The National Union of Mineworkers (Num) in the Free State has called for a speedy process to compensate the thousands of former gold miners who contracted silicosis in South African mines and their dependants. Num was reacting to Friday’s ruling by the High Court in Johannesburg that approved an R5. 3 billion settlement for silicosis victims.

The miners will be able to claim between R70 000 and R500 000 each. Num regional leader Abby Tlhakoana says pressure should be placed on the Tshiamiso Trust to locate former mineworkers who are living outside South Africa’s borders.

“We feel very humbled, we are very pleased to have got this latest development as per the court decision that all those employees that are affected with this kind of disease are at least going to get something out of this. We know for a fact that the family members that are affected with this will get something. Although it’s enough because amongst these employees there are those that are not living as we speak but at least the beneficiaries out of these their family members will get at least something out of this,” says Tlhakoana.

The settlement agreement about compensation of gold mine workers suffering from silicosis has brought hope to many families who are struggling to make ends meet. Thozamile Rhaxuthi is one of many breadwinners from the Eastern Cape who had to stop working after contracting silicosis.  He started working in mines in the 1970s when he was 20 years old. Rhaxuthi says providing for his family has been difficult since contracting the lung disease.

“I don’t do heavy work because I use the inhaler. If I work hard, it becomes hard to breathe. The doctor advised me to take it easy.”

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