Botswana Labour Migrants Association (BoLAMA) welcomes the Johannesburg High Court approval of the R5 billion (P3.8 billion) settlement reached between gold mining companies and former mineworkers.
According to BoLAMA coordinator Kitso Phiri, that settlement agreement marks an end to a legal battle that had been ongoing for almost 10 years. He said negotiations leading up to the settlement were long and complex, requiring a careful understanding of the mining industry climate, financial, legal and social factors in reaching a just and fair settlement.
“The court also adopted a protective role during proceedings to ensure that the settlement was in the best interest of absent class members, particularly those from labour sending countries. The judge held that in considering the fairness, reasonableness and adequacy of the settlement, court had to determine whether the proposed settlement provides sufficient value to class members in return for the surrender of their rights to litigate. The settlement was in the eyes of the court made in the interest of mineworkers,” he said.
BoLAMA chairperson, Simon Dikhudu said “I was medically boarded in 1999 after the mines discovered I had Tuberculosis due to mine dust. I had no one to turn to for assistance back home, until we formed this association BoLAMA and began assisting ex-miners. We have been urging the Government of Botswana to support our organisation and its work without much success. Our motives have been looked at with suspicion to an extent of being called thieves by others.”
He explained that they began a process of remedying past transgressions perpetrated against mineworkers by their governments and mining companies. He explained that their advocacy and efforts in raising people’s consciousness about the plight of mineworkers have been vindicated.
He, however, said he was happy that the long fight was over, saying that as old and sick as he is, if he were called by the Almighty due to silicosis, he would die a happy man knowing that he fought hard for his fellow mineworkers and their families’ rights. He also indicated that there is a lot that remains to be done and a lot more is coming from BoLAMA. He said they would be going after the Pension Funds next.
The judgment revealed that since the test case began in 2006, it is estimated that approximately 40% of former gold mineworkers alive at that date have since passed away. The great majority of claimants are from traditional labour supplying regions, especially Lesotho and former Transkei area of Eastern Cape and Botswana.