Miners dying as court battle stalls
Families wait and hope that some day justice will be served
ZWELENDABA Mgidi breathed his last in a rural hospital recently. The gold mines that built the country’s economy had eaten again.
Mgidi, of KwaBala in Flagstaff in the Eastern Cape, died from complications associated with silicosis.
His was another cheap black life wasted in the bowels of the earth by those who cared only about profit and not the health and safety of workers.
Like hundreds of thousands of other black African men from the Southern African countryside, circumstances had forced Mgidi to spend most of his life working down the gold mines of the Free State.
A cruel system of dispossession of land and destruction of the old way of life pushed generations of men like him into an abusive, undignified life of labourers serving ruthless randlords who cared only about profit.
In the eyes of their exploitative bosses they were mere commodities that did not deserve to be protected from the deadly effects of silica dust generated during gold mining.
As a result Mgidi and thousands of others contracted silicosis, an irreversible lung cancer that results in death.
Two weeks ago Mgidi, who had lived with the disease for many years, died.
His family had taken him to the Holy Cross hospital near his hometown after he slipped into unconsciousness.
He was declared dead moments after his admission.
On Sunday a sombre crowd of mourners gathered to bid farewell to Mgidi, in the rolling green hills of KwaBala.
During the last seven years of his life he had joined the fight against the mining companies that had left him and scores of his colleagues helpless wrecks.
Mgidi was one of the plaintiffs in a class action against gold mining companies.
They were demanding compensation for their suffering, caused by the mining company’s failure to provide them with the necessary health and safety equipment that would have helped to safeguard their health.
The case has dragged for years in the South Gauteng High Court and the Constitutional Court.
The mining companies have been accused of playing delaying tactics by repeatedly resorting to legal technicalities to oppose attempts by Mgidi and his colleagues to have the courts validate the class action.
When he died Mgidi was penniless, poor and bitter.
During an interview at his home in 2016 he told me: “I hate them. Those who owned the mines, I hate them very much. “
This continues to be the feeling among the victims of South Africa’s gold mining industry.
While there seems to be no end in sight to the court action, many like Mgidi are dying dirt poor in the villages.
They leave behind even poorer children and families, broken communities and shattered dreams.
While the mining companies that left them crippled continue to count the profits, families are left behind to weep and wait for answers that may never come.
They wait and hope that someday justice will be served.
Families continue to wish that their loved ones who sweated blood down the gold mines, at least live longer to at least see justice being served against the negligent mining companies. – Mukurukuru Media
Zwelendaba Mgidi was featured in the book Broke and Broken by Lucas Ledwaba and Leon Sadiki. The African Times carried an excerpt from the book.