Delays by Cape Cause Anxiety to Claimants
The deadline for payment of £11 million ($16.5 m) by Cape plc to the Hendrik Afrika Trust was 30 June, 2002. This deadline has come and gone without receipt of any money by South Africans promised compensation by a settlement agreed in London in December, 2001 (see: South African Claimants Briefed on Cape Asbestos Settlement and Compensation for South African Asbestos Claimants). There were more than 7,000 members of the legal action brought in the UK against the British-owned multinational which had been involved in asbestos operations in South Africa for much of the 20th century.
On 30th July, 2002, the law firm of Davies Arnold Cooper, which represents Cape, informed the law firm of Leigh, Day & Co, representing many of the claimants:
"Our client [Cape plc] is, as you know, currently engaged in a complex programme of financial restructuring in order to raise funds to pay the Trust. We are unable to provide you with specific details of these transactions, as this information is confidential to our clients and their professional advisers and also price sensitive.
The extent of this work was not envisaged during our negotiations late last year when Cape agreed to make the first payment to the Trust by 30 June 2002. Our clients have asked us to assure you and the Cliamants that they remain committed to the proposed settlement and to raising the finance to enable the Agreement to become unconditional.
However, Cape are unable to provide a precise date by which the first payment will be made to the Trust."
Solicitor Richard Meeran, who pioneered the case against Cape and who speaks for many of the plaintiffs, is growing impatient:
"We and our clients are very disappointed and frustrated by the continuing delay and payment. However, we note Cape’s reasons for the delay and the continuing commitment to implementation of the settlement by the company. Based on our discussions with Cape we remain optimistic… The settlement is still in the best interest of the claimants.
For the time being we have agreed to extend the time for payment to 20 August 2002 and we shall be reviewing the position then."
August 6, 2002