Richard Spoor won the battle against the mining giants – but lost to Facebook.
Peering down from the press gallery in the Constitutional Court on 17 August 2010 one couldn’t help but notice the asymmetry between the “for” and “against” benches. That was the day that Thembekile Mankayi vs AngloGold Ashanti Ltd was being argued. On the applicant’s side of the court a single attorney “David” (Richard Spoor) stood with a British law student and a social worker passing him ammunition as he aimed his slingshot at the “Goliath” ranged against him – the gold mining industry.
Spoor was in pursuit of a claim for R2,6 million on behalf of his client because “AngloGold negligently exposed him to harmful dusts and gases as a result of which he contracted diseases in the form of tuberculosis, silicosis and chronic obstructive airways which have rendered him unable to work as a miner or in any other occupation”.
AngloGold did not deny the cause of Mankayi’s illness but argued that the R16,300 compensation he had already received under the prevailing legislation was all he was legally entitled to.
En route to the Constitutional Court, both the High Court and Supreme Court of Appeal had agreed with AngloGold. With an unpaid bill for the advocates he had briefed hitherto, Spoor had no option but to robe himself with an inky cloak, borrow a ruff and seek leave to appeal to the Constitutional Court. He was five days late in doing so because he had been scrambling for money.