South Africa: Understanding the Silicosis Judgment – by Paul Lewis (All – May 16, 2016)

Hundreds of thousands of families could benefit from the class action lawsuit that can now take place. On Friday, Judge Phineas Mojapelo handed down the court’s findings on the landmark silicosis judgment.

In the case of Bongani Nkala and 68 Others v Harmony Gold Mining Company Ltd and 31 Others, Mojapelo and two other judges addressed this question: can mineworkers and former mineworkers bring action for damages as a class, against gold mining companies for negligence as a result of which they were exposed to dust that caused silicosis and/or TB.

The litigation could run into billions of rands. All the big mining companies are affected, including Anglo American, Anglogold, Gold Fields, Harmony Gold, Randgold, DRDGold, and African Rainbow Minerals. Anglo American has described the case as “without precedent in South African law and indeed in any other jurisdiction in the world”.

According to Judge Mojapelo, the 69 applicants so far included in the proceedings do indeed represent up to 500,000 current and former gold mineworkers and their dependents in all the southern African countries from which people come to work on the South African gold mines. More than 45 of the applicants were silicosis patients, with or without TB, and more than 25 of them were TB-only cases.

The applicants were represented by Richard Spoor Inc, Abrahams Kiewitz Attorneys and the Legal Resources Centre (LRC). The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) and Sonke Gender Justice, represented by SECTION27, participated as friends of the court (amicus curiae). (You can read the first few pages of the judgment to see who all the applicants and defendants were.)

This issue has been extensively covered by Groundup over the past nine months, including the details of the ten days of court argument which resulted in this judgment.

For the rest of this article, click here: