Landmark Silicosis Class Action Settlement – A Win For Gold Mine Workers
Once in a while, something happens that causes dying faith in humanity to sprout and begin to grow again. Towards the end of July, such an occurrence happened here in South Africa. A historic class action settlement for gold mine workers in seven South African countries was approved by the courts. In simple terms, over 500,000 mineworkers who worked in South African mines between 1965 and the time of the court approval and who had suffered from silicosis or TB would be awarded some compensation out of the R5 billion won in the case.
Those to benefit from this class action settlement are workers from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, eSwatini, Mozambique, Lesotho and Malawi. Though it has taken 15 years to arrive at this point, the mineworkers and their families will surely be grateful for something to help especially those who were rendered unable to work but have continued to pay their way through hospital for treatment of their condition. Families who lost their breadwinners because of silicosis or TB complications will also receive some compensation to assist even if only in a small way.
Depending on the level of the silicosis complication and/or death as a result of the condition, the compensations will vary. However, what is most significant is the fact that the mines that are a part of this deal and the representatives of the mineworkers, especially the Legal Resources Centre (LRC) who worked on behalf of the mineworkers for free, came to the negotiation table in good faith. They all came with the sole purpose of working out something that would benefit the affected parties. We are all aware of cases where employers resist compensating workers who get injured at work or worse. But, for these firms, Anglo America South Africa, Goldfields, Harmony, African Rainbow Minerals, AngloGold Ashanti and Sibanye Stillwater, they were willing to pay compensation to workers who contracted silicosis or tuberculosis on a gold mine they owned or operated.
The most significant thing for me in all this is that most of the mine workers and their families may not even be aware that there is and has been for the past 15 years, a push for their benefit. I am sure there will be many who will be surprised when contacted to provide information of their affliction etc, and even greater will be the surprise when they are awarded the compensation.
Granted, R70,000 or R100,000 may not alleviate the suffering or pain of losing a loved one, but, it is going to give the message that someone cares. To know that someone somewhere is thinking of you and not because you asked for their sympathy, but because out of the goodness of their heart they have chosen to do right by humanity goes a long way in helping restore faith in humanity.
This unprecedented historic action in South Africa is worth emulating across the continent. Should we have more such successful class actions, the underprivileged would benefit and human would be seen to be observed for all.