News / Silicosis

Press conference: Former mineworkers, caregivers and children speak out on the effects of silicosis

From the 6th of February 2017, the City of Cape Town will host the largest conference dedicated to the capitalisation and development of mining interests in Africa. The Investing In African Mining Indaba is expected to gather more than 7,000 delegates representing nearly 2,100 international companies.

However, this gathering takes place while thousands of former mineworkers and their families wait for the compensation due to them as a result of industry failure to protect them from silicosis, an incurable, fatal and entirely preventable lung disease contracted by hundreds of thousands of mineworkers across South and Southern Africa.

In May 2016, the South Gauteng High Court handed down a judgement in favour of 69 mineworkers, who represent tens of thousands of former gold mineworkers and their dependents, in the certification proceeding for a class action. The mineworkers, represented by Richard Spoor Attorneys (Spoor), Abrahams Kiewitz Inc (Abrahams), and the Legal Resources Centre (LRC), sought certification of a class action aimed at seeking accountability from 32 gold mining houses for their failure to prevent and treat silicosis.

Sonke Gender Justice (Sonke) together with the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), represented by SECTION 27 intervened as amici curiae (friends of the court), and submitted evidence on the gendered impact of the mining-related lung diseases, including the unpaid care-giving provided by women and children in mine-sending communities and the ripple effects of having to dedicate time, money, and personal well-being to provide this care.

In June 2016, the gold mining companies applied for leave to appeal against the judgement and partially succeeded with their application. Their application was successful only insofar as it related to one aspect of the case, prompting the mines to petition the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) directly.

In September 2016, the SCA granted the mining companies leave to appeal on all aspects of the certification granted by the South Gauteng High Court, resulting in further delay for the thousands of people affected.

Sonke will be facilitating a press conference for mineworkers, their caregivers and children to give a firsthand account of the impact of silicosis in their lives and make a direct plea to the mining sector to take responsibility for their actions.


Date: 7 February 2017
Time: 10am
Venue: Sonke Gender Justice
1st Floor, Westminster House,122 Longmarket Street, 8001, Cape Town

Speakers include:

Ms Alice Magala: 24-year old daughter of a mineworker who was forced to leave school when his father was critically ill from silicosis. Alice bared witness to the death of her father and the continued effects on her family and schooling.

Mrs Nobekile Duba and Nomziwonke Jamela: Wives of former mineworkers who worked in the gold mines for decades and were sent home sick and with very little compensation. Nobekile and Nomziwonke talk of the daily struggles for food and access to healthcare services.

Mr Tshidiso Thulo: Employed at various gold mines for 38 years and released because of his medical condition in 2009.


Patrick Godana, Government and Media Manager, Sonke Gender Justice, 021 423 7088,

Thabang Pooe, Policy and Development Fellow, Sonke Gender Justice, 011 339 3589,

Karen Robertson, Communications and Strategic Information Manager, Sonke Gender Justice, 021 423 7088,


3 February 2017
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