MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Anglo's mailed fist

Published by MAC on 2006-07-11


Anglo's mailed fist

11th July 2006

Three weeks ago, on June 25 2006, our website published an article entitled "Black Friday at Monday's Corner." It claimed that the world's third biggest mining company, Anglo American plc, through its 74.9% owned subsidiary Anglo Platinum (Angloplat), had wilfully trespassed on land legally owned by black African farming communities at Maandagshoek, in the Bushveldt region of South Africa.

The article was based upon a field trip and interviews by MAC managing editor, Roger Moody in mid-June. He reported that, on June 11, Angloplat had instructed police to remove tribal people objecting to the company's encroachment. These unarmed members had then been fired upon by rubber bullets and a live round of ammunition, resulting in the injury of many, including women.

Much of the article was based on allegations made by the community's lawyer, Richard Spoor. Mr Spoor is a well-known and respected South African attorney, who has already helped secure millions of dollars in damages for victims of asbestos, and recently embarked on preparing silicosis claims against AngloGold Ashanti, another Anglo American subsidiary.

The article was sent to the chairman of Anglo American in London, Sir Mark Moody-Stuart. Other articles in the South African press cited similar allegations. Instead of responding to these, Moody-Stuart and Anglo American have so far ignored them. Then, on July 6th, lawyers acting for Amplat threatened to indict Mr Spoor with a defamation suit - citing these reports, including the MAC article of June 25th.

Richard Spoor has not climbed down in any way (see letter below). Nonetheless he has held out an olive branch:

"Acknowledging past mistakes and misbehaviour is likely to contribute more to a successful outcome and improved relations with neighbouring communities then the patently self-serving expressions of deep hurt and moral outrage that characterise your client’s [Angloplat's] public responses to date.

"...We really cannot see how your client’s aggressive and brutish campaign against indigenous communities and against their legal representative increases shareholder value."

Less than a month before the Maandagshoek shootings, Moody-Stuart was elected chair of a prestigious new foundation to fund the United Nation's Global Compact - the highest profile initiative to improve corporate social accountability by big corporations.

Every day that passes while his company, Anglo American, refuses to "engage" with the Maandagshoek community is a day that the credibility of Mark Moody-Stuart surely continues to plummet .


Re: Anglo-American Platinum Corporation Ltd and two others: Threatened Interdict

From: Richard Spoor Attorney

9 ZANZIBAR BUILDING BAGDAD CENTRE PO BOX 8072 WHITE RIVER 1240 Tel: 013 751 1662 Fax: 013 750 1047 admin.rs@iafrica.com

10 July 2006 URGENT

To: Brink Cohen le Roux By fax: (011) 242 8001

Ref Mr Le Roux

Dear Willem

Re: Anglo-American Platinum Corporation Ltd and two others / Threatened Interdict

I have receipt of your letter of 6 July 2006 threatening to interdict me if I do not retract statements attributed to me, in which I characterise your client’s conduct towards indigenous communities as profoundly racist, reactionary and offensive.

At the outset I should indicate that I believe that your client’s threats against me are motivated by a cynical, self-serving and hypocritical desire to silence legitimate criticism of their shameful abuse and exploitation of indigenous communities in the areas where they operate. Your client's threats against me confirm and reinforce the impression that they are bullies, intent on intimidating and silencing their critics.

I have not seen all the reports that you refer to in your letter. I am not at all sure that I have been correctly quoted, but, nonetheless and even out of context, I am satisfied that the factual averments made in the extracts that you quote are substantially true and correct and that the commentary is fair and justifiable.

The statements attributed to me are however no more than summaries of, or fair comment upon, what is contained and detailed in pleadings filed in court in the various legal actions brought by my client communities and pending against your clients. These pleadings are public documents and in due course the facts and averments contained therein will be considered and adjudicated upon by the courts. Similar factual averments are likely to be made by my clients in relation to further legal actions contemplated against your clients, and the commentary that such averments are likely to elicit may well be similar to that to which your clients object.

It is appropriate that I sketch the context in which I am quoted in the media and in which I write on the issues relevant to my clients.

I am a human rights lawyer and I have been for over 20 years. In that capacity I represent the poor, the weak and the oppressed. I have represented the people of this country who stood up against the evil system of apartheid and who for their resistance were shot, beaten and imprisoned. I have represented workers who have been crippled and maimed in consequence of corporate greed and contempt for workers’ health and their lives. I have represented communities ravaged by asbestos related disease and the environmental devastation wrought by greedy mining companies aided and abetted by state neglect and a racist corporate culture. Presently, I represent indigenous communities whose culture, traditions, environment and way of life, and even their very existence, are threatened and destroyed at an alarming rate by powerful mining corporations, amongst who are numbered, your clients.

It has been said of multinational mining corporations that they can "exhibit an unbridled desire, a greed that can actually swallow up the earth and its health and the future of its children and that knows no national, ethical, or legal boundaries".

The role of multinational mining corporations and the conflict between them and indigenous communities and the environment is a matter of international concern and the subject of a great deal of writing and research, social activism and intellectual inquiry. It is as well that that should be the case in South Africa, where the social, economic and environmental costs associated with mining are all too evident.

Your client, Anglo Platinum, is the biggest platinum mining company in the world. It undertakes numerous large-scale mining projects in areas occupied by indigenous people, who live in accordance with their traditional laws and customs and who depend primarily on their land and migrant labour to sustain them. It is a notorious fact that the social, environmental and economic consequences of large-scale mining projects can include the loss of productive and culturally significant land, the destruction of environmental systems, the displacement of people, increased dependence on marginal employment and the destruction of local political structures and value systems leading to increases in crime, alcoholism, domestic violence, child abuse and poverty. Regrettably these consequences flow from several of the mining projects in which your clients are engaged and are therefore a legitimate matter for public interest and debate.

Unlike the rich and powerful corporations that you represent, my clients are amongst the poorest, most vulnerable and most disadvantaged communities in South Africa today. My client communities are furthermore situated in remote rural areas and are effectively voiceless. Your clients have the advantage over them in almost every respect; in money, skills, knowledge and resources and of course in the teams of professionals and consultants that your clients are able to deploy to advance their causes and their interests. Their deployment of your excellent firm, ostensibly to protect their good name and reputation, being a case in point.

In the litigation against Anglo Platinum we now have ranged against us the combined skills and resources of three of the biggest law firms in Johannesburg and another two law firms besides, as well as batteries of counsel including a number of the country’s most senior commercial silks. In their corner my clients have the services of a one-person law practice situated in White River, Mpumalanga and the goodwill and support of a handful of committed members of the Johannesburg bar. It is my clients’ great and good fortune that among them we can number some of the very finest and most upstanding advocates in the country who assist my clients at no charge or at a fraction of their usual fee. They are motivated, as am I, by a desire for justice.

It is my brief not only to provide the legal services that they, my clients, so desperately require but also to articulate their plight and to ensure that it is communicated to the wider public and to the world. When I speak or write on these matters I do so for and on behalf of my clients, who otherwise might not be heard. One of the great advantages I enjoy over my clients is my ability to write and speak in English and as such I am uniquely placed to engage with the mainstream media on their behalf.

When your client seeks to interdict me from speaking out on the facts and making fair and justifiable commentary thereupon, they are in fact seeking to silence my client communities and are seeking to prevent me from carrying out my professional obligations towards my clients. That is unconscionable.

Many of the factual and legal averments that your clients object to have already been made under oath by my clients in the various proceedings filed at court against your clients. It is so that almost all of them are disputed by your clients, for that is their wont. So for example:

• We allege that at the PPL mine near Mokopane, you have co-opted the directors of the section 21 companies, that ostensibly represent the community, and that they function as your client’s agents. We make similar allegations in respect of the legal representatives ostensibly appointed to represent and advance the interests of the community. Your clients deny this. • We allege that our clients at Maandagshoek near the Modikwa Platinum Mine are representative of the community and we allege that the person, who your clients choose to recognise as the legitimate traditional leader of the community, has no standing in the community and is not recognised by the State or the traditional leadership of the BaPedi nation. We also allege that in respect of the section 21 companies, established by your clients to represent the community, that they are in fact wholly supportive of our client’s claims and demands. Your clients deny this.

We point out that the section 21 companies are substantial shareholders in the ARM Consortium on whose behalf you purport to act, yet they are wholly opposed to your actions threatened against me. We expect that this is likely due to the fact that while they are nominally influential stakeholders, in practice they have no authority or control at all. That appears to be the pattern here.

• It is common cause that your clients refuse to negotiate with my clients, except subject to certain preconditions, namely that our client recognise your client’s right to come onto tribal land and carry out mining activities there. We see that as unreasonable and amounting to a refusal to negotiate.

• We allege that your clients engineered the shooting, beating and arrest of community members protesting against what we say are your clients’ illegal activities on tribal land. We allege further that your clients deliberately misrepresented the nature and effect of a High Court order to the police in order to achieve this end. This is a serious allegation but all the facts at our disposal confirm it. Your clients deny that they orchestrated police violence against the community. We hear your clients but we don’t believe them. We believe that they are guilty of thuggery and are taking the matter further through the courts.

• We allege that your clients engineered the arrest of the traditional leaders of the Maandagshoek Community through the laying of false and spurious charges. This action was widely perceived as an attack on the community, its culture and its leadership. It caused huge offence. Your clients deny this.

• We allege that your clients have unlawfully damaged and destroyed arable lands, fences crops and infrastructure on tribal lands. Your clients deny this.

• We allege that despite having been ordered to stay off tribal land at Maandagshoek and in breach of the express provisions of the Interim Protection of Informal Land Rights Act, your clients persist in making provocative forays onto tribal land and that in doing so they demonstrate a complete disregard and contempt for the community’s land rights and for the due process of the law. Your clients deny this. • We allege that your client’s mining activities have caused significant damage to houses and to the communities’ groundwater resources at Maandagshoek (as they have in many other communities) and have caused significant pollution. Your clients deny this and refuse to take responsibility. They make out my clients as liars and opportunists. We reject that. My clients are overwhelmingly decent and honourable people.

• We allege that the terms of the relocation of the community at Ga-Pila and the proposed relocation of the communities of Ga-Puka and Ga-Sekhaolelo are overwhelmingly disadvantageous and prejudicial to the best interests of those communities and are destructive of the culture, their traditions and their political and social structures and their way of life. Your clients and their acolytes equate the relocation with the arrival of the Israelites in the Promised Land.

• We allege that Anglo Platinum pays the legal advisers (ostensibly employed to advise the communities) and the so called community leaders charged to facilitate the relocation of the communities or the conclusion of agreements with the mine. We say that this has a corrupting influence upon them and that they subordinate the communities’ interests to those of your clients. The shameful and prejudicial terms agreed by some of these representatives on the communities’ behalf and their sycophantic behaviour towards the mine lend credence to this. Your clients deny this.

• We allege that Anglo Platinum structures the contractual aspects of the removal of indigenous communities in such a way that it has no responsibility in law, for the fate of those communities once they have moved. So for example if, after the relocation, the communities find themselves without water or other essential services and their houses fall apart, they have no recourse against the company. In what is surely one of the most grotesque and cynical examples of legal draughtsmanship that I have encountered in my career, the contracts are structured in such a way that legally the communities relocate themselves, Anglo Platinum only puts up the money.

• We allege that Anglo Platinum has structured the payment of the cash incentive, given to members of the Mohlohlo communities to relocate, in such a way that those members who have relocated have a significant cash incentive to “persuade” those who might refuse to move, to relocate. We allege that this is an incentive to commit violence and intimidation against people who might resist the relocation and that the wilful incorporation of such a provision in the contracts is a criminally irresponsible act and contra bones mores. Your clients deny this.

• We allege that when twenty-six families refused to relocate from Ga-Pila your clients illegally destroyed their water supply and their electricity connections and that they destroyed the entire village infrastructure around them. Then your clients arranged that the old men and women of the village were arrested for ploughing on their own lands. The 25 families now live in poverty and squalor without even the most basic services guaranteed them by the constitution of this fair country. Anglo Platinum refuses to take any responsibility for their plight or to negotiate with them and has turned their land into a waste rock dump. Your clients deny this. • We allege that Anglo Platinum would not treat white people and white communities the way they treat poor black people and indigenous communities and that your client’s conduct is inherently racist. This perception is solidly entrenched among my client communities, where your clients are universally reviled. Your clients deny this.

• We allege that the terms of the agreements entered into by Anglo Platinum, granting them access to tribal land, are grossly inequitable and a manifestation of the unequal power relations between the corporation and our client communities. We allege that insofar as those power relations are predicated upon a history of white privilege and power and a history of oppression and discrimination against black people, they are inherently racist.

So, for example, we allege that your clients concluded a deal in 1993 with the Bantustan authorities to lease three farms belonging to the Langa tribe for R5,000.00 rand per annum per farm. Today these farms generate billions of rand in profit for your clients each year. Almost 10 000 hectares of arable land have been lost to the tribe and thousands of people are being relocated in consequence of this ‘deal’. Your clients deny this.

These disputes are central to your client’s claim that the statements attributed to me are false and defamatory. The disputes are fundamental and not amenable to resolution in application proceedings such as you propose to bring against me and such proceedings are therefore inappropriate.

The above is not an attempt to catalogue all the obscenities committed by your clients against indigenous communities to date, they are but some of those that are presently raised in the legal proceedings filed to date. The Magobading community’s fate at the hands of Anglo Platinum and the lawyers appointed by the mine to ‘represent’ their interests, although not yet before any court, does however deserve mention.

This traditional community was removed by Anglo Platinum to make way for their new Twickenham mine near Lebowagomo. The original village was well situated below scenic hills with ample water, grazing and land for cultivation. Although the people were poor they lived dignified lives, sustainably and in peace and harmony with each other and their environment. Then they were removed by your clients to a township called Mecklenburg A. At Mecklenberg A they have no water, they have no grazing and they have no arable land. They live on tiny erven in poorly constructed houses. There is not a blade of grass to be seen there. The ventilated pit latrines provided them are full to overflowing and there are no municipal services to clean them out. The stench of the overfull latrines is overpowering and maggots and pestilential larvae teem out of the toilet bowls in their millions.

The community has been dumped into an unsustainable rural slum by your clients. Your client’s promises of jobs and the promise of their slogan “Sharing Platinum Prosperity” have been shown up as lies.

If your client’s good name and reputation has been impaired and they have suffered economic harm as a result, it is in consequence of their treatment of the communities among whom they operate. Silencing the messenger will not change that.

My clients and I are open to a dialogue and negotiation with your clients, if anything we are even more anxious than they are, to find solutions and to mitigate the harm and injustices that have been inflicted upon them. When, as now, your clients are confronted by their critics it may be tempting and emotionally satisfying to counter-attack but it rarely helps. Gestures of respect and offers to co-operate are much more productive. Acknowledging past mistakes and misbehaviour is likely to contribute more to a successful outcome and improved relations with neighbouring communities then the patently self-serving expressions of deep hurt and moral outrage that characterise your client’s public responses to date.

We trust that your clients will reconsider their approach. We really cannot see how your client’s aggressive and brutish campaign against indigenous communities and against their legal representative increases shareholder value.

I am also willing to give you my earnest assurances that while you can expect me to speak out and to decry any wrong done against my clients, I will not knowingly make any false or defamatory statements in relation to your clients and will confine myself to commentary that is fair and justifiable in the circumstances.

Please be advised further that I intend to go on holiday with my family with effect Sunday 9 July 2006 and do not expect to be back in the office before Monday 17 July. I would be grateful if you would hold off any proceedings until my return.

Yours faithfully

RICHARD SPOOR


Platinum firms threaten to gag Richard Spoor Business Report & Independent Online

By Ronnie Morris

9th July 2006

Cape Town - "Stop attacking us, or we'll gag you through a court order." This is the message Anglo American Platinum (Angloplat), a subsidiary, Potgietersrust Platinum, and partner African Rainbow Minerals (ARM) have for Richard Spoor, a Nelspruit occupational injury specialist attorney who acts for several communities in Limpopo and who wants to stop platinum mining activities on tribal land.

Spoor, who has a history of acting for people and communities in the Northern Cape affected by exposure to asbestos dust and fibres, has been vociferous in his criticism of the conduct of the platinum mining companies on the Hendriksplaats, Onverwacht and Maandagshoek farms.

In a letter to Spoor last Thursday, WP le Roux of the law firm, Brink Cohen Le Roux, said the company had been instructed that Spoor had defamed the mining companies on various occasions and that the defamatory remarks had been published in the media.

Le Roux cited an article in the Business Report on May 14 penned by Spoor in which he had made allegations about Angloplat, Potgietersus Platinum and ARM. He also cited an article in Business Report on June 12, the internet website of minesandcommunities.org on June 25 and the Mail & Guardian of June 23 to 29.

Le Roux said the statements that were published were untrue and defamatory. The lawyers requested Spoor to withdraw the statements and undertake not to defame the platinum mining companies by no later than 2pm tomorrow.

Should Spoor fail to do this, they would apply to the high court for an urgent interdict.

Spoor said on Friday that he was preparing a response. He said the companies wanted to silence the communities and stop them telling the world about their plight.

"The allegations and commentary that [have been] made are no more than a summary of allegations already made under oath and are before the courts in various applications our client communities have filed against Anglo Platinum," Spoor said.

"It's part of my brief to present my clients' case to the court of public opinion.

"The impact of mining and … of multinational corporations on the indigenous communities is well documented around the world. It is the subject of a great deal of writing, commentary, social activism and academic research."

Spoor said one of the core complaints against the companies was racism. "It is unthinkable that white people would be treated the way Anglo treats black people."

Simon Tebele, the company's head of communications, said the threat of an application for an interdict to prevent Spoor from making defamatory statements was not an attempt to prevent him from representing communities.

"We are seeking to ensure that information given to communities or the media is fair and accurate," Tebele said.

The companies have reserved their rights to claim damages from Spoor in respect of defamatory statements.


AngloPlat threatens lawyer with court

business_ifrica.om

6th July 2006

South Africa's largest platinum miner Anglo Platinum has requested that attorney Richard Spoor withdraw alleged defamatory remarks made against the company and joint venture partner African Rainbow Minerals, AngloPlat said on Thursday. AngloPlat and ARM are both involved in the Modikwa Platinum mine joint venture in the Limpopo province.

"If Mr Spoor does not give us this undertaking on or before Monday 10 July 2006, we have informed him that we will seek an urgent interdict in the High Court to prevent him repeating this defamatory conduct," AngloPlat said.

Can't 'muzzle him'

The move by AngloPlat to muzzle him was consistent with the culture of the group, Spoor said.

AngloPlat was "profoundly undemocratic", "a bully", "suppressive", "exploitative", Spoor alleged.

Spoor said he wouldn't shut up and he would make his comments at any venue and at any time.

AngloPlat had previously lodged a complaint with the Law Society of South Africa for unprofessional conduct and that complaint was unlikely to be the last, Spoor said.

Spoor is representing communities in the case brought against the Modikwa Platinum joint venture.

"Where the company believes its legal position, its actions or its intentions are being misrepresented, or communities misinformed, it will intervene to protect its interests and those of the communities concerned," AngloPlat said.

Corporate thuggery?

"Misunderstandings can divide communities and increase tensions, leading to possible confrontation and violence," the company said.

"In media articles he has authored or where he has been quoted, Mr Spoor has misrepresented Anglo Platinum's actions and motives, including accusing it of bribery, corporate thuggery, waging war on communities and racism," AngloPlat alleged.

"This is not an attempt to prevent Mr Spoor from representing community members. We are seeking to ensure that information given to communities or the media is fair and accurate," the group said.

"We have therefore asked Mr Spoor to withdraw untrue and defamatory statements and to undertake in writing that he will not in future defame the companies or their executives. The companies have reserved their rights to claim damages from Mr Spoor in respect of defamatory statements," AngloPlat said.


Spoor: SA mining's bête noire Allan Seccombe

www.miningx.com

6th July 2006

THE air around Richard Spoor’s head is blue – but it’s not cigarette smoke. That’s a habit he quit some time ago. Spoor, the 46-year-old arch-nemesis of South African mining companies and partner at Spoor, Noble & Ntuli, labels himself as just a countryside lawyer. But it’s easy to see beneath the steady stream of profanity – which quickens when he’s making a point – there lies a steely and passionate determination to bring the world to order.

A mining executive, who declined to be named, says: “I’ve met him and he certainly seems to be a man on a mission.” Others in the mining industry don’t want to make any comment at all.

There was an irony about Spoor being a smoker and yet throwing himself into legal cases to win reparations for resources sector workers who have had lungs and lives damaged by working underground or in factories.

He made a name for himself by winning damages for 1,600 workers whose lungs were irreparably damaged by asbestos mining by the former mining house Gencor and Gefco.

In March 2003, Gencor had to pay R448m into the Asbestos Relief Trust, from which payments would be made to victims over 25 years. It was labelled as the biggest payout of its kind in SA’s history and the first time black workers won a compensation claim against their employers.

Spoor, who grew up in Sasolburg, the ultra-conservative town that was the showcase of Afrikaner industrialism in the apartheid era and who later served in the army in the fight against Namibian independence, draws inspiration from an American lawyer Clarence Darrow.

Darrow, who died in 1938, defended the poor and downtrodden. One of his most famous cases was the 1925 defence of teaching evolution in schools in the US. “For him it was a time of class conflict so intense as to border on class warfare,” writes Douglas Linder, a Missouri University law professor.

Spoor tries to downplay any sense you might get that he sees his role as something similar. He tries to pass himself off as a simple country lawyer who looks for the easier cases that he’s certain can be won. But his emotions burst to the surface and show what really drives him.

“I’m a liberal. It astonishes me how liberal values are decried,” he says, his voice rising. “What is liberalism? It’s about tolerance, respect and humanity. These are good and fine values. These are values I have.”

These values lie at the root of what he does, more than any desire to be seen as the white knight and defender of the voiceless and powerless who have been trampled in the corporate profit stampede.

“If anything, I’m motivated more by the desire to punish the evil bastards than to do good – to punish them for what they’ve done. How dare they do what they’ve done? It’s not so much doing good – that’s a by-product – it’s the pleasure of punishing some of them, making them sweat and embarrassing them.”

His passion for rectifying and punishing wrongs lies in the petrochemical, mining and metal refining sectors, where workers’ health is most affected. Spoor reckons he’s been able to collect R700m for workers rendered sick or injured from their work environments. That would be on top of what South Africa’s Compensation Commission has already paid out.

Under South African laws workers may not sue their employers for injuries or disabilities sustained at work, something that irks Spoor no end. He blames workers’ compensation laws that are nearly 60 years’ old and century-old laws governing respiratory diseases for the “glaring injustices” inflicted on workers and the knock on effect that has on impoverishing communities from which these workers are drawn and later sent home to.

“The effect of that legislation is to pass costs of occupational injuries and diseases on to workers, their families and communities. The compensation legislation is a mechanism for companies to externalise costs,” says Spoor.

For example, the asbestos industry generated enormous profits between the end of the Second World War and the Seventies. “In hindsight, we can see those profits were illusory. There’s an enormous environmental cost. An enormous cost is born by the workers, their families and the neighbouring communities. The country as a whole is worse off and unhealthier than if we didn’t have asbestos mining at all.”

He argues that there’s a clear correlation between particularly impoverished and underdeveloped rural communities that provide labour to South Africa’s mines and the profits made by the mining industry. That would stem from the burden these communities have to bear from caring for diseased, injured and disabled workers that have returned home.

Spoor’s next big assault on corporate South Africa – apart from the highly publicised attack on Anglo Platinum and their relations with a community – is tackling the gold industry with regard to operational lung disease.

“Victims are being erased by time. Every day companies’ liabilities shrink.”

“Richard looks backwards at what’s happened. We as an industry have to look forward and see how to prevent that kind of thing,” says the mining executive.

For example, AngloGold Ashanti has laid out in successive reports the way it’s trying to reduce workers’ exposure to silicate dust that causes the debilitating lung disease of silicosis.

Says Spoor: “The strategy I have is to be a really unpleasant person to fight with but a very credible and reliable person to do a deal with. It’s paid off with Gencor, Sasol, Xstrata and others.

“I’ve recently done a very nice little deal with Samancor. I hope in the next year we’ll be able to do some more deals with Samancor to the benefit of sick and injured workers.”

Spoor hasn’t been a person to sit back and let what he perceives as wrongs to slide past him. He was a classic thorn in the then government’s side in the Eighties when the struggle against it reached such a pitch that a state of emergency was declared. He acted for an ANC member on Death Row, he worked with civic organisations to oppose mass evictions by clogging up the legal process and helped black South Africans circumvent pass laws to live in Cape Town.

His first brush with corporate South Africa was a disaster and was probably the catalyst for his stance towards the mining industry. Spoor spent a year with Gold Fields of SA (GFSA) in 1984 before he was told to leave. He had a bursary from GFSA and was doing work with their industrial relations department. The National Union of Mineworkers had been launched in 1982.

“At the time I was a pretty far left sympathiser. I’d breached my employer’s confidence on many occasions, obtaining confidential information from the Chamber of Mines and Gold Fields (of SA) and leaking it to the unions,” Spoor says.

However, it was his presence at an unlawful strike at Randfontein Estates that led to his dismissal. “Rightly so. I really had breached their confidence. It gave me an insight into the ugliest corporate culture that existed. We were involved ordering workers by tribe: so many Zulus, so many Pedis. It was monstrous. I’ve always had a great interest in mining. It’s just a terrain where the abuses were so gross.”

Spoor now faces a different, altogether more personal, battle. He has to save his career. His bete noir – Anglo American – has filed charges of unprofessional and unworthy conduct against him with the Law Society, an attorney watchdog body, after an interaction with South Africa’s largest company over their subsidiary Highveld Steel.

Spoor says: “It’s a deliberate effort on their part to stain my integrity. If I’m convicted of unprofessional conduct it will be a devastating blow. It’s based on my conduct during an enquiry, where I accused them of racism and alleged they were not interested in the health and lives of their workers.”

Anglo American had not commented at the time of publication. The case was to have been heard on 13 May but it has been postponed to a future date. At the very worst Spoor could be struck off the attorneys’ roll and be unable to practice. That’s reserved for gross misconduct.

Spoor, as a senior attorney, was about to chair a disciplinary hearing shortly before his own hearing, but he recused himself.

Says Spoor: “I say the complaint is defective and is inappropriate. I’ve done my damndest to get the charges withdrawn and get them to back off. But they refuse. I’ve been told they’re going to bring defamation cases against me.”

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