Week Five: Multinational Corporations and Human Rights

Well, its official, I have been in South Africa for five weeks! Where has the time gone? I think part of the reason this summer is progressing so rapidly is due to the fact that each week is a new adventure. I am constantly doing new things, going to new places, and meeting new people as part of my work with Khulumani.

This week was no different. My week began with an event related to the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). The UPR is a State-driven process, under the auspices of the Human Rights Council (HRC), which provides each state the opportunity to declare what actions they have taken to satisfy their human rights obligations in their countries. This meeting involved a number of civil society organizations, including Khulumani, which were there to brainstorm and determine the best strategies for improving human rights in South Africa. 

A colleague and I are now drafting a proposal based on this meeting which we will submit to the UPR council. Our proposal discusses multinational corporations in South Africa and their impact on human rights. We are specifically looking at the Marikana Massacre which took place in 2012. There, a group of mine workers went on strike asking for fair wages and better working and living conditions from a large mining company named Lonmin. Instead of meeting with the union workers who were protesting peacefully, the security forces simply shot and killed them. 

On Thursday, we met with members of the legal clinic at WITS University to discuss taking legal action against Lonmin. Although these men were killed, their families have received no compensation from the company. Further, the families have essentially been “blacklisted” from obtaining another job with the company. Therefore, the families were not only left without husbands and fathers, but without any reliable source of income. One woman is currently living with her three children in a chicken coup because she has no other means to afford housing after the death of her husband.

Khulumani is attempting to deal with this issue on three fronts. First, Khulumani specifically works with the Marikana widows to empower them and help them deal with their loss.  Second, we are looking to take legal action against Lonmin for their failure to provide just reparations for the deaths of the mine workers. Finally, we are using Marikana as an example of the larger human rights concerns stemming from these large multinational corporations, who are often never held accountable. 

In addition to the Marikana issue, I continue to do research of the amnesty hearing cases and finding individuals who were left out of the process.  Needless to say I am keeping busy and enjoying my stay here.