By Uyanda Mabece
“We were not fighting anyone, we were sitting there to demand our right to earn a decent living wage. The police were wrong.”
That is the assessment of a former rock drill operator at Lonmin mine. Justin Kolobe, who did not want to use his real name, was present on August 16 2012 when members of the South African Police Service opened fire on striking mineworkers in Marikana, killing 34 of them.
He was on the frontline of the labour dispute. He wanted to earn a minimum wage of R12 500 a month.
After the shooting he was left permanently paralysed and without a job. Like the families of the mineworkers who were shot dead by police, and 70 others who suffered injuries, five years later Kolobe is still waiting for justice and reparations. He lays the blame for the lack of progress squarely on the government.
He believes that if the authorities were serious about ensuring accountability for the killings, senior officials and police officers suspected of criminal responsibility would have been tried by now in a competent court of law.
Johannesburg --The Angolan government must allow protesters to exercise their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said ahead of a planned demonstration in Luanda for a women’s right to have an abortion.
The protest, scheduled for March 18, 2017, is in response to the new draft penal code currently before parliament, which punishes without exceptions those who have or perform an abortion with up to 10 years in prison.
“We have often seen Angolan police use unnecessary and excessive force against peaceful demonstrators,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for Southern Africa.
Parliament approved an amendment on abortion on February 24 as part of the process of replacing Angola’s penal code from the 1886 colonial-era version. The government had proposed a bill that would criminalize abortion, except in cases of rape or when the mother’s health is in danger. But parliament rejected that proposal and made abortion, without exceptions, illegal. The final vote on the draft penal code is slated for March 23.
Authorities must ensure adequate protection for all refugees and migrants living in South Africa, amid the current protests in Pretoria and the escalating xenophobic tension and attacks in different parts of Gauteng Province, Amnesty International said today.
Two protests are currently underway in different parts of Pretoria, Atteridgeville and Mamelodi, against high inequality, poverty and unemployment. Another march is also taking place in the same area against xenophobia. A team from Amnesty International is on the ground monitoring developments, with spokespeople available for interview. The situation remains tense, with confrontations and violence occurring between the groups.
“The situation in Pretoria is precariously balanced and could easily escalate into serious violence. To avoid a bloody and wholly unnecessary conclusion to this standoff, the authorities must take all measures necessary to ensure that violence does not escalate and to facilitate the assembly of those who are demonstrating peacefully,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for Southern Africa.
Women and girls risk unsafe abortions that can lead to serious health complications, and even death, due to persistent barriers to legal abortion services, according to research by Amnesty International and the Women’s Health Research Unit of the School of Public Health and Family Medicine at the University of Cape Town.
The briefing published today highlights how despite South Africa having one of the world’s most progressive legal frameworks for abortion, many women and girls - especially those in the poorest and most marginalized communities - struggle to access safe abortion services. A key barrier is the failure of the government to regulate the practice of ‘conscientious objection’ through which health professionals can refuse to provide abortion services.
“No one, regardless of their social status, should be denied their right to make a decision about their pregnancy. This briefing exposes the deep inequalities in the health system that continue to discriminate against impoverished women and girls,” said Muleya Mwananyanda, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Southern Africa.
President Jacob Zuma’s long-overdue announcement that the government is ready to pay compensation to the victims of the 2012 Marikana tragedy is an important development towards achieving justice for the victims and their families, Amnesty International said today.
The President also announced that some members of the South African Police Service are facing criminal charges for their role in the killings of 44 people during the wage dispute between Lonmin mine and its striking employees in August 2012.
“While the compensation for the loss of life and livelihoods for the tragic events of that fateful week in August 2012 is a welcome step forward, four years was much too long for the survivors and their families to wait,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Director for Southern Africa.
“The government must act swiftly to finalize the payment and ensure effective remedies and justice for the 44 lives lost.”
British platinum mining giant Lonmin Plc is still failing to deliver adequate housing for its workforce in Marikana, in spite of the resounding wake-up call it received in the wake of the killing of 34 striking mine workers in 2012, Amnesty International revealed today in a new report.
“The Supreme Court of Appeal’s ruling today upholds the rule of law and reinforces the country’s progressive laws aimed at ending impunity for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. It is a stinging rebuke to the government for its failure to abide by its domestic and international obligations to arrest President Bashir and surrender him to the International Criminal Court,” said Netsanet Belay, Amnesty International’s Research and Advocacy Director for Africa.
“The South African government’s decision not to arrest Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir during his visit to Johannesburg for the African Union Summit last year was a cruel betrayal of the hundreds of thousands of people killed and displaced during the Darfur conflict. The ruling that this decision was inconsistent with South African law is a small step towards justice for these victims and their families.”
South African police must use restraint in response to students participating in nationwide protests, said Amnesty International.
Police have used teargas, rubber bullets and stun grenades against students in Cape Town and Port Elizabeth.
University students have been protesting against proposed fee hikes for 2016.
“We are alarmed by reports of police officers using teargas and rubber bullets against peaceful protesters. Students have a right to express their grievances peacefully and police must respect this right,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Director for Southern Africa.
“Law enforcement officials must comply with international standards governing the use of force in policing protests,” said Deprose Muchena.
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Posted at 0001hrs CAT 14 August 2015
All members of the South African Police Service (SAPS) implicated in the Marikana killings and subsequent cover-up must be suspended immediately pending the outcome of further investigations, said Amnesty International today, ahead of the third anniversary of the unlawful and fatal police shootings of 34 striking miners.
As a first step, President Zuma must initiate the suspension of the National Commissioner of Police, Riah Phiyega. Three years on, not a single member of the SAPS has been suspended or held to account.
“With police authorities closing ranks in the face of strong findings against them in the Farlam Commission report, it is vital that President Zuma shows strong leadership and takes action against those right at the top of the police service,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Director for Southern Africa.
“Anything less will result in the continued lack of accountability for the unlawful killings by police on 16 August 2012 at Marikana. The ongoing denial of justice for the victims and their families is unacceptable.”
•Backed by Bono & Edge of U2, John Legend, Peter Gabriel, Sting & Yoko Ono
• Giant memorial tapestry in honour of Madiba to be unveiled this December
International travellers passing through Cape Town International Airport will soon be greeted by a giant tapestry in memory of global human rights defender Nelson Mandela, Amnesty International announced today. The organisation, through its Art for Amnesty project, has commissioned acclaimed artist, Peter Sis, to design the giant memorial tapestry honouring Madiba, for unveiling on 10 December 2015, International Human Rights day.
Measuring over 6 x 3 metres, and woven by Atelier Pinton in Aubusson, France, ‘Flying Madiba’, as it is called, will be displayed in the 'meeters and greeters' area of the international arrivals hall of Cape Town International Airport. The Mandela tapestry project is a partnership between Art for Amnesty and the Cape Town International Airport and is endorsed by the Nelson Mandela Foundation.
The project has been generously backed and funded by Bono & Edge of U2, John Legend, Peter Gabriel, Sting & Yoko Ono.
By Netsanet Belay, Africa Director, Research and Advocacy at Amnesty International. Follow Netsanet on Twitter @NetsanetDBelay
As the International Criminal Court (ICC) opens its Assembly of States Parties – the periodic gathering of all the countries who have ratified the Court’s statute – in The Hague today, it does so with a bloody nose.
The Court was yet again met with contempt this month by South Africa’s failure to cooperate with its arrest warrants for one of its longest running fugitives, President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan.
On 15 June, South Africa’s government failed to obey an order from its own high court to prevent al-Bashir from leaving the country. The order had been made while the court decided whether to compel the government to fulfil its international and constitutional obligations to uphold two ICC warrants for the arrest of Sudanese President al-Bashir. The Sudanese leader, who was visiting Johannesburg for an African Union Summit, faces seven counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, as well as three counts of genocide in Darfur.
The South African governments shocking failure to heed to its own court order and arrest Bashir is a betrayal to the hundreds of thousands of victims who were killed during the Darfur conflict, Amnesty International said today.
The North Gauteng High Court ruled this afternoon that the South African government’s failure to detain Sudan President Omar al-Bashir was inconsistent with the Constitution and that the government should have arrested him upon his arrival in the country pending a formal request from the ICC.
However, he was apparently allowed to leave this morning despite an interim order that he be prevented his departure.
“South Africa’s role was clear from the day president Omar Al-Bashir touched down in the country – he should have been arrested and handed over to the ICC to face trial for the war crimes he is alleged to have committed,” said Netsanet Belay, Amnesty International’s Research and Advocacy Director for Africa.