Women return from collecting firewood near Magwa in the Lusikisiki are of the Eastern Cape. The villages which are home to a legion of former gold mine workers are characterised by high levels of unemployment, poverty and underdevelopment.

Story and pictures by LUCAS LEDWABA

A COURT settlement between lawyers representing former gold mine workers who contracted silicosis and their beneficiaries in 2018 led to the establishment of the Tshiamiso Trust.

The Trust’s mandate is to process and compensate former gold mine workers who suffer or died from TB and silicosis, and their beneficiaries.

With most former workers who were sole breadwinners having long died, the agonising wait for compensation is taking its toll on families.

Women carry most of the burden, they nurse their sickly husbands, and when they eventually pass on, they are left to raise children and keep households together under very trying circumstances. This is the story of some of the women from the Lusikisiki area in pictures.

Life is an uphill struggle for silicosis widows like Nosapho Maphitshi who lost a breadwinner and have never been compensated. Her children are struggling to find jobs. The family grows some of their own food in their backyard and also rely on government’s social grants.
Princess Ntshangase nursed her husband until he died in her arms at their home in Nkunzimbini near the Eastern Cape town of Lusikisiki.
Nozamile Yaphi’s husband returned home from the mines suffering from TB. They started a successful commercial farming enterprise which eventually collapsed after he died. She now helps out at a local creche while trying to get compensation for her husband’s occupational disease.
The village of Nkunzimbini near Lusikisiki is one of many villages in the Eastern Cape which is home to families affected by the negative impact of gold mining. Many men were recruited from these villages to work in areas such as Gauteng and Free State in the last 100 years. Many died from the occupational lung disease silicosis leaving their families poor and destitute.
Retired and retrenched ex gold mineworkers struggle to take care of the schooling needs of their children and grandchildren as they await compensation from the silicosis class action settlement.
A store in the village of Nkunzimbini at sunset – the area is home to many former gold mineworkers now living in poverty and afflicted by the killer occupational lung disease silicosis. There is little economic activity in the village and even fewer job prospects.
Nozamile Yaphi’s husband died shortly after returning from working for many years on the gold mines of the Witwatersrand. She keeps their wedding photo album as a reminder of the good times they spent together. Her husband died in her arms after being sick for a long time. Nozamile and her children never received counselling and are still waiting for compensation resulting from the court settlement.
Nosapho Maphitshi’s husband Zamekile James Yaphi worked on the gold mines for over two decades and only returned home to die in her arms following a long battle with TB and silicosis.
Precious Ntshangase’s daughter Babalwa and her baby at home in Nkunzimbini near Lusikisiki. The government’s child social grant Babalwa earns for her baby contributes to the family’s upkeep. No one works in the household following the death from TB/silicosis of Ntshangase’s husband.
Widows of gold mine workers waiting for compensation from a court settlement guard the documents attesting to their husband’s lives as employees on the mines and their health records with care with the hope they will assist in the process of claiming compensation.
Mamsetyenzelwa Kwedinana’s husband died from silicosis after working on the gold mines. Her son whose picture hangs on the wall of the rondavel where she sleeps also suffered the same fate.

Mukurukuru Media