Mineworker Thembekile Mankayi, who claimed more than R2.6m from AngloGold Ashanti in health damages, died a week before the Constitutional Court could rule on his matter.
Mankayi died of a lung disease a week ago, said his lawyer Richard Spoor.
“My client, Thembekile, died on Friday so the judgment comes a week too late for him. He will be buried in Mthatha on Sunday.
“If the court rules in his favour it will be a huge victory for ex-mineworkers with lung disease, who will have won the right to claim civil damages from the mines. If we win I’ll be there for him,” Spoor said.
The Constitutional Court was expected to deliver judgment on Thursday on the case.
Mankayi claimed damages in terms of the common law from the mining company where he worked as a miner from 1979 to 1995.
During his work underground he was exposed to harmful dusts and gases which, according to him, caused serious lung and air tract diseases.
Mankayi’s work was classified as risk work and he was awarded compensation – R16 320 – in terms of a mining law, the Occupational Diseases in Mines and Works Act 78 of 1973.
When he sued for damages in the High Court under common law, the mining company took the point that he was prohibited from suing an employer for common law damages arising from disease resulting in the employee’s death or disablement in terms of the Compensation for Occupation Injuries and Diseases Act 130 of 1993.
The High Court held that the compensation law prevented Mankayi from claiming damages, which was confirmed by the Supreme Court of Appeal.
However, Mankayi turned to the Constitutional Court where he submitted that the mining law and the compensation law were not part of one compensation system as found by the Supreme Court of Appeal.
He argued that his view on the matter better promoted the spirit, purport and objects of the Bill of Rights as required by section 39 of the Constitution.
Mankayi contended he did not receive compensation in terms of the compensation law but in terms of the mining law and that he should therefore be able to sue in terms of the Compensation for Occupation Injuries and Diseases Act 130 of 1993 as well.
The mining company submitted amongst others that “employee” in the compensation law was broad and includes one who had a claim under the mining law.