TERMINALLY ILL FORMER EMPLOYEES ACCUSE THE DIAMOND COMPANY OF SWINDLING THEM
About 54 Debswana employees who were retired through medical vetting have accused the diamond mining company of swindling them of their benefits through unethical practices.
The disgruntled workers who were relieved of their duties sometime last year for medical reasons have lambasted Debswana for what they said was an unethical and systematic way of stealing from employees who suffered injuries on the job.
In an exclusive interview with The Voice newspaper in Jwaneng last week the leader of the group, Pelotlhomogi Ntebang (52) said that although medical specialists have diagnosed the injuries which led to the 54 former employees retirement as directly linked to their jobs and recommended 100% compensation, Debswana set up an unethical system to counteract medical experts opinion in order to reduce pay outs.
Giving himself as a typical example of what him and his colleagues were grappling with, the former crane operator said his problems started after he experienced severe back pains which an x-ray later revealed to be eroded discs in the spine.
He had two gaping holes in his spine until metal discs were inserted to close the holes.
“The specialist said that the long hours I spent bending on the crane controls did the damage and offered me 100 % compensation, but my employer decided to reduce that to 50% after Debswana staff general practitioner had offered a contradictory opinion.
The question however is how does a general practitioner overrule a specialist”, Ntebang asked rhetorically.
He said that the doctors engaged by Debswana insisted that there was no way his injury could have been work related.
“They said I was born this way which is just ridiculous.” he said expressing suspicions that Debswana connived with the staff doctor who also seats on the Board that re-assesses applications.
“He is the one who refers us to specialists, why then is he reviewing their decisions,” queried Ntebang.
Rantona Tshotego, another disgruntled former Debswana employee who retired after 23 years of service and walks with a metal inserted in his ankles expressed similar sentiments.
He was retired in 1998 following a freak cable accident that broke his leg. Just like Ntebang, Tshotego was awarded 100% compensation but Debswana reduced that to just 10%.
“I was re-assessed by a specialist in 2002 and awarded 100%, but my compensation form was not completed until late 2009 and the compensation dropped to 40% by Debswana,” he said.
All the 54 former employees told similar stories of how they were being tossed from pillar to post by Debswana each time they demanded to know when they were going to finally receive their compensation.
“Apart from cutting cots, image conscious Debswana does not want to be associated with any of the on job long-term injuries that we suffered when we worked for them.
They are doing everything possible to deny and dissociate the company from injures suffered at the time” said Ntebang who worked for Debswana for 30 years.
Commenting on the issue, Group Public and Corporate Affairs Manager at Debswana Esther Kanaimba-Senai said: “Debswana does not discuss employee issues in the media.
There are laid down processes which aggrieved employees can follow including taking matters with the Labour Department if not satisfied.”