Vavi calls on unions to rally behind silicosis sufferers

The hearing on the claim against mining companies by former mineworkers will be heard in October.

FILE: Zwelinzima Vavi. Picture: GCIS.

JOHANNESBURG - Former Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi has called on all of South Africa's mining unions to rally behind a mass civil claim against gold mining companies whose employees have contracted silicosis.

The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), Section 27 and the Sonke Gender Justice Group will submit a timeline for their evidence to be heard in the High Court after making an application to join the claim.

The claim has been running for three years and was brought by former mineworkers who contracted the lung disease after leaving the companies.

The Legal Resources Centre estimates that one quarter of former mineworkers have silicosis and the health department says the disease has led to South Africa's gold mining industry having the highest rate of tuberculosis in the world.

Vavi says all workers should support the former mineworkers when the hearing starts in October.

"I don't know whether its lack of knowledge, ignorance or maybe that they don't think it is important. I hope that on 9 October, when the real case starts, they will have mobilised workers to be part of the proceedings [and] to demonstrate outside."