November 18, 2017

Silicosis case: still a long walk from ex-miners’ justice

legal challenge

Those who want to see justice not only being done but be seen to be done should be impressed that frail and sickly ex-miners, through their lawyers of course, have been granted a go-ahead by the Gauteng South High Court in South Africa to proceed with a case against their previous employers, 32 mining companies, for contacting silicosis and other lung fatal conditions.

It’s a typical David versus Goliath case where small people, in this context ex-miners, have the temerity of taking on the giant, that are billionaire mining companies. Commentators are fascinated by the case, some, if not most, are betraying their bias towards seeing ex-miners wining the case and being granted hundreds of millions in compensation. In the course of that they have declared mining companies “Guilty before innocent”, playing the jury, judge and executioner.

But amidst the fuss what is disregarded is that the  Court has merely given the case a go-ahead and that does not constitute a guilty verdict. In seeking justice, ex-miners still have a long way to go and have to provide exhibit that will convince the judges that their condition was a direct result of their working conditions. On the hand, mining companies will argue that they are not culpable. Indeed, there is a long way to go and we are bound to see legal twists and turns.

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