News in Brief

By Time of article published Mar 23, 2012

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Lawyer hopes to settle silicosis suit out of court

Richard Spoor, the lawyer leading a class action lawsuit against mining firms on behalf of thousands of workers who contracted silicosis due to lax safety regulations, is willing to talk to firms about the best procedure to resolve the battle. Because the case was unprecedented in South Africa, Spoor said yesterday, there were no rules on how to do it and talks with the 15 gold producers could help prevent the litigation from dragging on for years. He said a judge would decide on the process if companies failed to agree on a procedure. Silicosis is a lung disease caused by exposure to silica dust in mines. Firms including AngloGold Ashanti, Harmony Gold, Gold Fields, African Rainbow Minerals and DRDGold have been targeted as former miners seek recompense for infections dating back to the 1970s. Spoor said because shafts at gold mines were old and becoming deeper, ventilation was poor, making employees vulnerable to silica dust. Spoor said the objective was to resolve the matter out of court. “If we reach an agreement, it (class action) could be easily resolved. In the US there are procedures and rules on class actions, but in South Africa it is new terrain. We are concerned with the possibility of the litigation being bogged down. If defendants raise procedural objections this could lead to delays.” Spoor said it was not in the interest of mining firms to sit with a contingent liability, and this was a reason why they had to co-operate. – Dineo Faku

Plan may cede land to farmworkers

Farmworkers in the Eastern Cape could soon claim ownership of land through an empowerment fund that the provincial government intends exploring. “In order to ensure that farmworkers have access to land, an empowerment fund will be investigated whereby farmers can offer shares for their employees,” provincial MEC for Rural Development and Agrarian Reform Zoleka Cap said in a budget policy speech. – Sapa

NHI pilot project ready to begin

The Department of Health plans to sign contracts with the private sector during the pilot phase of the National Health Insurance scheme, which begins on April 1. Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said yesterday that, when the pilot project commenced, people could expect to see an improvement in the quality of health care. page 4

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