Mongezi Mponco left his village of grassland hills as one of hundreds of thousands of healthy young black men who poured into the deep underground of South Africa’s gold mines.
The 54-year-old continued working when diagnosed with early incurable lung disease until he was fired after 30 years, in a story traced on thumb-worn papers kept in his home off a rutted dirt road in the Eastern Cape.
“Thank you for your loyal service and all the best,” advised the termination letter to the father of six who has certified silicosis scarring of the lungs.
But the best has not materialised for Mponco and hundreds of other former mineworkers who now want mining giant Anglo American to pay up for exposing them to dangerous dust levels.
The London-listed firm’s South African subsidiary is being sued on two continents in cases that could run into millions of rands in damages.