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20 Jan 2023

Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International, on Business Day (So. Africa)

South Africa: Court hearing begins in lawsuit against Anglo American over lead poisoning in Kabwe, Zambia

"Agnès Callamard: Bold call for corporate accountability and justice in Zambia", 17 Jan 2023

In a few days an SA court will hear a crucial case against mining giant Anglo American, brought by Zambian children and women from the district of Kabwe, known as one of the world’s most toxic towns. In a landmark class action residents of Kabwe accuse Anglo’s SA subsidiary of sacrificing their lives and livelihoods on the altar of corporate greed.

The applicants argue that the company left them to live in a town where dangerous, even fatal, levels of lead had leached into the ground, water and air. Anglo left half a century ago when the Zambian mining sector was nationalised, but residents argue that the toxic legacy of its operations remains...

The applicants argue that deficiencies in the mine’s operations during this period led to widespread poisoning of their community and has had intergenerational adverse health effects on the 100,000-plus children and women who are seeking compensation...

...The people of Kabwe have had enough. They want their voices to be heard, they want their land and homes to be rehabilitated. They want compensation and health screening systems to be put in place. They want Anglo to right its wrongs. But Anglo denies responsibility, labelling the suit “opportunistic” and a waste of money and time...

If the case against Anglo is successful it could set an important precedent for companies to be held liable and compelled to remediate their historical harm. Furthermore, it will send a clear message that multinational corporations cannot flagrantly disregard human rights in the pursuit of profit over people.