Patrick Sitwayi & Asive Bingwa - Mr Sitwayi is 57 years old and worked in the gold mines for 22 years. He has silicosis and received no compensation.
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THE PRICE OF GOLD
In early 2016 the High Court in Johannesburg will decide if a class action lawsuit can be laid against 32 gold mining companies in South Africa.
Three law firms are representing a group of miners who are applying for this class action on behalf of all miners suffering from Silicosis or Pulmonary Tuberculosis as a result of working in the gold mines.
Over a period of 20 days in September and October 2015 Thom Pierce traveled around South Africa’s Eastern Cape, into Lesotho and up to Johannesburg to find and photograph the 56 sick miners and widows named in the lawsuit. The 56 large portraits were displayed in the Central Methodist Church, next door to the courtroom, at the time of the case in October 2015. The exhibition took place in the dark with only the light from torches on the helmets that the audience were wearing to light the way. This was a piece of advocacy, to put a human face to the often stark and detached courtroom proceedings.
Silicosis is a preventable but incurable lung disease that is contracted in the gold mines through inadequate protection from silica dust. Miners who contract silicosis get tired and out of breath quickly and are prone to lung infections, respiratory failure and TB. Most miners who became sick were sent home with little or no compensation and no hope of finding further employment.
This project was made in partnership with the Treatment Action Campaign and Sonke Gender Justice.
About the author
Thom Pierce was born on the island of Jersey in 1978. He lives and works in Cape Town, South Africa as a photographer. He has been published in The Guardian, Sunday Times, Mail & Guardian and many other magazines, books and news publications. His work has featured heavily as part of several human rights campaigns and a selection is held in the permanent collection of the South African National Gallery.
Patrick Sitwayi & Asive Bingwa – Mr Sitwayi is 57 years old and worked in the gold mines for 22 years. He has silicosis and received no compensation.
Mthuthuzeli Mtshange is 58 years old and worked in the gold mines for 35 years. He has silicosis and received no Compensation
Sekhobe Letsie is 72 years old and worked in the gold mines for 38 years. He has silicosis and received no compensation.
Dyamara Jibhana & his brother Phillip – Mr Jibhana is 65 years old and worked in the gold mines for 39 years. He has silicosis and received no compensation.
Wife – Nowongile Nyakaza
Naleli & Leseli Kompie – The Children of Maphatsoe Kompie, deceased are 15 & 19 years old respectively. Their father passed away from silicosis related TB in 2013. He received no compensation.
Nosipho Eunice Dala is the widow of Zwelakhe Dala who died in 2015. He worked in the gold mines for 28 years and developed silicosis. He received no compensation.
Makatleho Selibo is the widow of Mahola Selibo who worked in the mines for 33 years. He had silicosis and received no compensation.
wifes name Nonuseko Nqose
Mncedisi Dlisani with his wife Nokwakha and thier daughter Sisipho – Mr Dlisani is 59 years old and worked in the gold mines for 15 years. He developed pulmonary TB and received no compensation.
Wife – Magumede Somi
Mother is Adelaide Butu – 80 years old
Wife – Matshozi Gangi
Wife Nomfazwe Ntloni
Nanabezi Mgoduswa with his wife Nokwanda – Mr Mgoduswa is 48 years old and worked in the gold mines for 21 years. He has silicosis and drug resistant TB. He received no compensation.
Noebejara Tau with his wife – Mr Tau is 70 years old and worked in the gold mines for 28 years. He has silicosis and is unsure if he ever eceived any compensation.