Twenty seven years ago, in October 1987, the managements of Sasol One and of Natref precipitately dismissed 2,400 skilled workers from their plants at Sasolburg when they embarked on a strike for improved wages. The workers had served Sasol One and Natref for periods of between 5 and 35 years. Their wholesale dismissal threatened the operations of the companies at a time that South Africa was reliant on the production of oil from coal at its Sasol One plant.
In the 27 years since their dismissal, the lives of the ex-workers of Sasol One and of Natref, have been destroyed. None of the workers has received their accumulated benefits. Only one worker has been provided with his service certificate. No workers have been compensated for the harm caused their families including the loss of life of 77 breadwinners, the loss of homes, the falling apart of many marriages, and the loss of the ability to send children to school and to take forward their lives. For 27 years, Sasol One and Natref have refused to acknowledge their responsibility for this destruction.
There’s R1.19 billion sitting in the President’s Fund, designated by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to help victims of Apartheid rebuild their shattered lives. Now the department of justice finally wants to spend it, but who will actually benefit? Its intended beneficiaries say they are still being left out of the process, and that the money is being misused. SIMON ALLISON investigates.