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  • UK banks may have been unwittingly involved in South African corruption

    By Robyn | October 25, 2017

    Lord Peter Hain an ACTSA honorary vice president has written to the UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond advising him that two UK banks may have been unwitting conduits in the illicit siphoning of millions of pounds from South Africa.

    Speaking on the matter in the House of Lords last week, Lord Hain advised that he had been notified by whistle-blowers in South Africa that the UK banks HSBC and Standard Chartered banks may have inadvertently been involved in the movement of up to £400m of illicit funds. The money is alleged to have been siphoned from the country, passing through Hong Kong and Dubai, both locations where the two British financial institutions hold a significant presence. In an interview with the BBC World Service Lord Hain reiterated that there is no allegation of wrongdoing on the part of the banks but stated it is his hope that the banks will attempt to regain funds illicitly removed from the country.

    In response to Lord Hain’s letter the UK Chancellor stated ‘The UK government takes allegations of corruption and money laundering extremely seriously and is committed to preventing the proceeds of corruption from entering the UK financial system.’  The Treasury has also issued a statement affirming that the case had been passed on to the Serious Fraud Office, National Crime Agency (NCA) and the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) with the request that they look into the involvement of the British banking groups.

    This is the latest scandal in the ongoing inquiry into the alleged corruption scandal involving President Jacob Zuma and the influential Gupta family. It is alleged that the powerful business family the Guptas bought political influence with the government for their own financial gain. A phenomena referred to in South Africa as ‘state capture’. Lord Hain’s allegations state the illicitly transferred funds in question were stolen from the South African taxpayer as a result of the ‘corruption and cronyism’ of President Zuma and the Guptas. Both President Zuma and the Guptas strongly deny any wrong-doing , stating they are the victims of a “politically motivated witch hunt”.

    Topics: News | No Comments »

    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

    Topics: Features | No Comments »

    O R Tambo Centenary London Schools Competition

    By ACTSA | September 5, 2017

    As many of you will know this October will mark 100 years since the birth of Oliver Reginald Tambo, one of the founding fathers of non-racist, non-sexist, democratic South Africa and leader of the ANC in exile from 1960-1990.

    As one of several celebrations taking place this year and as part of Black History Month ACTSA is delighted to have partnered with Park View School and the Anti Apartheid Movement Archives Committee to organise a competition for school students in Haringey, North London.

    O R Tambo lived in the borough of Haringey with his family during their exile from South Africa, and this October students age 7-18 from the London borough are being asked to ‘Make a Memorial to Oliver Tambo’.

    Students are invited to commemorate life and achievements of O R Tambo in an array of formats, from a painting to a speech, a photo essay to a magazine or webpage. Whole class and group entries are encouraged and the judging will take into particular consideration the way in which students link O R Tambo’s struggles and story to their own lives.

    Entrants will be split into three age categories and with a prize for each category, including, amongst others, a trip to the Houses of Parliament hosted by anti-apartheid activist Lord Peter Hain.

    Deadlines for entry to the competition is 4pm Thursday 19th October. For further information on the competition, including how to enter and tips on planning your winning entry, please click here to read online or download the leaflet here.

    Topics: News from ACTSA | No Comments »

    Bell Pottinger campaign used potentially racial divisive material says independent review.

    By Tony | September 4, 2017

    Bell Pottinger campaign used potentially racial divisive material says independent review.

    Bell Pottinger accepted a commission from Oakbay Investments Pty Limited (“Oakbay”) a holding company for the Gupta family interests in South Africa. It is alleged the Gupta family have significant influence on South Africa government policy, who gets appointed to key roles and who gets, benefits from large government contracts. Referred to in South Africa as “state capture”. The allegations are denied. The commission was in essence to run a PR and marketing campaign to move attention from the alleged close links between the Guptas and key people in, connected to the South African government. Bell Pottinger sought to do this by putting out a counter story, narrative.

    Bell Pottinger commissioned an independent review of its work on the Oakbay account by international law firm Herbert Smith Freehills which has found that, “certain material created by Bell Pottinger…. was potentially racially divisive and/or potentially offensive and was created in breach of relevant ethical principles. [Bell Pottinger's] senior management should have known that the campaign was at risk of causing offence, including on grounds of race.”

    “the BP account team used other tactics in relation to the economic emancipation campaign which arguably breached the relevant ethical principles‚ including taking steps which might mislead or undermine journalists who were asking questions in relation to the campaign.….members of BP’s senior management should have known that the campaign was at risk of causing offence‚ including on grounds of race.….In such circumstances BP ought to have exercised extreme care and should have closely scrutinised the creation of content for the campaign. This does not appear to have happened.”

    The Chief Executive of Bell Pottinger although not involved in this account resigned shortly before the report was released.

    The Huffington Post South Africa has put four questions to Bell Pottinger, others have put similar questions.

    1. How much did Bell Pottinger earn from the Oakbay account?

    2. Would Bell Pottinger now consider paying profits from the account toward some charitable organisations, maybe like those working toward reconciliation efforts in South Africa?

    3. Are (ex-CEO) James Henderson and (former BP partner) Victoria Geoghegan going to be the only employees held responsible?

    4. Would there be another apology issued to South Africans affected by the divisive campaigns?

    Others have also asked about other PR and marketing commissions e.g. allegedly for the ANC Youth League Bell Pottinger has run recently in South Africa.

    Bell Pottinger has so far not answered.

    Bell Pottinger gave up the Oakbay account in April 2017.
    Bell Pottinger was accused of running a campaign in South Africa on behalf of Oakbay which was divisive, offensive and stoked racial tensions. It is reported that the Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA), a UK trade body has found Bell Pottinger guilty of breaching its code of conduct in its work on the Oakbay account and the PRCA should state what measure it plans to take on 5 September.

    The logical conclusion of the independent review and the reported PRCA finding is that Bell Pottinger did indeed run a divisive, offensive PR and marketing campaign in South Africa for Oakbay recognising it may well cause racial tensions.

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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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    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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    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 

    Topics: Features, News from ACTSA | No Comments »

    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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    O. R. Tambo, the Quiet Revolutionary, Centenary London Lecture by Albie Sachs

    By ACTSA | July 21, 2017

    In celebration of the centenary of the birth of O. R. Tambo, President of the African National Congress (ANC) 1967-1991 and a founding father of democratic, non-racist and non-sexist South Africa ACTSA has joined with others to host a lecture in central London. On 26th October 2017 Judge Albie Sachs who knew and worked closely with O.R. Tambo will deliver the Tambo centenary London lecture, O.R. Tambo, the Quiet Revolutionary.

    Albie Sachs is a distinguished human rights activist, lawyer, judge and scholar. He was imprisoned by the apartheid regime, forced into exile where he was the target of a letter bomb designed to kill him. He lost an arm and the sight in one eye. He is a renowned former South African Constitutional Court Justice and a key drafter of the post-apartheid constitution. On display at the lecture will be a new photo exhibition, O.R. Tambo and the role of International Solidarity.

    To register your interest email us at info@actsa.org.

    Topics: News from ACTSA | 1 Comment »

    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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