South Africa

South Africa Country Guide

The South Africa Country Guide was produced by the Danish Institute for Human Rights and the South African Human Rights Commission, with assistance from the Centre for Human Rights – University of Pretoria.

This report is a compilation of publicly available information from international institutions, local NGOs, governmental agencies, businesses, media and universities, among others. International and domestic sources are identified on the basis of their expertise and relevance to the South African context, as well as their timeliness and impartiality.

The initial survey of publicly available, international sources was carried out by the Danish Institute for Human Rights. A draft was shared with the South African Human Rights Commission, who carried out local consultations and contributed further local information. The completed Country Guide aims to provide a comprehensive overview, on the basis of the information available, of the ways in which companies do or may impact human rights in South Africa.

This report also includes recommendations on how companies may address their impacts or contribute to development. These recommendations are adapted from existing Danish Institute guidance for companies, as well as local sources. Company initiatives are drawn from the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre, as well as local consultations.

The current Country Guide is not meant as an end product, or a final determination of country conditions. It is intended to be the basis, and the beginning, of a process of dissemination, uptake and modification. DIHR and SAHRC seek further engagement with local stakeholders, and intend to update the Country Guide every two years on that basis.

Read the Country Guide South Africa here

Read the full Country Guide here

News Feed

So. Africa: At least 500 employees to be retrenched as General Motors ceases operations; workers union says company never consulted them

28 May 2017 — "General Motors counts initial job losses from SA exit", 22 May 2017 General Motors’ (GM) decision to cease production and sale of its vehicles in South Africa by the end of expected to lead to 589 job losses...Labour union fears of potential job losses following the disinvestment have now been confirmed as GM has started with the required section 189 process (the legal process of retrenchments). The company said the number of employees (an estimated 589) to be affected is not yet final. “GM will enter into a consultation with employees and their representative unions to discuss all possible options going forward,” GM’s spokesperson Denise van Huyssteen told Moneyweb...It’s unclear whether the predicted  number of employees to be affected includes direct employees of the plant and companies along its value chain. The latter might swell the number of retrenchments well above 589...The National Union of Metal Workers of South Africa (Numsa), whose members are GM employees, has accused the company of not consulting it about the sale of the plant. Numsa’s general secretary Irvin Jim said the union is consulting its lawyers about the job losses as it’s not certain that Isuzu would absorb all employees who work at GM’s operations. “We are concerned that GM has already indicated that it might retrench workers…If these discussions are indeed taking place then it is likely that GM knows how many employees will be retained, and how many will be retrenched,” said Jim.

So. Africa: Informal miners protest against Kimberly Ekapa Mining for allegedly operating without a permit; say when they mine in the same area they are arrested

21 May 2017 — "Zama zamas‚ backed by BLF‚ protest against 'illegal mine'", 11 May 2017 Informal miners in Kimberley in the Northern Cape have protested against mining company Ekapa [now operating as a joint venture between Ekapa mining and Petra Diamonds as Kimberly Ekapa Mining]‚ which the miners claim has been operating without a permit...“It has come to our attention that Ekapa has been operating without relevant mining permit. When we mine the same land‚ we are arrested. Why?” the miners said in a statement released by rights group Action Aid...The Mining Affected Communities United in Action (MACUA) and informal miners plan to meet with the provincial government... Mining company spokesperson Gert Klopper said it had recently acquired an eviction order against the illegal miners‚ which is being contested in the Supreme Court of Appeal. Klopper works for Petra Diamonds‚ which last year entered into a joint venture with Ekapa in Kimberley. He said it was untrue that the company was operating without a licence...

So. Africa: More than 30 illegal miners killed from suspected methane gas explosion at disused Harmony Gold mine

21 May 2017 — ''We call it the zama graveyard': 4 brothers among more than 40 killed in blast", 19 May 2017 Mapuya's four brothers - 28-year-old twins and their siblings aged 24 and 22 - were killed instantly along with more than 40 other zama zamas (illegal miners) in a suspected methane gas explosion 3km underground in a decommissioned Harmony Gold mine in Welkom, Free State...[D]ozens were instantly vaporised or burnt beyond recognition. Some of those whose bodies have been found so far were identified by name tags on their bodies under clear sticky tape..."We call it the zama [illegal miners] graveyard,'' says a Welkom forensic services officer. "Every week we collect bodies. The miners send a signal and we go out to collect the bodies. Most are beyond recognition. That's from the heat, crush injuries from rock falls or diseases."...Lauren Fourie, Harmony Gold spokesman, said: "The illegal miners that weren't affected by the blast took the bodies of those who were killed to Eland shaft. They then alerted security and security alerted police."

So. Africa: Settlement in silicosis class action lawsuit by mineworkers against gold mining companies expected by year-end

16 May 2017 — "Settlement likely by year-end as parties in silicosis case pursue out-of-court option", 5 May 2017 Mining companies facing a class action suit from mineworkers who developed silicosis on South Africa’s gold mines are expected to reach an out-of-court settlement before the close of the year. The class estimated 100 000 former and current mineworkers who developed the disease...after 1965...A settlement...could be a significant victory for both parties, given that, in a case as complex as this one, the legal class action process could drag on for up to 15 years...[Silicosis] is caused by the inhalation of microscopic dust particles of crystalised silica – a mineral prevalent in South African gold orebodies – which, over an extended period, causes scarring of the lung tissue, making it difficult for the patient to breathe...[Sibanye Gold, Harmony Gold, Gold Fields, AngloGold Ashanti, Anglo American and African Rainbow Minerals are part of a] working group...addressing issues relating to the monitoring and medical care of mineworkers, and compensation paid to those infected...

So. Africa: Northam Platinum Mine files court application to have entire village banned from protesting following disagreements over company's employment policies

12 May 2017 — "South Africa: Entire Village Issued With Court Interdict Following Mining Company's Application", 11 May 2017 The entire Ngwaabe village in the platinum belt was issued with a court interdict, preventing any member of the community from protesting against Northam Platinum Mine's employment policies. The judge later limited the interdict to four members of the community, and they applied to appeal his decision. The origins of the dispute date back to June 2015 when Northam Platinum, which operates the Booysendal mine, was negotiating with various communities about employment at a number of its mines along the platinum belt...[T]he Ngwaabe community then decided to organise a protest against Northam. But, a day later, Northam applied for an interim interdict against the entire village of Ngwaabe. The interdict was expansive in that it covered everyone living in Ngwaabe Village and prevented them from engaging in a range of protest activity, including some legal protest actions...There are a number of points of conflict between the versions given by Northam and the Ngwaabe community. According to Northam, the respondents arranged and participated in violent protests and marches on the mine. It was these violent protests that prompted Northam to apply for an interdict. However, the community insisted that the protests they were involved in were not violent, and that the photographs Northam used as evidence of the "violent" protests were actually photographs of protests organised by the task team...Many mining companies use their wealth to obtain expansive interim interdicts against communities based on very little evidence. The communities then have to live under the interdict until they can obtain a court date and attempt to have the interdict withdrawn.

Australia: World Trade Organization says restrictive packaging law is a legitimate public health measure in dispute related to trade & tobacco companies

10 May 2017 — "Australia wins landmark WTO tobacco packaging case, reports", 5 May 2017 A landmark Australian law on restrictive tobacco packaging has [reportedly] been upheld at the World Trade Organisation [WTO]... The news is a blow to the tobacco industry as such a ruling from the WTO has been widely anticipated as giving a green light for other countries to roll out similar laws... The Australian law...[bans] flashy logos and distinctive-coloured cigarette packaging...with brand names printed in small standardised fonts. Tobacco firms said their trademarks were being infringed, and Cuba, Honduras, Dominican Republic and Indonesia complained...that the rules constituted an illegal barrier to trade... Although the WTO's final ruling is not expected until July, a confidential draft [interim report] said Australia's laws were a legitimate public health measure... British American Tobacco...suggested..."As there is a high likelihood of an appeal by some or all of the parties, it's important to note that this panel report is not the final word on whether plain packaging is consistent with international law,"... [Also refers to Imperial Tobacco, Japan Tobacco International, Philip Morris International]

South African banks fund mining projects in southern Africa that raise issues over social, environmental, human rights impacts, says new report

3 May 2017 — Southern Africa Resource Watch, in announcing its report, South African Banks Footprint in SADC Mining Projects, said: "South African Banks are often key funders of a number of mining companies. Questions abound on the nature of these deals and the lack of transparency that surrounds them. There are concerns about whether banks do due diligence before they fund any mining activities to guide against corruption, social, environmental and human rights abuses that are linked to mining. This report interrogates the funding commitments of South African banks in mining in SADC and considers whether they can do things differently." The report reviews environmental, social and governance principles used by South African banks; common funding methods for mining projects and banks' decision-making processes; banks' policies on environmental, social and governance issues in their investments - and those policies' effectiveness.  It analyses six cases: Ghagoo Diamonds (Botswana); Geita Gold (Tanzania); Konkola Copper (Zambia); Marikana Platinum (South Africa); Vele Coal (South Africa); Kolwezi Copper (Dem. Rep. of Congo) and makes recommendations on the environmental, social, and governance frameworks for mining investments by South African banks. Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited the banks named to respond: ABSA, First National Bank (part of FirstRand), Investec, Nedbank, and Standard Bank.  Responses by Investec, Nedbank, and Standard Bank are below.

So. Africa: Mineral Governance Barometer for Southern Africa launched; pilot study reviews mining regulations in 10 countries

8 May 2017 — This pilot study provides a barometer of mineral governance in ten Southern African countries: Botswana, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. The barometer takes stock of mining regulations in place at the end of 2015, the extent to which they are implemented, and features of supporting institutions. It is based on the observation that while regulations impose obligations on mining companies, in doing so they directly impose obligations on the state to monitor and enforce compliance, and they also indirectly impose obligations for citizens and civil society to hold the state and mining companies accountable. The barometer includes indicators of mineral governance across four main issue-areas: national economic and fiscal linkages; community impact; labour, and the environment, with artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) treated as a special topic. The barometer also includes indicators of state capacity and state accountability with respect to mineral governance...

Gastkommentar: Handel und Investitionen müssen einen Beitrag zur Umsetzung der Menschenrechte leisten

8 May 2017 — "Menschenrechte in der Handel- und Investitionspolitik: Potentiale eines UN-Menschenrechtsabkomments zu transnationalen Konzernen und anderen Unternehmen", 20 Apr 2017 Die steigende Zahl bilateraler Investitions-und Freihandelsabkommen ist leider nicht durch eine entsprechende Berücksichtigung der menschenrechtlichen Konsequenzen begleitet worden... Die Sicherstellung eines umfassenden Menschenrechtsschutzes auch bei unternehmerischen Aktivitäten ist nur mit einer grundlegenden Reform der Handels- und Investitionspolitik zu bewirken... Der [zu verhandelnde] UN-Vertrag [über Wirtschaft und Menschenrechte] sollte [1] das Verhältnis von Handels- und Investmentabkommen und Menschenrechten durch eine spezielle Vorrangklausel regulieren. Zusätzliche Bestimmungen könnten die Staaten verpflichten, Menschenrechte in Allgemeine Ausnahmeklauseln in künftigen Handels- und Investmentabkommen aufzunehmen... [2] Staaten dazu verpflichten, menschenrechtliche Folgenabschätzungen durchzuführen und zwar vor, während und am Ende der Verhandlung [sowie der Umsetzung] von neuen Handels- und Investitionsschutzabkommen... [3] Verpflichtungen im Rahmen von Exportkredit- und Investitionskreditgarantien festschreiben...

So. Africa: Social & Labour Plans system needs "a radical overhaul" to accord workers in mining companies and host communities a central role, says report

8 May 2017 — [Original publication date: March 2017] This is the second in a three-part series of research and reports on [Social & Labour Plans] SLP. The first component of this research critically examined the regulatory framework for SLPs…There was therefore a need for empirical studies to establish how SLPs are actually being implemented by mining companies and government. This report captures these empirical audits. Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS) conducted field research in several communities each falling within the class of beneficiaries for a particular SLP...The fact that much of the content of SLPs is not prescribed by legislation has led to mining companies having large swathes of discretion regarding how SLPs are designed, what they contain and how they are implemented. This has led to an absence of community participation in the development of SLPs...In summary, we conclude that the amendments required to accord workers and communities a central role would entail, at the very least, a radical overhaul of the system... [The first part of this research series is here] Recoommendations: 1. Align MPRDA [mining law] to principle of Free, Prior and Informed Consent... 2. Require Negotiated SLPs... MPRDA and regulations should be amended to require that they are the product of an agreement between communities, workers and mining companies... 3. Government facilitated rights training and capacitation for mine-affected communities... 4. Establish mechanism enabling mine-affected communities to access...development, environmental and other specialists... 5. Specify requirements for consultation throughout SLP life cycle... 6. Legislative framework of SLPs should address gender inequality... 7. Measures to disseminate SLPs must be put in place... 9. Establish independent grievance mechanism for mine-affected communities... 13. Greater regulation on securing the SLP financial provision...[to] ensure that SLP expenditure is not reduced when companies’ turnover is less than projected... 14. Clear compliance criteria based on impact... 15. Provide for sufficient financial penalties for SLP non-compliance