Sonke Gender Justice silicosis update

 In the month of February, Sonke engaged in ongoing advocacy to highlight the plight of mineworkers and family members affected by silicosis and put pressure on the gold mining industry to fulfil its obligation to the men and women they have failed to compensate. Timed to coincide with the Investing in African Mining Indaba – a corporate celebration of mining, profit extraction and investment opportunities attended by thousands of mining investors – as well as the State of the Nation (SONA) address, Sonke engaged in intensive print, radio, television and online media work, including in-depth analysis about silicosis and industry resistance to pay what is due to miners and their families.

On Tuesday 7 February 2017, we hosted a press conference at our Cape Town office. Attended by major national media outlets, it gave a platform to Mrs Nobekile Duba and Nomziwonke Jamela, wives of former mineworkers who worked in the gold mines for decades, and Ntate Tshidiso Thulo, a former mineworker employed at various gold mines for 38 years and released in 2009 because of his medical condition, to speak about the devastating effect silicosis has had on their lives. Alice Magala, a 24-year-old daughter of a mineworker, spoke powerfully about being forced to leave school when her father was critically ill. Alice bared witness to the death of her father from silicosis and the continued impact on her family and schooling. The aim of the press conference was to give the real investors of the mining industry an opportunity to share their lived experience.

The following day, on Wednesday 8 February, Sonke remodelled the Cecil Rhodes statue in the Company Gardens. The statue’s base was surrounded with images of affected mineworkers and their families, industry CEOs and parts of the speech Cecil Rhodes gave when he argued for passage of the Glen Grey Act. This act laid the foundation for the migrant labour system in South Africa, which went on to exploit black bodies for decades. The unveiling of the remodelled statue was accompanied by protest action during which Ntate Tshidiso Thulo shared his experience working in the mines at a time when little attention was paid to the health and safety of mineworkers.

Our aim with this creative activism was to tell the full story of the mining industry in South Africa, both its exploitative past and its far-reaching implications that continue to haunt thousands of families today. During this period, Sonke reached 24.5 million people.

For more information, please visit: http://www.genderjustice.org.za/?s=silicosis, or contact Julie Staples e-mail: julie@genderjustice.org.za

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