South Africa’s New Human Rights Law

South Africa’s President, Jacob Zuma, has taken a step towards ensuring human security for all South African citizens by signing the Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Bill into law. This statute is the first of its kind to combat human trafficking completely and comprehensively. The law ensures both severe consequences for those convicted of human trafficking while ensuring compensations of the victims.

According to spokesperson Mac Maharaj, prior to the creation of this legislation, the laws concerning trafficking were fragmented and limited. There were statutes concerning trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation as well as statutes concerning the trafficking of children. However, there was no blanket statute to deal with human trafficking as a whole. This new law will accomplish that task while broadening the offenses that can be punishable under the name of human trafficking.

The new law also creates offenses such as debt bondage, possessing, destroying or tampering with travel documents, and using the services of victims of trafficking. The consequence of violating any part of this new legislation could lead to a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

In all, this new legislation has created specific consequences for actions related to human trafficking. Previously vague and fragmented statutes have been altered and unified in order to ensure the human security of all South African peoples.

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Kalahari Bushmen of Botswana Continue to Have Their Rights Denied

“Children have been arrested by paramilitary police which are signs of a new government policy to intimidate Bushmen who have returned to the Central Kalahari Game Reserve.”Photo: Survival International

The Bushmen of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) in Botswana have been fighting for their right to return to their native ancestral land which they were evicted from in 2002. Bushmen over the age of 16 are required to apply for a one-month access permit in order to enter the reserve. British attorney Gordon Bennett won a case in 2006 that gave the Bushman the right to enter the reserve without a permit; however, the government of Botswana has continued to enforce the permit policy.

The fight for the Kalahari Bushmen to return to their ancestral land has been renewed and the government of Botswana has decided to prevent Mr. Bennett from entering the country to represent the group. He was put on a ‘visa list’ following a hearing in June which prevented the eviction of the Bushman community of Ranyane. Bennett has won three separate victories for the Bushmen community granting them rights to enter ancestral land as well as to drill water boreholes after the government attempted to stop them from doing so.
While commenting on the situation, Mr Bennett said that “The right to a fair trial normally includes the right to be represented by counsel of your choice. Not in Botswana, apparently – or at least not if you sue the Government.” The Bushman previously evicted in 2002 return to court on Monday, July 29 2013 in order to gain free access to the CKGR. Due to the Government’s refusal to allow Mr. Bennett from entering the country to defend the Bushman in court, they will be forced to make their argument and defend their rights on their own.

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Kenyatta’s Trial to Face Major Setback After Witness Withdraws Testimony


Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta

Uhuru Kenyatta, Kenya’s recently elected President, is facing charges for crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague; however, the prosecution will have to overcome major setbacks due to a number of witnesses backing out from their testimony.

Mr. Kenyatta is alleged to have used his family fortune to sponsor death squad attacks during the violence that followed the 2007 presidential elections. Despite the fact that Mr. Kenyatta has always rejected such allegations and attributed them to politically driven gossip, the ICC has been moving forward in building a case against the Kenyan leader.

While prosecuting a current head of state is not a straightforward task and the challenges so far have been numerous, the news that one of the lead witnesses will renounce to testify will prove a major impediment to the case. The setback is only one in a series of challenges the prosecutors have had to overcome while building this case. The trial, initially scheduled for July of this year, has been postponed to November 12th in order to allow more time for the prosecution to work on the case. While this may give more time to organize evidence and testimonies, it also increases the chances of witnesses backing out of the case in fear of their own security.

Witness number 426 has stated that the security risks  are just too high to justify a testimony. The fact that Mr. Kenyatta is a current head of state and has enormous influence on Kenya’s army and security forces is certainly discouraging to those who have been shown willingness to talk about the 2007 violence. By the same token, the anti-ICC climate that has been fostered by the current government is working against the case and is discouraging any further testimonies. ICC prosecutors are afraid that Kenya’s political climate  may discourage other witnesses from testifying and that this trend may affect other international criminal cases where witnesses lack sufficient protection.

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Fish Farming to Revitilize Economy and Fight Youth Unemployment in North-Eastern Nigeria

Nigerian Wetland Fishermen

Nigerian Wetland Fishermen

Bauchi, Nigeria – During a workshop organized by the Hadejia/ Jama’re Komadugu Yobe Basin Trust Fund, Dr Hassan Haruna Mbildya, head of the organization, identified fish farming as a way to revamp a stagnating economy and to fight poverty amongst unemployed youths in Nigeria’s Northeastern region.

Dr. Mbildya said “The fishery sector of the economy has a lot of potentials that has not been utilized, that is why the trust fund has brought these participants and consultants together to brainstorm on how to revitalize the regional economy through fishing business”

The workshop organized by Dr. Mbildya’s fund aims at providing knowledge and technical assistance to participants that are interested in updating the industry and creating new employment opportunities for the young and unemployed. The fishing industry currently employs over a million people and the money turnover is significant. Even the smallest markets, like the one in Gadar Maiwa, employ over a hundred workers and realize more than a million naira per week. The Komadugu Yobe river Basin alone, Dr. Mbildya claims, is home to at least a hundred of these markets and the total sector turnover amounts to more than a billion naira. The project to revitalize the industry aims at  increasing the total turnover of the sector, and most importantly, fighting poverty by employing the region’s growing youth.

The workshop organized by the Yobe Basin Trust Fund takes place within a broader regional effort to increase the size and efficiency of the fishing industry. Three West and Central African countries (Nigeria, Cameroon, and Sierra Leone) have already agreed on two three-year fishery and aqua-culture projects starting in January 2012. The projects cost 500,000 US dollars each  and are funded by the West and Central Council for Agricultural Research. Because the sub-sector contributes three percent to regional GDP and is one of the leading export markets, revamp projects like Dr. Mbildya’s workshop are crucial to the future of the regions economy and a vital aspect of the fight against poverty.

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South African Platinum Workers Return to Work

4000975239                                Anglo platinum workers picketing their job site.

Workers from the South African platinum producer Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) returned to work after a brief strike on Tuesday. The picket began this passed week when the workers started their wildcat strike without the approval of their union. The mineworkers’ action came in response to the suspension of 19 union workers in the Rustenburg mining belt in the North West province.

Although short-lived, the strike  shut down operations at two mines. The Association of Mineworkers and Constriction Union (AMCU) noted that their workers have returned to their jobs after the suspension was lifted from the 19 union workers. There has been no word about whether or not the wildcat strikers will bear any repercussions for their actions directly; however, Amplats has stated an intention to cut anywhere between 6,000 to 14,000 jobs in an attempt to make up for the cost associated with the wildcat strike and previous related strikes.

Perhaps Amplats intends to use these job cuts as a scare tactic to deter its employees from participating in future pickets. As the world’s largest producer of platinum, Amplats cannot afford to be afflicted by anymore strikes of this kind.


Ghanaian Government Cracks Down on Illegal Mining

A recent wave of arrests has marked an increased effort by the Ghanaian government to clamp down on foreign illegal mining. Pressure by local artisan miners, who feel threatened by the scale and veracity of the predominantly Chinese operations, together with increased concerns over the environmental effects of their mining practices have led government officials to order detentions of foreign workers throughout the country.

Ghanaian Police forces have arrested a total of 161 Chinese citizens, many of whom crossed borders from neighboring countries in order to bypass immigration authorities. The arrests were focused in the Ashanti region, long known for its rich gold deposits. The region has been mined for decades by local artisans with very little equipment and traditional, low impact methods. The arrival of the Chinese, however, has marked a shift towards medium scale operations that have a greater impact on the land and local business.

According to the Bank of Ghana, in 2011 the country made 4.9bn from gold exports. The economy as a whole has been growing at one of the fastest paces on the continent (7.9 % in 2012). The arrests, which aim at protecting the interests of the local miners, are creating a bitter dispute  with workers of one of Ghana’s most important trading partners. The Chinese, who are keen on maintaining a privileged trading status with the African country, have already agreed to pay bail and fines for breaking the country’s immigration laws. Authority’s in the Guangxi region, where many of the Chinese workers reside, are currently urging people not to go to Ghana to work in Gold mines.


Earthmoving equipment at a mine in Africa. Photo: AFP

In general, Chinese authorities are urging Chinese workers to respect the laws of the host country and are determined to work with Ghanaian authorities to settle the issue.

While Chinese officials are keen on maintaining good relations with Ghana, the arrested workers have been more outspoken in regards to the nature of their arrest. Ghanaian policeman have been described raiding camps, mines, hotels and any place where the foreign workers gather. In the opinion of the workers, their methods have not been ‘gentle’. Many of the arrested Chinese citizens have described the process as hastened and in some cases coercive, alleging to stolen cash and stolen car keys.

Nonetheless, the clampdown has earned the Ghanaian government praises from Global Rights, a leading global human rights organization. According to the NGO, Ghana’s recent crackdown on illegal miners, particularly the foreign illegal ones, was a step in the right direction. The Global Rights’ Country Director for West Africa, Mrs. Abiodun Baiyewu said the arrests ” Will create a comprehensive atmosphere for trade and investment in Ghana thereby boosting investor confidence. The VPs will further ensure constant dialogue among extractive host communities, the government, and the mining companies thereby ensuring that the interests of all stakeholders are protected”.

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Mozambique Government Works Towards Electoral Sustainability

At a recent conference, Mozambique’s Minister of State Administration, Carmelita Namashalua spoke on eliminating foreign financial support for multiparty elections. Since 1996, the UN has been the main funder for Mozambique’s elections, but now the government aims to maximize its legitimacy by being able to support its own elections.

The article can be found here.