic conditions, more especially poor housing and insufficient food. This appalling living conditions also provides a breeding ground for diseases such as TB to flourish.
Community monitors in Kanana have decided to make this issue a priority in their work in the coming months.
Kanana is a small township surrounded by gold mines. It falls under the greater area in Klerksdorp called “KOSH”, consisting of four towns which are; Klerksdorp, Orkney, Stilfontein and Hartebeesfontein. All these areas are located around gold mines in the Matlosana municipality, thus they are all directly and indirectly affected by the mining activities. They experience many problems from mining such as cracked houses due to blasting, as well as polluted air and water just to mention a few.
Kanana township is one of the areas which is considered hardest hit by Tuberculosis. Recently the Deputy State President, Cyril Ramaphosa visited the area to launch a mass TB screening campaign. He said, “the area has many people succumbing to tuberculosis. It is one of the six districts countrywide hardest hit by the disease”. “South Africa is the third worst affected country in the world and the disease remains the number one killer in the country despite being both curable and preventable”, Ramaphosa added.
Most unfortunately, the deputy president in his address did not tell the people that the mines were a major cause for TB in Kanana. Government should support the people not the mines. If they are not prepared to say what the root cause of the problem is , how will they solve the problem?
Just four months after the Ramaphosa launch, the Bench Marks Foundation and the members of Justice and Peace (J&P) in Kanana inter
viewed residents in Z-section closest to the Tau lekwa shaft number 10. The community monitors interviewed the residents and mine employees on their health conditions and on other matters.
Justice and Peace activist, Mahadio Mohapi said, said ”in our house to house visit in the area we came across people who were sick and noticed that among other diseases TB was the most pressing problem”.We strongly believe that the mines are responsible for the TB in Kanana. We spoke to a care giver, Nosi Notyiwa, who is working for Mamosa Home-based Care in the area. She said “ most of our patients in our database under our care, are HIV/AIDS and TB patients, the day to day challenge is that they lack nutritious meals to enable them to take their medication and recover to the better. Some tell tell us they worked in the mines before and are at home due to illness”.
Our monitors in Kanana have written in previous years about their observations on the health hazards which are posed by the mining activities.
One of the TB victims whom we interviewed Mr. Sam Mashiya said, “I worked in the mines underground and contracted the disease while working.The mine could not be of help when I approached them for medical care, they simply referred me to the public clinic”.
Overcrowding in public clinics is the biggest problem in many communities and also accounts for TB patients who are defaulting treatment because they can’t stand for long waiting to be attended by nurses. The community health worker at the Majara Sephepo Clinic, Keletso Makepe said, “some TB patients are defaulting treatment because their general living conditions are too bad, the mining companies should assist government in its efforts to provide primary health care by training and paying more health care workers”.
The community should stand up on this issue and demand to know from government what has happened since the screening of TB patient in March.
It is important that our government admits that mines are part of the TB problem in communities due to their harmful activities.
As a community we demand that the mines improve health and safety conditions of workers and the government gives full support to the sufferers.