Poverty and Non-Natural Deaths among Former Mineworkers and in their Families in Transkei Region of South Africa


  • B Meel




Poverty, unnatural death, socio-economic effect


Background: Thousands of former mineworkers across former Transkei have already passed on, are
disabled, or died due to either mining related diseases or non-natural ways of dying such as accidents,
suicide, or homicide. Many ex-mineworkers have died prematurely, placing a strain on their families.
This has led to dysfunctional families and has created the conditions for children from these families to
commit crime. Compensation could be claimed for mining related maladies, but the non-natural deaths
are unbearable for a resource-stricken family.
Objective: To highlight the problem of poverty and non-natural deaths among former mineworkers,
and to relate the impact on their families.
Method and Material: This research, a retrospective qualitative study on former mineworkers and their
children, was carried out in 2000-01 at the forensic pathology laboratory of Umtata General Hospital
complex, Mthatha, Eastern Cape, South Africa. The records of interviews performed during medicolegal autopsies in 2000 and 2001were reviewed at Umtata (Mthatha) General Hospital mortuary. The
interviews were routinely performed in relation to victims who were admitted at the Umtata (Mthatha)
General Hospital mortuary.
Results: Eighty-four family records were analysed. Of these, 21 (25%) were found to be former
mineworkers and their immediate family members. There were five mineworkers and 15 children of
mineworkers. Only one was the spouse of a mineworker who had died unnaturally, and one person
was unaccounted for in these numbers. Three mineworkers died because of firearm injuries, one was
assaulted by someone with a knobkerrie, and another one died because of alcoholic intoxication. Two
of them had heavy drinking habits. Three mineworkers were unemployed. The causes of unnatural
deaths were as follows: five stabbed, two from firearm injuries, one from a motor vehicle accident,
one assaulted with blunt object, and three committed suicides by hanging and poisoning. Most of the
victims consumed alcohol.
Conclusion: A high number of former mineworkers died an unnatural death. Poverty could be an
associated as an underlying cause of death.

Author Biography

B Meel

Professor MBBS, MD, DHSM (Natal), DOH (Wits), MPhil HIV/AIDS Management (Stellenbosch), Research
Associate, Nelson Mandela University, Port Elizabeth 6031 South Africa




How to Cite

B Meel. (2021). Poverty and Non-Natural Deaths among Former Mineworkers and in their Families in Transkei Region of South Africa. Indian Journal of Forensic Medicine & Toxicology, 16(1), 1512–1517. https://doi.org/10.37506/ijfmt.v16i1.17717