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Court to hear application by NGOs to intervene in potential gold mine class action

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The High Court in Johannesburg will hear an application by the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) and Sonke Gender Justice on Monday for them to intervene as amici curiae (friends of the court) in a possible class action suit against South African gold mines.

The potential class action involves thousands of current and former gold mineworkers as well as dependants of deceased workers, who contracted silicosis and tuberculosis, allegedly as a result of their exposure to silica dust while working in South African gold mines.

“For decades, gold mines have treated their workers as inferior human beings and shown a shocking disregard for the health of these workers,” TAC general secretary Anele Yawa said in a statement on Thursday.

“The exploitation of mostly poor black workers mirrors the apartheid and colonialist exploitation of workers that we have seen throughout the continent. That even in post-apartheid South Africa, the rights of mine workers are routinely violated is a national disgrace.”

From October 12 to October 23, the High Court in Johannesburg will hear argument on whether the case should be permitted to proceed as a “class action”.

“It is the view of Sonke and the TAC that should the court decline to certify the class, it would effectively leave thousands of people without access to justice – unable to access the compensation due to them because they do not have the resources to access courts through any other means except a class action.”

The NGOs said the class action, if successful, would be the largest ever in South Africa and would have widespread ramifications for mineworkers, their families and the gold mining industry.

The TAC would also picket outside the court and outside the offices of the Teba miners recruitment agency in Idutywa and Lusikisiki in the Eastern Cape as “many of the affected miners over the years have come from these areas”.

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