About this site

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

7. Conclusion


COSATU strongly believes that big business in our country directly benefitted from the decades of apartheid enslavement of the majority. It would be nice that all of us were freedom fighters as is so often portrayed by those who have been the direct beneficiaries of apartheid. In fact, too often we hear the view that "I did not know what atrocities were committed in my name to maintain my privileges". Common decency would require the humility of saying "I was wrong and I commit myself to helping make our new South Africa a better place to live for all". As raised elsewhere in the submission, we will judge South African employers on the basis of full disclosure and how they behave in the future on issues such as basic trade union rights, the closing of the apartheid wage gap and allocating sufficient resources for the training of workers, especially African and women workers.

The majority of South Africans require no more and no less.


1     Paul Brodeur "Outrageous Misconducct: The Asbestos Industry on Trial" (Pantheon, 1985). Brodeur goes on to state "... if we had been able to muster up the courage and the conviction to safeguard the health of our asbestos workers back in the 1930s and 1940s, when the first serious warnings about the asbestos-disease hazard were issued, we would surely not have allowed asbestos to be used in thousands of school buildings that were constructed in the United States between 1959 and 1972, and would thus not be faced today with the prospect of spending billions of dollars to decontaminate these schools of asbestos, or with the anxiety of wondering what past asbestos exposure will mean for the future well-being of the millions of children who have been attending them". For an account of the exposure of workers and communities to asbestos in the Northern Cape and to the suppression of medical research concerning asbestos-related diseases . See L. Flynn " Studded with Diamonds and Paved with Gold: Miners, Mining Companies and Human Rights in South Africa" (Bloomsbury, 1992).

2     See also NUM's publication "No more Kinross disasters" (September, 1988) and L. Flynn "Studded with Diamonds and Paved with Gold" (Bloomsbury, 1992) - Chapter 13.

3     The report by the State pathologist of Namibia, Dr J B C Botha in respect of autopsies on 33 victims, all black, performed at the Springs mortuary on 22 September stated:

     "The bodies had not been adequately preserved prior to autopsy and in many decomposition had already commenced. I do not know where the bodies had been stored as the Springs mortuary has to the best of my knowledge, only refrigeration facilities for 24 bodies.

     The bodies were stacked on top of each other in four piles on the floor because of the inadequate space available. This resulted in post-mortem injuries which were at times exceedingly difficult to distinguish from ante-mortem lesions.

     The mortuary is inadequately equipped for the performance of autopsies. Skulls are opened with an agricultural bow-saw as no electric saw is available while bolt cutters are used to open the thorax as cartiliage shears have not been provided. The scale provided for weighing organs is both obsolete and broken while the mortuary staff are expected to weigh the bodies on an antiquated scale, calibrated in pounds and ounces, of the type used to weigh bags of grain.

     No specimen containers were available for the taking of blood or tissue samples.

     The Kinross mine accident was of national importance and may have far-reaching consequences for the South African mining industry. I therefore find it inexplicable that the post-mortem examinations of the victims were not performed with more thought and co-ordination."

4     The pattern of small fines in cases involving accidents at work is common in the Hlobane Colliery disaster of September 1983 in which 68 miners were killed, the owners of the mine (ISCOR) were fined a total of R400,00 for the breaches of regulations that led to the accident and Sasol has also received similar treatment in respect of accident prosecutions.

5     Paragraphs 6.4 and 6.9

6     A comparison of 8502 deaths registered at a Cape Town mortuary over an 18 month period during 1990 - 91 with the records of the Occupational Health and Safety Inspectorate of the Department of Labour found that 28% of deaths identified as being work-related had not been reported. 25% of occupational deaths in the construction industry had not been reported and no fatal occupational injuries had been reported in either agriculture or fishing. A similar study concluded over a 30 month period in 1990-1992 revealed that only 15% of 224 work-related deaths in 10 rural magisterial districts in the Western Cape had been reported to the Department of Labour. The consequences of the lower level of employer compliance with reporting goes beyond the further consequences of preventing the development of prevention strategies by State authorities and depriving employees and their dependants of compensation benefits (Myers et al " Application of Two Seconday Documentary Sources to identify the Under-Reporting of Fatal Occupational Injuries in Cape Town, South Africa", American Journal of Industrial Medicine, 26: 521-527 (1994) and Schierhout, Midgeley and Myers "Occupational Fatality Under-Reporting in Rural Areas of Western Cape Province , South Africa" (1997) (unpublished).

7     These figures exclude accidents not covered by the Workmen's Compensation Act including accidents by workers earning over the earnings ceiling and the majority of work-related traffic accidents. For an analysis of the shortcomings of accident statistics see J-P Leger and I. Macun "Safety in South African Industry: An Analysis of Accident Statistics" (1990) 11 Journal of Occupational Accidents 197 - 220.

8     Leon Commission of Inquiry into Safety and Health in the Mining Industry at page 15.

9     See: Adler "the Prevention of Occupational Diseases and Industrial Accidents in South African Industry" South African Labour Bulletin, March 1979 Vol IV nos 9 and 10 at 55.

10     Williams and Others "Occupational health, occupational illness: tuberculosis, silicosis and HIV on the South African Mines" in Occupational Lung Diseases: An International Perspective, (Chapman and Hall).

11     For a summary of the findings of the Leon Commission see B. Barry "Shifting the balance" (1995) 19(2) S A Labour Bulletin at 65.

12     Report on the 1984 Statistics of the Workmen's Compensation Commissioner. These figures enable the reader to compare the relative risk of accidents in the different sectors. Leger and Macun estimate that these figures under-estimate the level of reportable accidents by between 12 - 15%. The figure for a sector such as agriculture in respect of which Schierhout et al (above) indicate there is a high level of non-reporting may be particularly misleading.

13     Report of the Commission of Inquiry into Compensation for Occupational Diseases in the Republic of South Africa , 1981 at page 97, para 27. 1257

14     P Green and S. Miller "The Commission of Enquiry on Occupational Health" (1979) 4 (9 & 10) S A Labour Bulletin 11 at 13. This article contains an extremely useful summary of the Commission.

15     Erlich R et al "Association of Lead Exposure with Renal Dysfunction but not with Blood Pressure Among Workers in a South African Battery Factory" (under review: Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine).

16     For an estimate of the extent of this, see N. White: 'Dust related disease in former miners - the ODMWA legacy', (1997) 3(4). Occupational Health Southern Africa at 20.

17     For a description of this campaign and an overview of trade union strategies on health and safety see P. Magane and others, "Unions and Environment, Life, Health and the Pursuit of Employment " in L. Bethlehem and M. Goldblatt The Bottom Line - Industry and the Environment in South Africa (Industrial Strategy Project, 1997) at 180.

18     N. White: 'Dust related disease in former miners - the ODMWA legacy', (1997) 3(4). Occupational Health Southern Africa at 20.

19     See the Department of Health "Report of Committee on Occupational Health " (January 1996) at pp 5 - 9.

20     Paragraph 3.5

21     Hermanus MA and van der Bergh A - Health Safety and the Environment: Charting a new Course: Strategic Issues and Challenges Facing a Major South African Mining Group (Conference Papers, Minesafe 1996) at 4.

22     J-P Leger "Fatalities, Disability and Disease in South African Mines" - A Submission to the Commission of Inquiry into Occupational Safety and Health in the Mining Industry. (Dr Leger gave oral evidence at the Commission and his contentions in this regard were not contested by either the Chamber of Mines or the government.)

23     Ministry of Welfre and Population Development: White Paper for Social Welfare: Principles, guidelines, recommendations, proposed policies and programmes for development social welfare in South Africa (1996) at 59. For a trade union critique of the compensation system and proposals for reform see M. Hermanus "Testing the Limits of the Compensation System" (1992) 13 Industrial Law Journal 1364.

24     Some assistance can be gained from the Workmen's Compensation Statistical Reports which reveal that approximately 40% of workers who are injured or killed in accidents are under 30 and 33% are between 30 and 40.

25     GG 17038 14 March 1996 at p. 44.

26     See T. Siwendu (1992) 13 Industrial Law Journal 1376

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. Return to the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory site.