Silicosis case: huge show of support
Johannesburg - Richard Sqhamo Hoyi toiled for 27 years in the mines until he contracted silicosis.
Today, he finds it difficult to walk long distances as a result of the terminal disease.
The 57-year-old Hoyi, from Peddie in the Eastern Cape, was among the silicosis-stricken mineworkers who joined the march against the mining companies on Tuesday.
The march was led by Section27, the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) and Sonke Gender Justice.
The three organisations demonstrated in support of the mineworkers’ case currently unfolding in the high court in Joburg.
Hoyi spoke of his plight through an interpreter. Normally, silicosis makes it difficult for him to walk long distances. But luckily, Tuesday’s march moved slowly enough so that he was able to keep up.
He said if they won the case, he would feel free from the burden of the disease because silicosis made it difficult for him to look after his children, and it was his biggest worry. He has daughters aged 21, 16 and 12.
Bongani Radebe, a demonstrator with the TAC, said: “If the man is affected, the wife is affected and the children are affected.”
At least 400 people – their T-shirts’ colours representing three different organisations – united by donning white mining helmets and marching together in support of the mineworkers. This was as the class certification hearing by their legal team entered its second day.
The march began in Newtown and stopped twice in Marshall Street, once at the offices of Anglo American, a mining company involved in the case, and once at the Chamber of Mines, before arriving at the high court.
“The mining companies are profiting with the lives of our people,” said Sibongile Tshabalala, the TAC’s Gauteng chairwoman, as she bellowed into a microphone from the back of a flatbed truck.
“It has to stop now. They have to take care of the miners while they’re making profits off them.”
Many held signs with messages condemning the mining companies. The signs read “Dear goldmines, apartheid is over” and “Exploited. Damaged. Discarded. #silicosis.”
As they passed the Anglo American offices, the marchers formed into rows and held hands.
“You killed our miners,” one man yelled before the group erupted in song.
“Senzeni na (What have we done?),” they sang.
Mark Heywood, the director of Section27, said his organisation supported the miners because it stood for the right to health and helping the poor get access to justice.
“This country is built on gold, but the people who dug the gold are dying from it.
“Silicosis and tuberculosis are among the biggest health crises in the country.”
Heywood said most of the mineworkers lived in rural areas where getting the treatment they need was difficult.
The three organisations were due to continue presenting arguments on Wednesday. The miners’ lawyers are scheduled to take over on Thursday.