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  • Marikana: five years on

    By Tony | August 15, 2017

    Marikana: five years on

    44 people were killed around the Marikana platinum mine, near Rustenburg, about 2 hours north-west of Johannesburg between 11-16 August 2012. 34 miners who had gone on strike were killed by the South African police on the 16 August. 10 people were killed in the days before 16 August, two were police officers.

    The Marikana Commission of Inquiry reported in 2015.  It criticised the police, Lonmin (the mining company that owned the mine), the striking miners and the trade unions.

    Most criticism was directed at the police operation for the killings on the 16 August. The commission found that the police decided to move from an encirclement and containment plan, which in the Commission’s view could have been implemented without significant risk of loss of life on the morning of 16 August or the following day to a plan to demand the striking miners disarm and if not force would be used which would inevitably lead to bloodshed. The Commission also severely criticised the police for not ceasing shooting at scene 1 where 16 people were killed and that at scene 2 where 17 people were killed there was a, “complete lack of control and command”.

    The Commission recommended a full investigation to ascertain criminal liability on the part of all members of the South Africa police who were involved in the incidents at scene 1 and 2. Over a year later in December 2016 President Zuma said criminal charges would be brought against senior police officers involved in the killings. In March 2017 the Independent Police Investigative Directorate identified 72 police officers for prosecution in relation to their roles in the killings at Marikana. These 72 have not yet been formally charged.

    The Commission recommended that there be further investigation into all the killings and assaults that took place between 11 and 15 August 2012 to determine whether there is a basis for prosecution. This has happened in part however the National Prosecuting Authority said it was postponing indefinitely the trial of 17 strike leaders who had been charged in connection to the killings that took place between 12 and 14 August 2012.

    The Commission recommended that there must be an inquiry into the fitness to hold office, of the National Police Commissioner at the time, Riah Phiyega. She was suspended, an inquiry was held which recommended her dismissal from office and she was dismissed following an appeal in June 2017. She continues to contest the findings of the inquiry. Riah Phiyega is one of the 72 police officers identified for prosecution.

    The Commission was critical of the conduct of Lonmin for not doing more to resolve the dispute, not doing more to ensure the safety of employees, not responding effectively to the threat and outbreak of violence and failure to implement social undertakings it had committed to do. There are reports in 2017 that Lonmin has said given the price of platinum it cannot do more to assist those directly affected by the massacre at Marikana e.g. through re-housing.

    The Commission of Inquiry went into the events leading up to and the on the day itself in considerable detail however its terms of reference and its interpretation of them led it to not considering the wider context in which Marikana occurred.

    The Inquiry did not really consider, comment on the mining companies continued use and reliance on migrant labour which has led a considerable number of them having two families one in the area they from and one the area they stay, around the mine. The poor conditions around the mines, especially housing. Why did this and why do other labour and community disputes in South Africa move fairly quickly to violence? Why did the police respond by the use of lethal force rather than containment? What are the implications for this on police and community relations?  Why are a number of  ” corporate social responsibility projects” seemingly more about public relations and company image and not substantial and lasting improvements? Why has the mining industry failed to transform itself more than 20 years since the end of apartheid?

    Many of those affected by massacre at Marikana still feel there has not been justice.  Some groups focus on the 34 killed by the police on 16 August. There were at least 44 killed as 10 were killed in the week preceding. Those individuals who recklessly caused and contributed to the deaths of 44 people in and around Marikana between 9 -16 August should face justice. But as well as holding individuals to account there is the need to address systemic weaknesses and failures in and across the mining industry, in policing and by those engaging in labour and community protests.

    The killings, the massacre at Marikana should never have happened. That they did is a terrible loss to the families involved and a stain on democratic South Africa. The challenge since has been to ensure such events never re-occur but also to transform the mining industry so it treats its workers more fairly and ensure greater benefits flow to the communities and areas where the mines are located.  Five years on it is difficult to conclude the mining industry has or is transforming its practices. More needs to be done and now to provide better support and assistance to those directly affected by what happened at Marikana.

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    South Africa: President Zuma survives eighth no-confidence vote

    By Tony | August 10, 2017

    On 8 August a motion of no-confidence in President Zuma was defeated in the national assembly (parliament) by 198 votes to 177 with nine abstentions. To have been carried the no-confidence motion needed 201 votes (50% +1 of the Assembly).

    This was the eighth motion of no-confidence in President Zuma all of which have been defeated. This was the first conducted by secret ballot. It came several months after President Zuma sacked the Minister and Deputy Minister of Finance and amid increasing allegations of corruption and patronage at the centre of government.  On the face of it seems it was a comfortable victory for President Zuma however after allowing for a couple of vacancies and that a number of MPs did not vote it is estimated between 26-36 ANC MPs voted for the opposition motion of no confidence. The ANC has 249 MPs. The combined opposition in theory has 151. However two smaller parties usually vote with the ANC reducing the opposition to 141.

    Some think that having survived the no-confidence vote President Zuma will be strengthened. Others think the vote shows increasing divisions and tensions within the ANC which will hold its five yearly elective conference in December. President Zuma has said he will step down as President of the ANC at the conference. He may continue as President of the country until 2019 but then will have completed the maximum of two terms allowed under the constitution.

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    Angola Election: Observer missions invited but possibly no EU team

    By Robyn | August 3, 2017

    Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos has invited a number of organisational and individual observers to witness the forthcoming election. Amongst them are the African Union (AU), the European Union (EU) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) as well as former Presidents from Ghana, East Timor and Mozambique amongst others. Opposition party, the União Nacional para a Independência Total de Angola (UNITA) have appealed to the US government and international community to closely follow the electoral process. However it is uncertain if the EU will send an observer mission. It is understood the EU have requested unfettered access to polling stations which the Angolans are said to have refused. Negotiations as to whether the EU will send an election observer mission were continuing in mid-July.

    The SADC Electoral Advisory Council (SEAC) and African Union (AU) delegations are already in the country evaluating preparations for the elections. Interior minister Eugenio Laborinho spoke following meetings with delegations from both parties, stating that learnings from previous elections had been made and security provisions safeguarded.

    There have been calls from all parties to avoid anti-democratic means, however some critics have questioned their commitment after protests for transparent elections in May were met with the arrest of 7 activists. Angola’s general election will take place on 23rd August 2017.  The largest opposition party UNITA have expressed some concern about the support in the state media for the ruling Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola (MPLA).

    If you would like to hear more on Angola, ACTSA publishes the Angola Monitor, a quarterly publication covering the latest human rights, aid & development, economic and politics news from Angola.  Sign-up here.

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    Commitment to reducing inequality: Southern African Rankings

    By Tony | July 27, 2017

    South Africa has been ranked 21 and Swaziland 140 out of 152 countries on the Commitment to Reducing Inequality Index.

    Oxfam and Development Finance International (DFI) have developed the Commitment to Reducing Inequality Index which seeks to measure the commitment of governments to reducing inequality. They state the index is work in progress and they welcome feedback. Initially they have focussed on three areas which they believe are critical to reducing inequality, social spending, tax and labour rights.

    193 countries promised to reduce inequality as part of the Sustainable Development Goals agreed in 2015.  They accepted to eliminate poverty inequality had to be reduced.

    South Africa is ranked 21 out of 152 on its commitment to reducing inequality. The best ranking of any African country. The first ten are European countries. Great Britain is ranked 17 and USA 23. Swaziland is ranked 140 the second worst of any African country with Nigeria the only African country ranked worse.

    Namibia is ranked 40, Lesotho 49, Mauritius 48, Mozambique 52, Zimbabwe 53, Malawi 56, Seychelles 63, Tanzania 78, Zambia 84, Botswana 105, DRC 108.

    Click here for more details on the Commitment to Reducing Inequality Index 

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    South African visual activist Zanele Muholi debuts first solo show in London

    By Robyn | July 24, 2017

    A new exhibition  ‘Somnyama Ngonyama’ by South African photographer and visual activist Zanele Muholi is running  at the Autograph ABP gallery in London from 14th July to 28th October Muholi is a self-proclaimed visual activist who is known for her advocacy work on behalf of the LGBTI community in South Africa, particularly with regards to re-presenting the black lesbian community.

    Somnyama Ngonyama, which translates from Zulu as ‘Hail, the Dark Lioness’, features ongoing self-portraits from the South African photographer. The exhibition is comprised of more than 60 photographs, each intended to spark debate on human rights, social justice and contested representations of the black body. Elements of the collection act as a powerful political commentary on South Africa’s history, with references to the2012 Marikana massacre, as she wears miners goggles and hat in one image. Whilst another calls to mind apartheid era punishment of necklacing – depicting Muholi with tyres around her neck. Other images hold a more different dimension, referencing personal challenges she has faced in her life.

    All appear politically and psychologically charged, a characteristic which has caused some controversy in South Africa.  A South African government minister is reported to have walked out of one of her exhibitions, lamenting it as ‘immoral’.  She has also been the target of burglary, when computer files documenting the funerals of 3 lesbian women who were murdered in South Africa were stolen.

    Quoted in The Guardian she admits she is scared but says: “This work needs to be shown, people need to be educated, people need to feel that there are possibilities”

    Zanele Muholi: Somnyama Ngonyama, Hail the Dark Lioness is at Autograph ABP, London EC2A until 28th October 2017


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    Future of South Africa

    By Tony | July 19, 2017

    A conference for the Future of South Africa was held on 18 July (Mandela Day) in Johannesburg. The organisers say 600 people from 130 civil society organisations attended.

    The conference was convened by the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation and the Save South Africa campaign. The conference was held due to continuing and increasing concern around the alleged corruption of state institutions and in particular what has been termed, “ state capture” used to denote family, corporate interests not just influencing but “capturing” state resources so they are used for their benefit. In particular it is alleged the Gupta family which has close links to President Zuma have directly and indirectly influenced and benefited from government institutions and policy. These allegations are denied.

    The use of PR firms by companies with strong connections to the Gupta family has become highly controversial with accusations that the campaigns these companies have engaged in to deflect attention from the allegations of state capture not only targeted individuals but sought to provoke racial tensions. Bell Pottinger set up an independent enquiry into its work. After receiving an interim report it dismissed a senior partner, suspended several other staff and issued a full, unequivocal and absolute apology to anyone impacted saying, “These activities should never have been undertaken. We are deeply sorry that this happened.” Bell Pottinger has been reported to the PR regulatory body. Bell Pottinger’s apology has been called insufficient and they have been requested to make public all communications they sent or received in connection with the PR work they undertook. Criticism has also been levelled at McKinsey who have suspended their South African director.

    A vote of no-confidence in President Zuma is scheduled for a parliamentary vote on 8 August.  It has been requested that this be a secret ballot. The president is elected by secret ballot by parliament. The constitutional court has ruled the Speaker can decide to hold a secret ballot. A national day of pray against state capture has been called for and it is likely there will be demonstrations in the run up to the no-confidence vote. The ANC currently holds 62% of the parliamentary seats.

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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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    Two new sites in Southern Africa awarded World Heritage Status

    By Robyn | July 13, 2017

    Two sites in Angola and South Africa have been awarded World Heritage Status by the United Nations Education Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). The historic center of the city of Mbanza Kongo in Angola’s northern Zaire Province and #Khomani Cultural Landscape in South Africa were both inscribed on the prestigious world heritage list at the 41st session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee this week.

    The city of Mbanza Kongo was founded in the 13th century and was the largest village on the West Coast of Central Africa during the 17th Century. It was considered the political and spiritual capital of the ancient Kingdom of Kongo. According to UNESCO Mbanza Kongo ‘illustrates, more than anywhere in sub-Saharan Africa, the profound changes caused by the introduction of Christianity and the arrival of the Portuguese into Central Africa’.

    The #Khomani Cultural Landscape in South Africa covers an area of 959,100 hectares in Dawid Kruiper District Municipality in the west of the country. The area is associated with the culture of the #Khomani and related San people who descend directly from an ancient population considered to be the ancestors of the entire human race. The #Khomani area is considered to be a unique link with the region’s ancient inhabitants, their culture, language, and connection to the environment which holds a spiritual dimension.

    The #Khomani Cultural Landscape and city of Mbanza Kongo were two of three sites in Africa to be awarded World Heritage Status in this session of the committee. The third was Asmara in Eritrea.

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    Zambian opposition leader launches petitions against treason charge

    By Robyn | July 5, 2017

    The treason charges against Zambian opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema for failing to move aside for the presidential motorcade earlier this year are still being upheld. Hichilema’s legal team maintain the traffic violation did not represent an attempt to topple the government and as such the treason charges should be dropped. Petitions have been taken to both the High Court and Constitutional Court in an attempt to strike out the criminal procedure which forbids those who have committed capital offenses from securing bail, as well as a further petition to quash his charges completely So far both have been unsuccessful. In May, Mmusi Maimane South Africa’s main opposition leader was denied entry to Zambia as he attempted to show his support for Hichilema. Hichilema was recently moved to a high security prison outside of the capital, a move which has been condemned as unconstitutional by his party the UPND. In a recent letter written by Hichilema and sent from prison he states ‘Nothing stops us communicating to the world. They will throw us in jail some more if they wish but that is the fight we embarked on’. Many commentators have questioned what the ongoing situation will mean for the nation’s political climate, which until recently has largely been heralded as one of the more stable in the region.

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    Joel Joffe, 12 May 1932-18 June 2017. An appreciation.

    By Tony | June 21, 2017

    Joel Joffe was the person who put together the legal team to defend Nelson Mandela and his colleagues in the Rivonia trial, 1963/64. He met regularly with Nelson Mandela and others in prison and in the cells below the courtroom. It was Joel who received the handwritten note from Nelson Mandela of the speech he intended to make from the dock. When Joel and the others read what Nelson Mandela intended to say at the end of his speech they advised he should take out the last sentence as if found guilty they would face the death penalty.

    “I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

    Mandela insisted it remain. It was Joel’s responsibility to get the speech typed which he did and returned to meet with Nelson Mandela the next day in his cell. Joel had instructed the typist to not include the final sentence.   Mandela read the typed speech carefully then asked Joel for a pen and with it put the final sentence back into the speech.

    As Joel recounted it was his task, together with the other members of the defence team, to try and get the accused acquitted but given that the evidence against them was strong so the real objective was to avoid the death penalty. However Nelson Mandela and his co-accused decided to use the trial to put apartheid itself on trial. He paid tribute throughout his life to their courage and integrity and that it continued to inspire him.

    Immediately prior to the trial Joel and his wife Vanetta had planned to leave apartheid South Africa and emigrate to Australia with their two young daughters. Despite the fact their luggage had been shipped ahead, Joel needed no persuading to put those plans on hold and bring together a powerful defence team to advise and support Mandela and his eight co-accused. Following the trial and sentence of life imprisonment it was clear that Joel and his family needed to leave South Africa. They planned to resume their emigration to Australia. However, given his role in defending Nelson Mandela and his co-accused he was told he was no longer welcome and Australia’s loss became the UK’s gain when Joel arrived.

    Joel became a successful businessman in the UK and he was a co-founder of Allied Dunbar Company, which had an ethical policy long before they were common. He became chair of Oxfam and was made a life peer in 2000.  He established the Joffe Charitable Trust focussing on the relief of poverty and human rights in the developing world.

    ACTSA is proud that Joel supported ACTSA’s work on women’s rights in Swaziland, human rights in Swaziland and the campaign for decent compensation and health care for ex-mineworkers across southern Africa who have silicosis.

    Joel was bright with a sharp and incisive mind. He put his values and principles into action. He championed human rights and dignity for all, supported programmes that reduced poverty, and was a passionate advocate for justice. He had a good sense of humour and demonstrated humility. Joel never pushed himself into the spotlight but it found him because of his essential qualities of a being a good human being who cared about others, he fought injustice and helped change the course of history for the better.

    We will miss him but we celebrate his life and many achievements.

    When I heard Joel had died I felt sad because I would never enjoy his company again but sadness quickly gave way to thanks and appreciation. I am glad and fortunate to have known Joel. He was a decent, sincere, honest, principled man who made a real and lasting difference in the UK and in South Africa.

    Hamba Kahle, Joel

    (Hamba Kahle is a Xhosa expression broadly translated in this context as farewell)

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