The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) and Sonke Gender Justice (Sonke) welcome the ruling of the South Gauteng High Court to admit the TAC and Sonke as amici curiae (friends of the court) in a landmark case in which hundreds of thousands of mineworkers who contracted silicosis and/or tuberculosis in South Africa’s gold mines seek justice. This is a significant and great step forward that two public interest organisations are admitted as amici in this landmark case.
The ruling, delivered this morning by Judges Phineas Mojapelo, Bashier Vally and Leonie Windell, allows for the TAC and Sonke to make argument and introduce evidence in the case specifically related to the evidence Sonke’s Dean Peacock submitted in his affidavit, bringing to the fore the impact that mining-related occupational disability has on the women who take care of mineworkers with debilitating silicosis and tuberculosis.
The entry of TAC and Sonke, who are represented by SECTION27, will allow the two organisations to present to the court evidence showing the wider social impact of how gold mining companies have endangered workers, fuelled epidemics, impoverished communities and entrenched gender inequalities over the past five decades. This includes evidence on the way in which women bear the burden of the mining industry’s disregard for mineworkers health and their prioritisation of profit over people.
The TAC, as a friend of the court, will make legal arguments on why the class should be certified during the October hearings and will play a big role in mobilising public opinion. “The history of the gold mines in South Africa is a history of exploitation and of a disregard for the health and dignity of mostly poor black workers,” says Anele Yawa, General Secretary of the TAC. “The ill-treatment of workers in the gold mines runs like an open wound through our history. It is our hope that through this case this history will be recognised and that there will finally be some justice for the miners and their families who have suffered because of the neglect shown by these mining companies.”
Sonke will release new research the organisation has recently conducted in mine sending communities on the nature and extent of women’s caregiving for sick mineworkers and the physical, emotional and financial costs they have borne. Dean Peacock, Sonke’s Executive Director, says “it’s high time for the mining industry to honour the women onto whom it displaced the burden of caring for mineworkers who contracted silicosis on the job. We, at Sonke, urge the gold mining industry to do what’s right and recognise the huge debt the industry owes to women, and then compensate them properly for all the onerous unpaid care work they have been forced to do.”
TAC and Sonke’s application was opposed by 18 of the 32 gold mining companies involved in the case. These 18 companies, including Harmony Gold Mining Company and its subsidiaries, Gold Fields and Anglo American South Africa, were represented in this week’s hearings by three large legal teams.
The application was not opposed by the former mine workers who are seeking compensation in the case.
The case is set to continue on October 12, when the South Gauteng High Court will hear arguments regarding the certification of the class. If the class is certified it will be the largest class to ever be certified in South Africa. It will allow hundreds of thousands of people who otherwise would be unable to access justice – mainly because they are too poor or too sick – to seek redress for the devastating illnesses.
The conduct of the gold mining industry has left thousands sick or dead, entrenched cycles of inequality and poverty for many women and left many communities destitute. The TAC and Sonke look forward to contributing towards achieving a measure of justice for this long and tragic history of rights violations.
You can find more background on the case here http://www.tac.org.za/news/
Treatment Action Campaign
081 818 8493
Sonke Gender Justice
011 339 3589 / 084 581 6306
074 616 6937