South Africa

South African asbestos victims win compensation, but claim halved

By Neil Hodge, 9 January 2002

A four-year legal battle to call a UK company to account for its asbestos mining practices in South Africa three decades ago ended shortly before Christmas, with a £21 million out-of-court settlement.

South Africa: ANC government pushes through draconian anti-terrorism legislation

By Barbara Slaughter, 9 November 2001

The South African government has used the September 11 attacks in the US in order to push through new anti-terrorism legislation reminiscent of the draconian laws of the apartheid era. Ministry of Safety and Security spokesman Andre Martin stated, “We have offered our support to the Americans in the global fight against terrorism and the fact we do not yet have an anti-terrorism law has put us under pressure.”

South African report shows devastating impact of HIV/AIDS

By Barry Mason, 22 October 2001

South Africa’s Medical Research Council (MRC) has only just released its report drawn up in July, “The Impact of HIV/AIDS on Adult Mortality in South Africa”.

Reply to a defender of the Congress of South African Trade Unions and the South African Communist Party

11 October 2001

We reproduce below a letter criticising an earlier correspondent’s email about the ANC, together with a response by Barbara Slaughter.

South Africa: President Mbeki again downplays AIDS epidemic

By Barbara Slaughter, 17 September 2001

President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa has written to Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, ordering her to consider a cut in the AIDS budget. He claims to have discovered World Health Organisation (WHO) statistics from 1995 on the Internet showing that HIV/AIDS causes only a relatively tiny number of deaths in South Africa—2,653.

AIDS campaigners sue South African government

By Barry Mason, 29 August 2001

On August 21, the South African Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) sued the government in an attempt to force it to make available anti-HIV drugs that TAC estimates could save 35,000 new born babies a year from becoming infected by their HIV infected mothers. The organization has given the government until 12 September to respond to its legal challenge.

South Africa: ANC government evicts poor squatters

By Chris Talbot, 13 July 2001

Bailiffs have begun to evict hundreds of homeless poor people attempting to take over an area of barren land at Bredell, near Johannesburg, South Africa. Riot police with armoured cars backed the bailiffs, but the squatters are apparently prepared to move peacefully.

South Africa: Report cites faulty fan in mine explosion

By our correspondent, 24 May 2001

A preliminary accident report showed that a critically important extractor fan had been faulty for nine consecutive days before the May 8 explosion at Gold Fields' Beatrix gold mine in Free State, South Africa, which killed 12 miners. Gold Fields spokesman, Willie Jacobsz, claimed that electricians could find no reason why the fan had been constantly tripping, but failed to explain why mining was not suspended until the cause was found and the fan repaired.

Twelve die in South African gold mine disaster

By Barbara Slaughter, 10 May 2001

Twelve mineworkers were killed in an explosion at the Beatrix gold mine on Tuesday May 8, in South Africa's worst mining disaster in two years.

South African football stampede kills 43

By Barry Mason, 14 April 2001

Forty-three people died and around 250 were injured at the Ellis Park football stadium in Johannesburg on the night of Wednesday April 11, as people poured into a stadium that was already full to over capacity. Twenty-nine people died inside the stadium and a further 14 died outside. Nine of the injured remain on the critical list.

Swiss Company accused of poisoning workers in South Africa

By Trevor Johnson, 7 April 2001

Four of the 120 workers fired from the South African operations of the transnational mining corporation Xstrata because they were ill, have died of vanadium poisoning. They fell ill while processing chemicals at the company's subsidiary Vanadium Technologies (Vantech) plant in Steelpoort, Mpumalanga.

Arms corruption scandal erupts in South Africa

By Barbara Slaughter, 20 March 2001

A series of major corruption scandals have rocked the South African government in the past few months. High-ranking members of the ANC government are accused of taking "kick-backs" and of funnelling lucrative contracts to companies in which they or their families have a personal interest.

South African provinces gripped by cholera epidemic

By Barbara Slaughter, 9 January 2001

The cholera epidemic that has been raging in the rural areas of eastern KwaZulu-Natal for nearly six months threatens to spread to other South African provinces. Since August 2000, 57 people have died from the disease and over 14,000 have been infected. The rate of infection has accelerated dramatically with the onset of the rainy season. Nearly 500 new cases were reported between December 31 2000 and January 1 2001, and the rate of infection continues to rise.

South Africa: Setback for ANC in local elections

By Barbara Slaughter, 8 December 2000

Although the African National Congress (ANC) has won a majority of the popular vote in this week's local elections, the result represents a considerable setback for the government of President Mbeki. By Thursday morning, 14.5 million ward and proportional votes had been counted, showing 59 percent support for the ANC and 23 percent for the Democratic Alliance (DA). This represented an increase for the parties constituting the DA, which had received 19 percent in the last municipal elections held in 1995 and 13 percent in the general election held last year.

Government cover-up over South African factory fire

By Barbara Slaughter, 1 December 2000

The South African Labour Department is trying to refute allegations of government negligence; after it emerged it had been alerted to the dangerous conditions at the Esschem factory in Lenasia. The floor polish factory was destroyed by an inferno, which swept through the building on the night of November 17, killing the entire night shift — ten female workers and one male supervisor. Police have confirmed that all escape routes had been locked from the outside. Forensic experts have since confirmed that a container of chemicals, which by law should have been kept outside the building, may have caused the fire. Factory owner Suleman Ebrahim Lachporia has been charged with culpable homicide. He was released on bail of 30,000 Rand ($4,000) and will appear in court on January 5.

South Africa: Eleven die in factory fire

By Barbara Slaughter, 23 November 2000

Eleven workers were burnt to death last Friday night in a factory fire in South Africa. The blaze was at the ESS chemicals factory in Lenasia, a suburb of Johannesburg. The whole of the nightshift—ten women workers and one male supervisor—were trapped inside the building with no means of escape. Officials on the scene said some of the bodies had become stuck in melted plastic from large tanks holding chemicals. One woman appeared to have suffocated and others probably died under piles of brick and debris left by the explosion of gas bottles inside the factory.

South Africa's ANC government faces growing opposition

By Barbara Slaughter, 14 November 2000

At a three-day meeting held in Pretoria last weekend, the South African government's economic strategy received endorsement from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. IMF Deputy Managing Director Eduardo Aninat said that South Africa had made important fiscal progress. “We are comfortable with the degree of progress on the economic side,” he said, adding that South Africa had a solid banking system and could become a more sophisticated regional centre.

Continuing racism in South Africa: White employer drags black worker to death

By Barry Mason, 8 September 2000

Police in the town of Sasolburg, south of Pretoria, have charged building contractor Pieter Odendaal with murdering his black employee John Mosoko Rampuru. The murder took place in the late evening of Friday August 25. Rampuru, who was married with two young sons, died as a result of being dragged behind the pickup truck belonging to his white boss.

South Africa: AIDS conference accepts limited agenda

By Chris Talbot, 29 July 2000

The grim conclusion to be drawn from the 13th International Conference on AIDS is that most of the world's 34 million people currently infected with HIV/AIDS will be left to their fate. This is despite the fact that the conference in Durban, South Africa July 9-14, drew the attention of the world's media and pledges of financial support by the World Bank, the United States government, Bill Gates and a number of drug corporations.

South Africa: The ANC government and the AIDS crisis

By Barry Mason, 5 July 2000

South Africa currently has four million HIV/AIDS cases and the figure is projected to rise to 7.5 million by the year 2010. Yet the ANC government of President Thabo Mbeki has no effective programme to tackle the developing catastrophe. The government's National Council of AIDS does not even have representation from members of local AIDS community groups, health professionals, activists or voluntary bodies.

Two student protesters killed by police in Durban, South Africa

By Trevor Johnson, 24 May 2000

Last Tuesday, May 16, two students were killed at the University of Durban-Westville (UDW), when police opened fire on a group of protesting students at the campus. Michael Makhabane, a 23-year-old student from Ficksburgin in the Free State, died after being hit in the chest by a blast of pellets. Another student, Lala Ngoxolo, was also killed. A third student is said to be fighting for his life in hospital. Police have admitted that five students were injured.

Police clampdown on South African VW strikers

By our correspondent, 9 March 2000

A systematic campaign of intimidation has been launched against striking Volkswagen (VW) auto workers. This follows South African President Thabo Mbeki's denunciation of their action as illegal. Out of some 3,000 on strike, 1,300 were sacked and the company is now recruiting a replacement workforce.

Sacked South African Volkswagen workers appeal for international support

By our correspondent, 17 February 2000

In his recent State of the Nation speech, South African President Thabo Mbeki attacked the 1,300 striking Volkswagen (VW) autoworkers. The strikers, employed at the company's factory in Uitenhage, near Port Elizabeth, were defending 13 democratically elected shop stewards who had been suspended from office by their union, the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA). The union has collaborated throughout with VW management, who said they would sack the striking workers for refusing to attend work when instructed. Mbeki backed VW's action and said that the ANC government also would not be "held hostage by elements pursuing selfish and anti-social purposes".

President Mbeki threatens South African workers

By Barbara Slaughter, 9 February 2000

In his State of the Nation address in Cape Town last Friday President Thabo Mbeki made clear that the ANC government would not tolerate workers' opposition to its plans to offer South Africa as a low-wage investment platform for transnational corporations.

Cape Town promotes sex tourism

By Barbara Slaughter, 5 October 1999

Cape Town, South Africa's main holiday resort with well over 1.2 million foreign visitors a year, is making plans to increase its share of the world tourism market by promoting the city as a world-class destination for sex.

South African public sector workers hold mass one-day strike

By our reporter, 26 August 1999

One million public sector workers went on strike on Tuesday, August 24 in South Africa. The majority were black members of three unions affiliated to the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), but there were also members of nine other unions affiliated to the mainly white Federation of Unions of South Africa.

Strike wave in South Africa

By Chris Talbot, 5 August 1999

In the biggest strike in South Africa since 1994, over 300,000 public sector workers went on a two-day strike last week in support of a 10 percent pay claim. Teachers, health workers and civil servants demonstrated on Saturday in all the major cities. This follows a one-day public sector strike and demonstrations the previous week.

Biography falls short of penetrating myth surrounding ANC leader

Mandela—The Authorised Biography

By Ann Talbot, 5 August 1999

Mandela—The Authorised Biography, by Anthony Sampson, Harper Collins 1999

South African asbestos miners sue British company

By Chris Talbot, 9 July 1999

Asbestosis has devastated a whole town in the Northern Cape region of South Africa. Up to one in seven of the population in Prieska suffer from the disease, and over half of the miners who used to work in the blue asbestos mine near the town suffer from lung diseases caused by asbestos. This incredible level of suffering got a brief mention in the British press because of a case in the High Court. Cape, the British company who owned the asbestos mine until 1979, is trying to block a compensation claim by 2,000 of its former workers.

ANC election victory signals further "market reforms"

By Chris Talbot and Barbara Slaughter, 5 June 1999

Support for the African National Congress (ANC) edged up to 65.2 percent in the South African elections held on June 2. This is marginally higher than the 62.6 percent it won in the 1994 elections that saw the end of apartheid rule.

South Africa: the fraud of "black empowerment"

By Barbara Slaughter, 25 May 1999

With less than two weeks before elections take place in South Africa, a share option scandal has broken out involving the country's biggest black-owned company, New African Investments Ltd (Nail), which has interests in financial services and the media.

South Africa police violence caught on film

By Barbara Slaughter, 1 May 1999

Six Johannesburg policemen have been suspended from duty after a BBC film was broadcast that showed them beating suspects and attacking them with police dogs.

A letter from South Africa

23 March 1999

South Africa

In run-up to June 2 elections

Political and social tensions mount in South Africa

By Helen Halyard, 18 March 1999

Army troops and additional police have been sent to the Nyanga township, just outside Cape Town, following a wave of violence linked to the upcoming national elections. The repressive exercise, codenamed Operation Chaka, means an indefinite period of occupation for the township.