• Tell Minister Cele and Shaun Abrahams to charge tax evasion criminals
    Parliament’s Finance Standing Committee wants drastic action to tackle illicit financial flows in Mzansi [1], but it turns out that SAPS and prosecutors are failing to act. If we put enough pressure on Police Minister Mbalula, however, we can ensure that authorities prosecute contraventions of exchange control regulations referred to them, and that those hiding billions overseas answer for their crimes. Just recently, the Statistician-General published a report detailing poverty levels in Mzansi [2]. This report states that more than half the population live in poverty. This is a tragedy given that Mzansi loses billions each and every year due to illicit financial flows (IFF). Global Financial Integrity (GFI), a leading research institution on IFFs, recently estimated that illicit financial outflows from South Africa between 2005 and 2014 could represent as much as 14% of total trade. Between 2003 and 2012, GFI estimated that $122-billion in IFFs was transferred out of the country [3]. But we have made progress. Because of our campaigning for tax justice, our government is about to roll out country-by-country reporting [4]. Despite this, it is unlikely that those responsible will face prosecution anytime soon with the SAPS not taking any action against those who are guilty. If SAPS and the NPA were to prosecute those guilty of tax evasion and tax avoidance, this would be a great step in ensuring that those responsible are brought to book. Working with Treasury, they can ensure that the necessary steps are taken so that Mzansi brings an end to illicit financial flows. [1] Interministerial Committee To Probe Illicit Financial Flows, Staff Reporter at Huffington Post. 2 Aug 2017 [2] Poverty Trends in South Africa: An examination of absolute poverty between 2006 & 2015 [3] [4] Parliament: Illicit financial flows and the history of disappointment, Greg Nicholson for Daily Maverick. 2 Aug 2017.
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  • Defending a People’s National Health Insurance – quality health for all, not private profit
    The SA National Department of Health (NDOH) is establishing the National Health Insurance (NHI) to achieve universal access to quality health care for all who live in South Africa. We welcome the commitment from the NDOH to a NHI based on principles of equity, health as a right and redress of past inequalities. The White Paper on the NHI makes it clear a ‘Single Payer’ system is the best way to achieve this. The recent NDoH documents have jettisoned these principles of equity and human rights in how it has set up Task Teams, Advisory Committees and Working Groups to ‘implement’ the NHI. The Terms of Reference for these structure now introduce protections for the medical schemes and private sector actors that are not present in the White Paper. If implemented, they will exacerbate inequality in the health sector. Also, the composition of the Committees prescribed in the Government Gazette is dominated by the private sector and other special interest groups – with almost no participation by civil society, which is present on only one of the 7 structures. Instead, we see committees loaded with representatives of Medical Schemes, Actuarial Society, Private hospital groups, Health professional societies, Academic and research organisations. Almost all of these groups have a vested interest in keeping the health system largely the way it is and many of them are directly responsible for the fundamental health system inequalities that the NHI is meant to address. This is elite decision-making at the expense of ordinary South Africans – it isn’t democratic or logical to reserve decision-making for those who stand to benefit directly while keeping ordinary South Africans in the dark. It is crucial we keep the ‘Single Payer’ principle so that all people (employed, unemployed, civil servants and all) are treated equitably in paying into and receiving benefits from the NHI. We reject an unequal and fragmented system, which is against the progressive principles of previous planning documents for the NHI. Has the private sector and vested interests captured the NHI through secret lobbying? We reject a NHI driven by technocrats and people with direct conflict of interest in designing the implementation of the NHI. We will not accept our public health system, with all its faults, being sold off to private interests so they can secure an NHI favourable to their profits. South Africa belongs to all who live in it – all South Africans have equal status and rights to influence decisions that will affect them and their children for generations. We say no to corporate capture of the NHI. We want an accountable NHI and an accountable Health Ministry that does not say one thing in a White Paper and do the opposite behind closed doors. We will not stand back and allow this shameful co-option of the NHI by a powerful elite. We call on all individuals and Civil Society organisations to insist that our leaders and the Department of Health officials are accountable and keep to the policies they have said they would advance. Forward to a People’s NHI, forward!
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  • Deliver fair compensation for miners with silicosis
    Zwelakhe Dala passed away on 30 March 2015. His death certificate just states that he died of natural causes. He was 55 years old and was suffering from silicosis. Zwelakhe’s widow, Nosipho, is but one of hundreds of thousands of families who stand to benefit from the class action lawsuit brought against the likes of Anglo American, Gold Fields, AngloGold Ashanti, African Rainbow Minerals, Sibanye Gold and Harmony Gold. Zwelakhe is one of thousands of workers suffering from silicosis-related diseases. In May last year, the South Gauteng High Court ruled in favour of mine workers who intend on launching a silicosis class action. The case was granted a class action certification which will make it the largest class action ever to be certified in South Africa, allowing hundreds of thousands of gold miners and their families to seek redress against gold mining companies. Below is a summary of the facts pertaining to the settlement plan: Last year, the gold mining companies launched an appeal against the court decision to allow miners suffering from silicosis and TB to fight for compensation as a group. The High Court ruled on June 24, 2016, to allow workers and families who’ve been affected by Silicosis and TB to file a class action suit against gold companies. The biggest gold producers – African Rainbow Minerals, Anglo American SA, AngloGold Ashanti, Gold Fields, Harmony, and Sibanye – are trying to negotiate a settlement, involving the departments of Health and Mineral Resources and the mine workers’ representatives. This would involve setting up a trust fund to pay “top-ups” to workers who have already been paid compensation. It would also involve bringing mine workers under the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act (COIDA) and the Department of Labour, instead of the Occupational Diseases in Mines and Works Act (ODIMWA) and the Department of Health. This would prevent any future civil claims by mineworkers for damages for employer negligence causing silicosis and TB. The mining companies’ choice to use appeals to delay any trial on the merits of the case for as long as possible while they manage a negotiation process away from judicial oversight is an underhanded move aimed at undermining its role, and shortchanging the claimants and their families. We have seen evidence of this in earlier settlements where 4 365 workers were paid a maximum of R464 million [1] by Anglo mines. When this figure is divided amongst the number of workers claiming it averages to a measly R106 300 per claimant. There is also a real possibility that not all claimants will be paid based on tests of a ­random sample. Just recently, Anglo American announced a $101m (R1.3bn) “best estimate” for settling its liability in the now 13-year-old legal battle to compensate mine workers suffering from lung diseases [2]. This also coincided with Gold Fields announcing its provision for a settlement amounting to $30.2m. We need to ensure that other gold mining companies implicated stop the delay tactics and pay mine workers compensation. [1] Silicosis claims: Anglo has to cough up nearly R500m, Dewald van Rensburg for News24. 6 March 2016. [2] Mines make room for silicosis settlements, Dewald van rensburg for News24. 30 July 2017.
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  • Say no to automated tills
    Recently, Pick n Pay said it is cutting its workforce by 10% [1]. The CEO is quoted as saying "These roles and functions were no longer required due to improvements in organisation, planning and technology," These “improvements” will have devastating effects on the low-level staff. It is a clear move to cut jobs and save costs, and thus increase earnings. Just last year, the retailer announced that it was going to introduce automated tills [2]. It is concerning that in just a little over a year after this, Pick n Pay is cutting jobs at this scale. The reason given then was that automation would make shopping easier and convenient for shoppers. This had no regard for the many workers who will be out of jobs when this is introduced.This is also confirmed by the company when it said, "In subsequent years, the reduction in employee numbers will have a significant positive impact on the operating costs of the group, creating additional headroom to reduce prices and improve value for customers,". Simply put this job cutting exercise by Pick n Pay looks like a profit-maximising measure and has nothing to do with the lives of workers. With the rising levels of chronic unemployment in Mzansi, we cannot allow such a move to go unchallenged. Business cannot be allowed to put profits over people! [1] We had no choice but to offer voluntary retrenchment. An article by Ray White of EWN. 31 July 2017 [2] Furore over Pick n Pay’s self service tills. An article by Admire Moyo. 29 September 2016
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  • UKZN Council and Executive must protect arrested students of UKZN PMB
    From 4 August 2017, we – the Arrested Students of UKZN-Pietermaritzburg – will stand trial as protestors of #FeesMustFall. Society applauds the youth for re-awakening the country to ongoing social injustice and inequity. The University agrees with free higher education and recognises the right to protest, yet they are not protecting us. If the courts try us, and find us guilty, we are the ones whose dreams and lives will be shattered. For the record; We DO support #FeesMustFall. We DO stand up for our rights and the rights of all South Africans. We DID help to build the ongoing broad movement for social justice in South Africa even after UKZN took out an interdict prohibiting us from freely doing so which means we are primarily charged with contempt of court among other charges. We are randomly accused for being generally a part of the climate at the time. We DID NOT burn buildings. We DID NOT assault anyone. While our University prides itself for being a transformative university that supports free higher education, those in authority are washing their hands of our fate. While the adults of society have the economic, institutional and legal power to protect us as the young of the society, they are instead looking away and doing nothing. If we are charged we will be blighted for life. Instead of emerging from university as graduates helping to make our society better, we will be branded as criminals that will make our degree status useless.
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  • Stop the Somerset Precinct Rezoning
    The Western Cape Provincial Government has submitted an application to have the land rezoned from Community Open Space and Open Space to General Business 6. This would allow for general business activity, such as restaurants, shops and office spaces in tall buildings. In terms of spatial planning and land use law (any building or development must take place in-line with these laws), the City of Cape Town, is the authority that must either: • Accept the application • Reject the application • Accept the application with conditions attached. Furthermore, there are a number of things that are wrong with the proposed development, namely: 1. Little public benefit The proposed development prioritises the economic value of the land over its social value. As a result, the proposed plan paves the way for the site to be privatised with very little public benefit. The Provincial government is treating this prime piece of public land just like a for-profit private developer would. 2. A step backwards The regional hospital is moving from the site and will be replaced by a small community day clinic (2500m² in size). This represents a significant step backwards in terms of the public benefit that Provincial government’s most expensive piece of land will provide. 3. The plan is vague The plan does not give enough detail, which means that the City will not be able to understand the full impact that the development would have. 4. Too little affordable housing The plan says that it will include ‘at least 300 affordable housing apartments’. Research by local and international experts found that the Tafelberg site in Sea Point could fit 316 affordable apartments together with 120 market-rate apartments. The Tafelberg site is six times smaller than the Somerset Hospital Precinct, which shows that the development proposal is not serious about providing a decent amount of affordable housing The other big problem is that affordable housing is not defined. Who will it be affordable for? At the end of the day much more housing can go onto the site – this is not realising the full potential of the site for poor and working class people. 5. Broken promises Helen Zille and her Cabinet ‘promised’ that the land would be released on the specific basis that as much affordable housing as possible must be included. 6. Business as usual Since the beginning of democracy there hasn’t been a single subsidised housing unit created in Cape Town’s inner city and surrounds. Cape Town’s spatial apartheid remains unchanged. The Somerset Hospital is perhaps the most important piece of publicly owned land for addressing spatial apartheid in Cape Town’s inner city, and this decision will have enormous impacts on South Africans for generations to come. This development proposal shows that Helen Zille’s government remains uncommitted to achieving spatial justice in Cape Town and that it has been captured by a style of exclusive property development for the rich. The main idea of the development is to generate funds from the site to pay for social amenities ‘elsewhere’. This approach to the development of well-located public land ensures that ownership, occupation and use of central city land remains only in the hands of the rich. This corrupted approach entrenches spatial apartheid and contradicts provincial Government’s own policies. 7. Zille’s Rogue Department of Transport of Public Works The applicant is the Western Cape Government’s Department of Transport & Public Works, through the Regeneration Programme – a programme aimed at developing strategic pieces of Provincially owned land. Despite spending millions of Rands on consultants and repeated studies, the programme has still not broken ground on a single site since it was established 7 years ago. This is the same government department that has to date never handed over any Provincially owned land to the Department of Human Settlements. This is the same programme that attempted to unlawfully sell the Tafelberg property in Sea Point, even though the Department of Human Settlements requested the site to develop affordable housing. Tafelberg was sold to help pay for a R1,2 billion office block for Provincial government. This is the same programme where Gary Fisher was both a senior public official responsible for land disposal and a private property investor and developer. Despite these serious conflicts of interest, there has still been no investigation. 8. De Lille rolls out red carpet for spatially violent developments By law, the City of Cape Town must consider the principle of spatial justice. The City can place conditions that have to do with to the social impact of any development – whether on public or private land. The Mayor, Patricia de Lille can require any development to include some affordable housing. However, she has never used this power before because she believes land is for profit not for people!
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  • STOP THE MARKETING OF ALCOHOL IN THE NAME OF HUNGER IN AFRICA
    South African Breweries recently launched a ‘Beers for Africa 8‐pack’ campaign to raise money in support of an NGO called Stop Hunger Now SA. They claim that the money will be used to help food‐challenged students. Helping the students is a welcome initiative. However, the way they are raising the money is a problem. SAB/AB InBev are encouraging people to buy their 8‐packs, which contain beers from six different Southern African countries, with the message that: "the more beer you buy, the more money we give to hungry students". This marketing campaign is first and foremost in the commercial interests of SA Breweries (AB InBev) and should not be supported. It is unethical to make a link between buying alcohol and feeding children. It also promotes an existing problem by encouraging people to drink more when we already have a drinking problems in the Southern African region. Help us – the Southern African Alcohol Policy Alliance (SAAPA) – to stop SAB/AB Inbev from using poverty and hunger to promote their ‘Beers for Africa 8‐pack’ sales.
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  • End Poverty in SADC with a Basic Income Grant
    A basic income grant will provide families with assistance to send their children and young girls to school, access to opportunities that will end generational poverty traps, increase basic education as a priority and achieve greater gender equality. The introduction of a universal cash transfer, predominantly funded through extractive industries, will be a remarkable stride towards poverty eradication, reduced inequalities among Africans, equal economic participation and overall African unity. The SADC BIG amount will be US$15 per person, per month on introduction and should be inflation indexed. A functioning social protection system that embeds basic income as a fundamental human right to the benefit of all who reside on the continent should not be reduced to hand-outs to the poor, but rather conceptualised and accepted as a developmental policy mechanism to promote economic justice, reduce poverty and inequality and stimulate human and economic integration, as well as harness social cohesion across our porous regional borders. Examples of social grants in countries such as Namibia, South Africa and Malawi have shown the importance of alternative social protection initiatives such a SADC Basic Income Grant (BIG) to tackle poverty. The SADC BIG Coalition shares a common vision to eradicate poverty and reduce inequality in SADC and promote the roll out of social protection in the region in accordance with the SADC Social Charter. This will enable the continent’s poorest households to better meet their basic needs through providing everyone with a minimum level of income thus affirming and supporting the inherent dignity for all.
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  • Protect Customary Land Rights
    The Constitution recognises the informal or customary rights of people living in the former homelands yet the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform has failed to legislate a communal land rights law that will strengthen and protect these rights. As a result; * Big cooperates are grabbing land in the communal land without any compensation for loss citing development. * Nature of individuals and family rights within a broader community are not clarified, and overshadowed by majority in the community. * People are not adequately compensated when land is sold or awarded for big developments * Consultation and Consent of land occupiers is not respected because of the weak nature of the rights provided by current law. In 1996, Parliament passed the Interim Protection of Informal Land Rights Act (IPILRA) to provide protection for all people living on communal land in the former Bantustans, people living on trust land, people who previously had Permissions to Occupy (PTOs) and anyone living on land uninterrupted since 1997 “as if they were the owner”. This was a big milestone in the protection and recognition of customary land rights and the empowerment of families to be part of bargaining and negotiations of any socio-economic development happening in their land. Although people are protected by IPILRA, the fact that it is temporary and can be renewed annually, deprives people of their rights to say NO to development that disadvantages them. This makes it easy for "developers" or Government to easily expropriate the land. It is also worth noting that the law also states that the Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform can make regulations in terms of IPILRA to provide more detailed processes and procedures.
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  • Stop the Traditional Leadership and Khoisan Bill as it currently stands.
    Any law that seeks to facilitate recognition of previously marginalised group or any development of land belonging to the people must ensure that community consultation and consent is at the centre. The TKLB closes down that space and excludes ordinary people from being consulted and give consent on decisions that will affect their lives. There needs to be meaningful public participation. As it stands, the TKLB only highlights consultations with high profile structures such as the House of Traditional Leaders, royal families and traditional councils and there is no mention of rural citizens who are land buyers and customary land rights users. The TKLB supports rural elites' access to wealth and resources. It does not put in place mechanisms that holds leaders accountable to their people. The discovery of mineral wealth in the land that was once considered dry and not productive has brought about disputes where people’s peace is disrupted by big mining companies, and when people react they are suppressed and criminalized.
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  • Pay Nurses in Western Cape the 'Danger Allowance'
    If Parliament can pay its security personnel, popularly known as 'bouncers', can be paid danger allowance [1] then nurses working psychiatric patients and other public servants can be paid the same. If the government paid its employees well then maybe the attitudes of those employees would drastically change when they deal with members of the public. Presently, in the ongoing strike by mortuary workers, danger pay has once again been one of the demands made [2]. Danger pay was first introduced during the 1999 wage negotiations for state employees such as traffic inspectors, prison warders and social workers. [1] EFF rejects danger pay for Parliamentary bouncers, Mxolisi Mngadi for News24. 7 May 2017. [2] Agreement to end mortuary strike on the cards, eNCA. 21 June 2017.
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  • Fix all schools whose infrastructure pose an immediate threat to learners
    The first deadline (29 November 2016) of the Minimum Regulations for Norms and Standards for School Infrastructure (Norms and Standards) was missed by the Department of Basic Education (DBE) [1]. This means that we do not know the full status on the condition of the schools affected. On the same month of the deadline, Equal Education visited 60 schools in 7 districts in the Eastern Cape to investigate whether the DBE had complied with the legally binding mandate of the Norms and Standards. Out of the 60 schools visited by Equal Education, 17 were in a state which outright violates the law. GroundUp also recently ran an article on learners at Isiseko Junior Secondary School in Centane Nontshinga village near Kei Mouth who are forced to kneel on the floor and use broken chairs as desks because of lack of furniture. All the classrooms are leaking, some have broken windows and doors which will make learning extremely challenging this winter. This school also relies on rain water from two tanks. When approached by GroundUp on the Isiseko matter, the Provincial Education Department’s director of infrastructure delivery Tsepo Pefole said that the Eastern Cape had an infrastructure backlog of R52bn and needed at least R6bn a year for the next 17 years. But at the moment, he said, the department had only R1.5 billion a year. Pefole said the department was working to fix all schools which needed to be fixed [2] It is worrying that learners are subjected to these intolerable conditions still in 2017. [1] http://ewn.co.za/2016/11/30/rights-group-slams-motshekga-for-missing-norms-and-standards-deadline [2] http://www.groundup.org.za/article/school-where-children-kneel-plastic-bags-and-use-chairs-desks/
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