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  • Zimbabwe: Coup, Uphold Rights, Improve the economy

    By Tony | November 16, 2017

    What has happened in Zimbabwe is a coup. It may turn out to be a coup many welcome as the least worst option but it is nevertheless is a coup. The perpetrators have stated it is not a coup but it looks, feels and sounds like a coup. The military have acted in their view to protect and preserve public order but that is the reason perpetrators of coups give for their intervention. The trigger seems to have been the statement by Zanu PF that the head of the army General Constantino Chiwenga’s comments following the dismissal by President Mugabe of his Vice President Emerson Mnangagwa were tantamount to treason. The army seems to have acted in a form of preventative action to stop Chiwenga being dismissed. The army says the president and his family are safe and being protected. This raises the question protected from who? His own family? The so-called criminal elements around him? The security service?

    Why are the perpetrators desperate for this not to be seen as a coup? Because if it is a coup then Zimbabwe should automatically be suspended from the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) and SADC would be challenged to intervene to uphold the constitution. SADC is desperate not to intervene in Zimbabwe and the Zimbabwe military equally don’t want external involvement, and wish to be seen as in some way upholding the constitutional proprieties.

    Some say it is not a coup as Mugabe remains Head of State, that it is more about internal infighting in Zanu PF. The military action is certainly intended to influence and decide the leadership of Zanu PF but first this will involve Mugabe rescinding his decision to dismiss Emerson Mnangagwa as vice president of the country and reinstating him.

    If the coup succeeds – and it seems to have met limited opposition in the country and internationally, concern has been expressed but it has not been condemned – then the expectation is that Emerson Mnangagwa will resume as vice president of the country. He would then be in effect in charge of government and Robert Mugabe may, after a short time, resign allowing the vice president to take over.

    Prior to the coup Zanu PF was due to hold a congress in December. Until the coup it was expected this would remove Mnangagwa as vice president of the party and elect Grace Mugabe to that position. It is unclear if the congress will go ahead and if it does, and the coup has succeeded then Robert Mugabe may “retire” leaving Mnangagwa to be elected as president of the party.

    Zimbabwe is due to hold national elections for parliament and president in 2018. If it does not then it will be in breach of its constitution. Given the turmoil in Zimbabwe some are calling for a government of national unity or transitional government for several years.

    While many well welcome the demise of Mugabe, if Zimbabwe continues to be ruled in an authoritarian manner in which the institutions of the state are used to serve and promote one party, Zanu PF, then the suffering of the Zimbabwean people is likely to continue. Ordinary Zimbabweans are and have been suffering in part because the ruling party has been unable to deal with the succession to Mugabe and military leaders have been unwilling to countenance any party other than Zanu PF running Zimbabwe.

    In the immediate aftermath of the coup human rights and essential freedoms need to be protected. Zimbabwe may need a period of a national unity government based on respect for human rights and the rule of law. During this period getting the economy working to create decent jobs should be of great importance, but ultimately the priority must be for the Zimbabwean people to determine their own future government through free, fair, peaceful and democratic elections.

    Disclaimer: This is a blog and does not necessarily represent any agreed view by ACTSA.

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    Are the mining companies trying to escape on the cheap?

    By Campaigns | October 9, 2017

    ACTSA’s position has always been that the the settlement reached in March 2016 on behalf of 4365 ex-gold mineworkers in regard to legal actions against Anglo American and AngloGold Ashanti should be seen as a benchmark and not just a landmark. We continue to assert that the broad terms of any settlement of the ongoing class action should be at least as good as the terms of the March 2016 settlement.

    The six mining companies have now announced the amounts that they have set aside in relation to a possible settlement of the class action. We have calculated that the total of these provisions is approximately $371.2 million. How would this compare to the terms of the March 2016 settlement?

    The settlement reached in March 2016 saw R464 million, which at the time was $30.1 million, paid into a trust for distribution. While not all ex-gold mineworkers will receive the same amount (assuming that claimants with silicosis can prove they worked on Anglo American or AngloGold mines for at least two years, payments depend on the extent of their illness and their age), this equates to $6896 per person.

    Importantly, a further amount was paid to assist the trust to enable payment of statutory compensation to claimants who qualify for it, and Anglo American and AngloGold also agreed to fund the running costs of the trust and all medical evaluations. Moreover, relatives of deceased ex-gold mineworkers who meet the criteria are included in this settlement.

    On the surface, it would appear that the $371.2 million total set aside by the mining companies could compensate 53,828 ex-gold mineworkers – if the $6896 per person figure is a benchmark. Yet, as we outlined in our recent briefing paper Coughing Up, estimates of ex-gold mineworkers with silicosis run into the hundreds of thousands. For example, in 2005 the Government of South Africa’s Department of Labour estimated 480,000 cases of silicosis among ex-gold mineworkers in Southern Africa. A 2010 study estimated there were 288,000 cases of compensable silicosis in South Africa. As a result, paid occupational lung disease compensation for gold mineworkers has been estimated to run into the billions of US dollars. Experts agree that many ex-gold mineworkers with silicosis in Southern Africa have already died but are there no more than 53,828 of them still alive?

    Yet on closer examination the situation is even worse than at first suspected. ACTSA has learnt that it is likely that the $371.2 million figure is inclusive of all other costs. As noted above, under the March 2016 settlement, costs relating to implementing the settlement (including providing medicals, distributing funds and supporting payment of statutory compensation to those who qualify) were treated separately and are borne by the mining companies. Moreover, in this case there are likely to be significant costs incurred due to locating ex-gold mineworkers with silicosis, as many have gone back to their homes in rural areas of South Africa or in surrounding countries. Finally, it is not clear if relatives of deceased ex-gold mineworkers with silicosis will be eligible to receive any compensation under any settlement of the class action.

    All in all, it looks like the mining companies are looking for a bargain as they look to close the book on their appalling treatment of their former employees. Can we stop them from escaping on the cheap?

    Sunit Bagree is ACTSA’s Senior Campaigns Officer

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    Public Statement on AngloGold Ashanti and Gold Mineworkers with Silicosis and Tuberculosis in Southern Africa

    By Campaigns | July 26, 2017

    In April 2017, Action for Southern Africa (ACTSA) published the briefing paper Coughing Up. The paper argues that AngloGold Ashanti and other companies in the Occupational Lung Disease Working Group (OLDWG) not only made huge profits from apartheid gold, but in doing so they completely neglected the health and safety of black mineworkers, leading to so many of them developing the diseases silicosis and tuberculosis (TB).

    A settlement reached in March 2016 with AngloGold Ashanti and Anglo American South Africa, while welcome and positive, is limited to 4,365 claimants. It is not a comprehensive industry-wide settlement. A class action filed in the High Court of South Africa in December 2012 and certified in May 2016 seeks to achieve an industry-wide compensation scheme. However, the OLDWG companies are appealing all aspects of the class action certification.

    ACTSA, in solidarity with a range of South African civil society organisations, has campaigned for justice for Southern African gold mineworkers with silicosis and TB since 2012. We call on AngloGold Ashanti and the other mining companies to urgently provide proper medical screening, decent financial compensation and healthcare, and adequate support for all ex- and current mineworkers suffering from silicosis and TB. To this end, we call on AngloGold Ashanti to answer the following questions.

    1) Why are AngloGold Ashanti and other OLDWG companies appealing all aspects of the class action certification?

    2) Do you believe that the broad terms of any settlement of the class action should be at least as good as the terms of the March 2016 settlement?

    3) When was the last time you met with the legal representatives of the mineworkers that brought the class action?

    4) Will you commit to meeting regularly, at least quarterly, with the legal representatives of the mineworkers bringing the class action, as well as with the National Union of Mineworkers (South Africa), in order to bring about a comprehensive industry-wide settlement that is fair to ill mineworkers?

    5) In terms of implementing the March 2016 settlement, Anglo American stated (at its AGM on 24 April) that 700 of the 4,365 claimants had been paid out. Is this also your understanding and how many claimants have been assessed so far?

    6) Would it be possible to receive more regular (e.g. quarterly) and detailed updates regarding the implementation of the March 2016 settlement?

    Download this statement 

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    Mandela Day 18 July

    By Tony | July 17, 2017

    Mandela Day 18 July 2017

    What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.” Nelson Mandela

    Nelson Mandela was born 99 years ago on18 July 1918.

    The UN General Assembly agreed the 18 July be designated Mandela Day.

    The proposal is that those inspired by Nelson Mandela’s values, commitment and service do something on Mandela Day and/or other days to help bring about a better, fairer, more just world in which poverty and inequality is reduced and the rights and dignity of all upheld. You decide what to do. You can tell others or not what you are doing.

    If you are inspired by Nelson Mandela do something to reduce poverty and help make a better world

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    Angola has a long way to go on human rights

    By ACTSA | December 12, 2016

    10 December was Human Rights Day. ACTSA’s Senior Campaigns Officer Sunit Bagree argues that Angola has a long way to go to Read the rest of this entry »

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    40th anniversary of the Soweto Uprising

    By ACTSA | June 14, 2016

    Wednesday 16 June 1976 changed South Africa.

    Thousands of youth, mainly secondary school children left their schools to protest against apartheid, which was white supremacy, institutionalised discrimination against black South Africans, denying them their rights. The protest had Read the rest of this entry »

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    We will not forget Itai Dzamara

    By ACTSA | December 8, 2015

    Human Rights Day will be celebrated on 10 December, as it has been every year since 1950. In a sad irony, this year, the day before will mark 9 months since the enforced disappearance of Zimbabwean human rights activist Itai Dzamara.

    Dzamara was at a barbershop in Harare when Read the rest of this entry »

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    South Africa: 20 Years of Freedom

    By Tony | April 26, 2014

    South Africa marks 20 years as a democratic country in 2014. 27 April is Freedom Day, the anniversary of South Africa’s first democratic elections.

    What has happened? What has been achieved? What are the key challenges South Africa faces?

    This new briefing paper from ACTSA to mark the anniversary provides Read the rest of this entry »

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    The Freedom Charter

    By Mark | June 26, 2013

    The Freedom Charter was the statement of core principles of the South African Congress Alliance, which consisted of the African National Congress, the South African Indian Congress, the South African Congress of Democrats and the Coloured People’s Congress.

    In 1955, fifty thousand volunteers went out to collect ‘freedom demands’ from the people of South Africa. The Charter was officially adopted on Read the rest of this entry »

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    Pallo Jordan on the massacres at Bisho (1992) and Marikana (2012)

    By Mark | September 13, 2012

    Like so many of the landmarks along our long walk to freedom, September 7th 1992 does not mark a happy occasion. It was day on which the political and social forces striving to give birth to a democratic South Africa, clashed head-on with the joint forces of reaction represented by the tin-pot military strongman, Brigadier Oupa Gqozo and the die-hards of the apartheid regime. Twenty-eight people were mowed down in a desperate act of repression.

    On the 8th September 1992, then President of the ANC, Comrade Nelson Mandela’s issued a public statement on the Bhisho Massacre. The message read in part: Read the rest of this entry »

    Topics: Features | 5 Comments »

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