Mozambican mineworkers project additional information


For Mozambique’s large number of current and retired migrant mineworkers, who have a long history of working in South Africa’s mines, many are unaware of their rights and the available social protection mechanisms and services. The shortcomings in legal policy implementation, documentation and knowledge have contributed to a number of severe social protection problems for migrant mineworkers, namely, portability of pensions, access to compensation and essential reintegration programmes.

In order to find sustainable solutions, migrant mine workers and their families need appropriate channels to voice their concerns. Managed and implemented by the International Organisation for Migration and funded by the European Union, the aim of this regional project is to improve the protection and advocacy capacity of migrant mine workers and their families in Southern Africa. The project has three components: institutional capacity-building of the Mozambican Mine Workers Association (AMIMO); facilitating legal services and counseling for mine workers and their families, together with Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR), and; advocacy and communications at the national and regional levels to spur dialogue with stakeholders and inform beneficiaries of their rights.


Project information:
Funded by the European Union Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR), the aim of the project is to improve the protection and advocacy capacity of migrant mine workers and their families in Southern Africa. The project has three components and brings together three key advocates for migrants’ rights in the region: The International Organisation for Migration (IOM), the Mozambican Mine Workers Association (AMIMO) and Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR).

  1. Institutional capacity-building of the mine workers representatives (AMIMO)
    This component will build AMIMO’s institutional capacity, sustainability and accountability – including strategic planning, business development, human resources, Information and Communication Technology and office equipment, financial, governance and accountability systems. IOM will work with AMIMO to conduct a comprehensive organizational capacity assessment (OCA) leading to training and capacity-building activities based on its recommendations.
  2. Stronger legal services for mine workers and families in South Africa and Mozambique
    This component is designed to build AMIMO’s capacity to deliver services to mine workers including legal counselling and case work. LHR will provide mentoring support to AMIMO throughout the programme as AMIMO rolls out direct service provision to beneficiaries in Mozambique – Maputo, Gaza and Inhambane Provinces – and South Africa. This ongoing support from LHR will include the handling of complicated cases and potentially elevating strategic cases to litigation. These cases will be documented in a central data repository.
  3. Advocacy and coordination for policy change and development
    With technical support from IOM and LHR, AMIMO will develop and advocacy strategy with three components: advocacy in Mozambique, advocacy in South Africa and regional advocacy with the inclusion and input from the Southern Africa Mine Workers Association. The strategy aims to raise awareness of gaps identified in baseline research and will target relevant regional and national duty-bearers within governments (SADC, AU Governments of Mozambique and South Africa) and the private sector (e.g. South African Chamber of Mines).

The primary organisational beneficiary of the project, AMIMO, was formed in 1996 and has established representation in both Mozambique and South Africa. AMIMO currently provides support to SAMA to establish itself as a legitimate regional mine workers association. AMIMO receives minimal support, dues or financial resources towards its mandate: Improving and protecting the rights of Mozambican miners at home and in South Africa. AMIMO’s membership and staff are made up of a marginalized population: retired and active migrant mine workers. AMIMO’s core functions include facilitating border crossing between South Africa and Mozambique, educating stakeholders on mine workers’ political, economic and social rights, implementing livelihood programmes for miners’ widows and liaising with the Mozambican Ministry of Health and Labour on mine workers’ needs.

Lawyers for Human Rights will provide counselling, legal services, capacity-building in human rights and mentorship in ongoing legal cases. LHR will also assist AMIMO to take part in ongoing advocacy/coordination interventions in South Africa, including existing coordination groups which bring together various actors to promote migrants rights.


Historically South Africa has lacked an integrated approach to migration and labour practices. Despite new constitutional dispensation, the country is still vulnerable to exploitative practices in the formal and informal economies. This often correlates with vulnerability caused by a lack of legal documentation and lack of coherent multi-sectoral policies for local integration (short-term or long-term) of migrant workers and former migrant workers. The system is based on immigration enforcement and exclusion rather than a rights-based policy resulting in inclusion and integration. Another major obstacle is the lack of knowledge of migrants regarding their rights and services available to them. In this way, legal services are needed to provide legal advice and, where necessary, legal representation to ensure that these rights are protected.

Recent information points to a need to investigate the numbers of mine workers, types of contracts, and resulting human rights abuses. An unidentified number of migrant mine workers are working in South Africa without formal contracts, resulting in violation of their labour and health rights. This group to date unidentified and without any voice or representation – is in particular danger without regulations and controls to protect their basic human rights. AMIMO claims that as many as 40 000 Mozambicans, retrenched from the contracted mining system, have returned under precarious circumstances. The Employment Bureau for Africa, the primary mine recruitment agency, currently estimates 39 500 Mozambicans are contracted to the mines through formal mechanisms, with another 40 000 Mozambicans working in non-licensed mines or through sub-contracts.
Lack of follow through in legal policy implementation and lack of documentation in the case of sub-contracted or undocumented workers leads to a number of problems:

  •     Without documents, migrants are subjected to arrest and detention in terms of the South African Immigration Act;
  •     Without employment contracts, migrants may be subject to labour exploitation;
  •     Undocumented migrants are unable to access essential social services such as health care or other services such as bank accounts (which makes it difficult to send remittances home);
  •     Those working unlawfully are seen as unfair competition in the local informal economy and this may continue to fuel xenophobia and intolerance, which is a serious problem in South Africa.