4 July 2019

South Africa: Dying for Gold - New Documentary Lays Bare the Stark Debt SA Owes Its Miners

Five mining companies have agreed on a R5-billion settlement to compensate miners who contracted lung disease in the course of their work. But the process of paying the money out is likely to be long and complex - and as a new documentary argues, can any settlement make up for the devastation on human bodies and communities wrought by more than a century of mining?

"Genocide".

That is the word that Namibia-born filmmaker Richard Pakleppa uses to describe the system which saw generations of black men sent down South African mines to work in conditions that mine bosses and medical experts knew from early on would cause many of them to contract debilitating lung disease.

There are other analogies that Pakleppa uses in grappling with the South African mining industry. One is slavery; another is the cold, bureaucratic horror of Nazism.

Pakleppa, together with Catherine Meyburgh, is the co-director of the new documentary Dying for Gold, a powerful and haunting chronicle of South African mining seen from the particular prism of its health impact on the men who have toiled underground.

Following a massive class-action suit brought by silicosis-affected miners and their dependents, a R5-billion settlement with mining companies has...

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