groundWork Statement : The passing of Ephraim Timto Summerton

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The government is dragging its feet while it should be asking workers where the mercury waste was dumped. When is the government going  to do something about this?

   Ephraim Summerton


groundWork would like to convey its condolences to the family of Ephraim Summerton, as well as all the former Thor Chemicals workers, on the passing of Ephraim Summerton, also known as Lean Tinto.

Ephraim Summerton worked at Thor Chemicals from 1987 until 1996. During his time at Thor Chemicals he was often ordered to dispose of poisonous wastewater on nearby grass and to conceal toxic waste. At the time, Thor was one of the world’s largest mercury reprocessing plants.

The facility where Ephraim Summerton worked was forced to shut down following the contamination of nearby streams, the deaths and poisoning of people who worked inside the plant, and the mercury poisoning of people in the surrounding community. This led to then President Nelson Mandela establishing a commission of enquiry into the matter, and Ephraim and others assisted the Davis Commission through their testimonies.

The struggle for justice for former workers at Thor Chemicals has highlighted – in many ways – the need for the government to act against entities whose employees are subjected to dangerous working conditions.

We acknowledge Ephraim Summerton’s contribution in ensuring that those responsible at Thor Chemicals are made to account for their actions, and their inactions, and that affected workers and community receive the justice they deserve.

We, as groundWork have walked this long journey with the affected workers and the nearby community of Cato Ridge and Inchanga. , and it is through comrades like Summerton and others that have made this battle worthwhile, through their individual commitment and drive to ensure that justice is delivered.

A number of actions have been taken and there has been significant progress on this matter. This includes the removal of the mercury waste and its return to Europe, and the initiation of a process to ensure that all affected ex-workers are fairly compensated. On the latter issue we still have a long way to go.

We will always remember Ephraim Summerton as a courageous comrade who stood for the truth.

We will remember Summerton as a fearless comrade who was not afraid to speak out.

We will remember Summerton as a comrade who stood side by side with his fellow comrades and the community of Inchanga, in the quest for justice.