In recent weeks South Africa’s major gold-mining companies announced that they have earmarked money to establish a trust fund for former goldmine workers who contracted , a deadly lung disease, while working in the mines.
This has been hailed as a major breakthrough by stakeholders who have worked tirelessly to bring about justice for South Africa’s goldmine workers who have been sent home sick and empty handed.
In the first episode of this story, Special Assignment unpacked the gendered impact of silicosis through the heart-wrenching stories of the women – wives and daughters – who are left with the burden of caring for their dying men. Tonight we bring you the stories of the children of the deceased mine workers whose fathers died before their battle for financial compensation was fought to the end.
Their families were left without any financial compensation despite their fathers and husbands working, in some instances, for more than three decades in the goldmines. Many sons of these miners, like Thabo Kuna who features in tonight’s programme, have little choice other than to work in the same mines where their fathers contracted the deadly lung disease that led to their slow and painful death.
In May 2016 some of these families won a landmark court application when the Johannesburg High Court certified that South Africa’s first ever landmark class action by former sick goldmine workers against 32 gold mine companies, can go ahead.
An estimated half a million former goldmine workers or their families could potentially benefit from this historic case against esssentially, the country’s entire goldmine industry.
But the mining companies have appealed this ruling- the Supreme Court of Appeal is set to rule in April next year on the future of the landmark class action.
Many families of the dying mineworkers feel the legal wrangling is a ploy by mine companies to buy time while their loved ones’ health deteriorates. Meanwhile crucial negotiations between the legal teams of the plaintiffs and the mining companies forge ahead paralell to the legal proceedings and behind closed doors.
One of the crucial questions is whether the transmisibility of damages are included in these talks, which will enable the widows and children of deceased miners to also apply for compensation.
Stakeholders agree an out-of-court agreement could mean the difference between a financial settlement within a year rather than a lengthy litigation of up to a decade.
Will justice prevail for these sick goldmine workers and their families and those of deceased mine workers?
Watch Deadly Gold Legacy – Part Two, produced by Adel van Niekerk, on Special Assignment. Mondays at 21h00 on SABC3.