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South Africa

    July 29, 2019

    The legacy of racial discrimination in the South African education system, characterized by poor outcomes, overcrowded classrooms, inadequate facilities and learning materials for tens of thousands of students, still looms large 25 years into freedom, Amnesty International said today as it launched a new campaign #SignTheSmile.

    The campaign highlights that despite the current government’s promises to make sure that every child receives a quality education, South Africa’s education system still is failing most school children and perpetuating deep inequalities.

    Featuring the smiling image of Hendrik Verwoerd, the original “architect of apartheid”, the campaign encourages the public to “sign the smile off Verwoerd’s face” by demanding that South Africa’s leaders urgently provide all children with the decent quality, basic education that is their birth right as enshrined in the constitution.

    May 22, 2019

    Cyril Ramaphosa is due to be inaugurated as president of South Africa on 25 May 2019, nearly three weeks after his African National Congress (ANC) party’s election victory. Ahead of the inauguration, Shenilla Mohamed, Executive Director of Amnesty International South Africa said:

    “As his African National Congress prepares to lead the country for the next five years, Cyril Ramaphosa must place human rights at the centre of the government’s domestic and foreign policy priorities. This begins with ensuring justice for victims of the events in Marikana, who are still waiting for answers almost seven years on.

    “Cyril Ramaphosa should publicly commit to ensuring full respect for the human rights, dignity and equality of all South Africans – the principles on which the country was founded as enshrined in the bill of rights.

    “He should draw inspiration from Nelson Mandela who stood with human rights even when it was unpopular to do so, and did not shy away from calling out leaders who found themselves on the wrong side of humanity.”

    Background

    April 23, 2019

    South Africa’s post-election government must put human rights at the centre of its policies or risk shackling people to the chains of unemployment, poverty and inequality for decades to come, said Amnesty International South Africa as it published 25 Years On: A Human Rights Manifesto for South Africa today.

    “Although progress has been made since the first free elections 25 years ago, especially in developing a robust Constitution and progressive legislation to promote and protect human rights, compliance and implementation is often lacking. This keeps people bound to the triple burdens of unemployment, poverty and inequality, with escape impossible,” said Kumi Naidoo, Secretary General of Amnesty International.

    “The government-elect as well as all political parties must comply with South Africa’s Constitution as well as domestic and international human rights laws to ensure that the rights of all those in South Africa are upheld.”

    April 09, 2019

    In response to the “follow-up” meeting between the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Lindiwe Sisulu and the Minister of Police Bheki Cele with Heads of the Diplomatic Missions represented in South Africa “to find a lasting solution” to xenophobic attacks in the country, Shenilla Mohamed, Executive Director of Amnesty International South Africa, said:

    criminal justice failures and populist rhetoric are some of the reasons behind the latest round of xenophobic violence against refugees, migrants and asylum seekers in South Africa.

    “For many years, South African authorities have largely failed to address past outbreaks of xenophobic crimes that have been seen in the country since at least 2008, including bringing those suspected to be responsible to justice.

    “Political leaders must stop making discriminatory and inflammatory remarks about migrants and foreign nationals especially during their election campaigns ahead of the polls.

    November 22, 2018

    In response to the North Gauteng High Court’s ruling that the government cannot issue a license for proposed titanium mining in Xolobeni without the consent of indigenous communities, Executive Director of Amnesty International South Africa, Shenilla Mohamed, said:

    “This progressive court ruling is a victory for the people of Xolobeni, who have long fought for their right to say no to mining on their ancestral land. The judgement sends a clear message that multinational mining companies cannot trample over people's rights in the pursuit of profit. 

     “This judgement is not only a win for this community, but for communities across the country who are fighting to protect their land, heritage and culture.

    "The government must take heed of the ruling and ensure that informed consent is sought from Indigenous peoples when granting future mining licenses."

    Background

    A subsidiary of the Australian mining company MRC, Transworld Energy and Minerals (TEM), had applied for the right to mine titanium in the uMgungundlovu district on the Wild Coast in the Eastern Cape province in 2008.

    November 15, 2018

    In response to a statement made by Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi that ‘foreign nationals’ are behind the overcrowding of hospitals and the struggling health system, Shenilla Mohamed, Executive Director of Amnesty International South Africa said:

    “Minister Motsoaledi should stop this shameless scapegoating of refugees and migrants. He has been in charge of the health department for almost a decade and should have been fully aware of the challenges faced by the public health system, including the need for more investment, to address the health needs of the growing population. He has failed to take adequate action.

    “He is now blaming refugees and migrants to abdicate his responsibility. Minister Motsoaledi should stop fueling xenophobia with these unfounded remarks and take urgent steps to improve access to affordable and quality health care for all persons in South Africa.” 

    Background

    October 12, 2018

    Following the public release of ‘The Great Bank Heist’ report into systemic corruption at the Venda Building Society (VBS) Mutual Bank, Shenilla Mohamed, Executive Director of Amnesty International South Africa said:

    “The report paints an astonishing picture of the stealing of public money, that was enabled by the collusion between the bank’s executives, politically exposed persons (PEPs) and unscrupulous auditors.

    “The massive scale fraud and looting that happened at VBS, as described by the report, will have dire consequences for the most vulnerable people in society, the rural societies and stokvels, who trusted the bank with their hard-earned cash.

    "This is the greatest betrayal of the poorest of the poor, in a country that is struggling with high levels of inequality between the have and the have nots. In line with the report’s recommendations, authorities must promptly and thoroughly investigate allegations of corruption and where there is sufficient admissible evidence, pursue criminal charges and prosecute alleged perpetrators suspected to be involved in wrongdoing in fair trials.”

    August 17, 2018

    The new Secretary General of the world’s biggest human rights organization, Kumi Naidoo, met with human rights activists from across Southern Africa in Johannesburg today, to hear first-hand about their struggles. He pledged to strengthen Amnesty International’s work with them to tackle the most pressing issues facing the continent.

    “Today I met brave and courageous human rights defenders from across Southern Africa who are risking their lives every day by demanding justice, accountability and equality,” said Kumi Naidoo.

    “We need to see much more intra-African solidarity for the cause of justice. That is why I chose to start in my role as Secretary General here in Africa, and to speak with activists from across the region to show that we at Amnesty International are serious about working side by side with them to address the key human rights challenges affecting all Africans.”

    “My experience with them today reminds me that if anyone in Africa believes we are going to win the struggle for human rights alone, we are deluding ourselves. But together, we are strong.”

    May 11, 2018

    Ten years after an outbreak of horrific xenophobic violence claimed 60 lives in South Africa, refugees and migrants are still facing daily discrimination and living in constant fear of physical attacks, Amnesty International said today. 

    On 11 May 2008 a Mozambican national, Ernesto Alfabeto Nhamuaye, was beaten, stabbed and set alight in a brutal killing which set off a chain of violent attacks against migrants and refugees in South Africa.

    “The violence that spread across South Africa in 2008 should have been a wake-up call for the government, underscoring the catastrophic consequences of its failure to root out hatred against refugees and migrants. But 10 years on, refugees and migrants still feel the echoes of that terrifying period,” said Shenilla Mohamed, Executive Director of Amnesty International South Africa.  

    February 22, 2018
    Amnesty International publishes State of the World’s Human Rights report for 2017 to 2018 “Last year our world was immersed in crises, with prominent leaders offering us a nightmarish vision of a society blinded by hatred and fear. This emboldened those who promote bigotry, but it inspired far more people to campaign for a more hopeful future,” says Salil Shetty, head of Amnesty International

    The world is reaping the terrifying consequences of hate-filled rhetoric that threatens to normalize massive discrimination against marginalized groups, Amnesty International warned today as it launched its annual assessment of human rights.

    Nevertheless, the organization found that a growing movement of both first-time and seasoned activists campaigning for social justice provides real hope of reversing the slide towards oppression.

    The report, The State of the World’s Human Rights, covers 159 countries and delivers the most comprehensive analysis of the state of human rights in the world today.

    February 15, 2018

    Morgan Tsvangirai was a courageous politician who also stood up for human rights for the people of Zimbabwe, often at personal cost, Amnesty International said following the death of the opposition leader last night, aged 65.

    “As a political leader Morgan Tsvangirai inspired hopes of millions of Zimbabweans at times when human rights were under threat,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for Southern Africa.

    “His death will be felt as a serious blow by those who continue to struggle for human rights, rule of law and social justice in Zimbabwe.”

    Following a career as a trade unionist, Morgan Tsvangirai rose to the centre of Zimbabwean politics in the late 1990s when he founded the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). He served as Prime Minister between 2009 and 2013.

    As a trade unionist he championed workers’ rights and led the struggle for social and economic rights of millions of Zimbabweans.

    As an opposition politician he repeatedly challenged human rights violations and injustices, including the arrests and intimidation of activists, journalists and political opposition figures.

    August 28, 2017
      In response to the guilty verdict on the coffin assault case by the Middleburg High Court earlier today, Amnesty International South Africa Executive Director Shenilla Mohamed said:   “This hideous case lays bare the discrimination that still runs deep in South African society. The fact that the whole grotesque episode was captured on video and then posted to social media suggests that the perpetrators felt little concern that they would face justice.   “There is no place for racism or discrimination in any society, and this terrible case must spur the government to finalize the Hate Crimes legislation in order to deal decisively with incidents of discrimination.”   Background   Two men were arrested after forcing Victor Mlotshwa into a coffin, and threatening to pour petrol over him in August 2016.   They were charged with kidnapping, assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm and attempted murder and were put on trial at the Delmas regional court in Mpumalanga province.
    August 18, 2017
    Photo of the sun in a hazy orange sky

    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.

    August 15, 2017
      ·         No one has been prosecuted for the killing of 34 striking mineworkers and injury to at least 70 others ·         Miners and their families are still living in inadequate housing and squalid conditions ·         Authorities must ensure victims and relatives are properly compensated   Victims of the bloody tragedy at Marikana, in which 34 protesters were killed and at least 70 were injured by members of the South African Police Service (SAPS) during a mining strike, are still awaiting justice five years on, Amnesty International said today.  The organization is calling on the South African authorities to ensure that those suspected of criminal responsibility in relation to the killings on 16 August 2012are brought to trial, and that the victims and their families receive reparations, including adequate compensation.  
    July 06, 2017
      In response to today’s finding by the International Criminal Court’s Pre-Trial Chamber that South Africa should have executed the arrest warrant against Sudanese president Omar Al-Bashir when he visited in June 2015, Amnesty International’s Africa Director for Research and Advocacy, Netsanet Belay said,   “Today’s finding confirms what everyone, including South African authorities, knew all along. Al-Bashir does not have immunity from arrest and all states parties to the Rome Statute must arrest him the minute he steps onto their territory and hand him over to the ICC. “It is shocking that other states parties such as Jordan are also failing in their obligations to arrest Al-Bashir and this decision makes it clear that they do so in flagrant violation of international law. “South Africa breached its international and domestic legal obligations when it failed to arrest Al-Bashir. No state should follow this example. There must be no impunity for crimes under international law.

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