Sunday, October 17, 2021

Landmark victory for former SA mine workers

Following years of negotiations for compensation, retired Batswana South African mining workers and their families have finally reached the Promised Land. This follows negotiations between the ex-mining workers led by the Southern African Miners Association (SAMA), and the mining corporations earlier this week which were directed towards developing a prolonged process of relief for the workers.

Attorneys representing all appellants and respondents involved in the appeal to the South African Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) in respect of the silicosis and tuberculosis class action litigation announced this week that the two parties had reached an agreement. 

Occupational Lung Disease Working Group representing -African Rainbow Minerals, Anglo American SA, AngloGold Ashanti, Gold Fields, Harmony, Sibanye Still Water, and Pan African Resources, and Legal Resources Centre representing the class members announced the decision following three years of extensive negotiations.

“This is an historic settlement,” reads a joint statement from the two parties, “The agreement provides meaningful compensation to all eligible workers suffering from silicosis and or tuberculosis who worked in these companies’ mines from 12 March 1965 to date. This is the very first action class of its kind in South Africa.”

The two parties say they believe that a compromise settlement is far preferable to all concerned than an inevitably lengthy and expensive litigation process would be, allowing for claimants to more quickly receive compensation and relief for their conditions.

“This is a landmark moment in the long struggle of the working class in mines from 1866 to 2018, bringing an end to the prolonged negotiations between the former mine workers and mining corporations,” said Mallet Giyose, National Chairperson of Jubilee South Africa.

“The issue of compensation for ex mine workers has been at the center of the negotiations while other forms of relief in the form of health, education and social assistance were also moot. It is our belief that the liberation of the working class will only come by the hand of the working class,” Giyose said following the negotiations. The Botswana Labour Migrant Association (BoLAMA) together with Jubilee South Africa, the Ex-miners Lesotho, the Association of Mozambican Mineworkers (AMIMO), the Swaziland Migrant Mineworkers Association, and the ex-Mineworkers Union of South Africa, have been critical in driving the initiative.

“We would like to thank the fraternal civil society organizations who have unwaveringly supported the struggle of former mineworkers through this period, in particular the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), Section 27 and Sonke Gender Justice. In particular we wish to express our heartfelt thanks for the solidarity and association provided by the law firms Abrahams Kiewitz Attorneys, Richard Spoor Attorneys and the Legal Resource Centre,” Giyose said.

The settlement is subject to certain suspensive conditions, including the agreement being approved by the South Gauteng High Court. The parties’ respective legal teams are working together to prepare the necessary paperwork in order that the Court may review the agreement and approve of the process whereby all interested and affected parties will be given notice of the settlement and an opportunity to comment and make submissions before the Court considers issuing its final approval.

BoLAMA is an organization which was formed as a result of the TB/Silicosis compensation program which DITSHWANELO ÔÇô the Botswana Centre for Human Rights was and still running. This organization is comprised of and seeks to advocate for the rights of ex-miners and their families. It was registered officially in 2015. The association currently has a membership of over 4000 in seven Districts in Botswana. The organization works under three (3) thematic areas; (i) labour migration, (ii) social security & human rights (iii) livelihood and economic empowerment.

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