2007 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices - South Africa
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Author||Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor|
|Publication Date||11 March 2008|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, 2007 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices - South Africa, 11 March 2008, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/47d92c252.html [accessed 17 March 2014]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
March 11, 2008
South Africa is a multiparty parliamentary democracy in which constitutional power is shared between the president and the parliament. The country has a population of approximately 47.9 million. President Thabo Mbeki led the African National Congress (ANC) party, which increased its seats to 279 in the 400-seat National Assembly after a free and fair national election in 2004. Parliament, in turn, elected Mbeki president. The civilian authorities generally maintained effective control of the security forces.
The government generally respected the human rights of its citizens. However, the government, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and local media reported the following serious human rights problems: police use of excessive force against suspects and detainees, which resulted in deaths and injuries; vigilante violence and mob justice; abuse of prisoners, including beatings and rape, and severe overcrowding of prisons; lengthy delays in trials and prolonged pretrial detention; forcible dispersal of demonstrations; pervasive violence against women and children, and societal discrimination against women and persons with disabilities; trafficking in persons; violence resulting from racial and ethnic tensions and conflicts with foreigners; and child labor, including forced child labor and child prostitution.
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom From:
a. Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life
There were no politically motivated killings by the government or its agents; however, police use of lethal force during apprehensions resulted in a significant number of deaths, and deaths in police custody were a problem. Police efforts to control vigilante violence also resulted in deaths. The government investigated and punished some abusers.
According to the governmental Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD), there were 698 deaths in police custody or as a result of police action during the period from April 1, 2006, to March 31, 2007, an 11 percent increase from the previous year. Authorities attributed 185 of these deaths to natural causes, suicide, or injuries sustained prior to detention.
The ICD reported that shootings accounted for 54 percent of the deaths in police custody, with the majority of shootings occurring during official police operations. However, negligence was cited in 23 deaths, and domestic violence and off-duty shootings in 56. The ICD's 2007 report also expressed concern that four innocent bystanders were killed in crossfire between the police and criminals, and that 44 civilians were killed due to being hit by police vehicles.
Unlike in the previous year, no deaths resulted from political conflict between ANC and Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) supporters in KwaZulu-Natal, although there were allegations of shooting attacks on IFP councilors and supporters by ANC supporters. The ANC denied the allegations and police were unable to confirm any political connection to these alleged attacks.
The 2006 killings of Estcourt Deputy Mayor Dolly Dladla and councilor Music Mchunu, both IFP members, remained unresolved. Police arrested three people in connection with the case and the accused were awaiting trial at year's end.
The investigation into the 2005 killing of Zulu Royal Prince Thulani Zulu, chairman of the ANC's Nongoma branch in KwaZulu-Natal, was ongoing.
Incidents of vigilante violence and mob justice continued, particularly in Gauteng, the Western Cape, and KwaZulu-Natal. For example, on July 7, three men accused of rape were beaten and hacked to death by an angry crowd in KwaMashu; no action was taken against the perpetrators. In June, Mitchell's Plains in the Western Cape erupted in three nights of violence following the killing of a prominent local leader, reportedly by drug dealers. Angry residents took to the streets, burning alleged drug dens and drug dealers' cars. Twelve persons were arrested after police used stun grenades and rubber bullets to subdue the crowd.
There continued to be violent attacks on foreigners, especially immigrants from neighboring countries.
Killings and other violent crimes against farmers and, on occasion, their families, continued in rural areas. Despite concern among white farmers that they were targeted for racial and political reasons, studies indicated that the perpetrators generally were common criminals motivated by financial gain. According to the 2006-07 South African Police Service (SAPS) report, there were 794 farm attacks and 86 farm killings in the 12 months prior to March 31. Farm attacks increased by 25 percent compared to the previous year's figures. Farm homicides decreased by 2 percent.
In April Jewell Crossberg was sentenced to twenty years in prison for his 2004 killing of a farm worker. Crossberg had told police that he mistook his victim for a baboon, but farm workers who witnessed the shooting said the killing was triggered by the victim's failure to report to work the day before.
In rural areas such as Limpopo Province, Mpumalanga, and the Eastern Cape, where traditional beliefs regarding witchcraft remained strong, reports of attacks on persons accused of witchcraft, particularly elderly women, were not unusual. Traditional leaders generally cooperated with government programs and reported threats against persons suspected of witchcraft. In April a mob in Lusikisiki in the Eastern Cape hacked to death three family members accused of witchcraft. Six people were arrested. The investigation was ongoing.
"Muti" killings (killing, especially of children, to obtain body parts for traditional healing) remained a problem. In March six gang members and a 63-year-old "sangoma" (traditional healer) who allegedly bought body parts from them, were arrested in Umbumbulu for the alleged muti-related killings and mutilations of ten women from KwaZulu. One of the gang members became a state witness and described the murders and mutilations in detail. The case was ongoing at year's end. In 2006 the SAPS estimated that 150 to 300 muti killings occurred each year.
There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
The constitution and law prohibit such practices; some police officers reportedly tortured, beat, raped, and otherwise abused suspects. Police torture and abuse allegedly occurred during interrogation, arrest, detention, and searches of persons' homes. The ICD reported that 24 complaints of rape and 23 complaints of torture were filed against police officers during their 2006-07 reporting period. The ICD report did not indicate the disposition of these complaints.
Police forcibly dispersed demonstrators on several occasions during the year, resulting in injuries. Some of the demonstrations had turned destructive prior to police taking action to break them up.
Incidents of police harassment against foreigners continued, particularly during coordinated police raids in areas where foreign nationals resided. Some state hospitals reportedly routinely refused emergency treatment to indigent foreigners, despite regulations requiring that they provide such treatment.
The press reported that many refuge seekers claimed that immigration personnel whipped and beat them, and subjected them to other brutal treatment.
The court martial of Air Force Sergeant Philippus Jacobus Venter continued. He was accused of raping and murdering a 14-year-old girl while serving as a peacekeeper in Burundi; the court martial had been postponed in 2005 after Venter allegedly shot and killed his two children, wounded his wife, and attempted suicide.
Deaths and injuries resulted from vigilante and mob action against suspected criminals, in addition to acts of violence against suspected witches.
There were incidents in which white employers abused their black farm laborers. After Western Cape authorities refused to prosecute four white Rawsonville farmers accused of sexually assaulting female farm workers in 2005, the Congress of South African Trade Unions and the Women on Farms Project alleged a pattern of refusal to prosecute whites for worker abuses and demanded a senior-level investigation. The issue was raised in the National Assembly in November 2006; at year's end, however, no investigation had been initiated and no further action had been taken by SAPS or the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).
Prison and Detention Center Conditions
Most prisons did not meet international standards, and prison conditions did not always meet the country's minimum legal requirements. There were 161,674 prisoners in custody, according to the governmental Judicial Inspectorate of Prisons (JIP), in facilities designed to hold 115,327 inmates. Due to the severe overcrowding, many prisoners had less than 13 square feet in which to eat, sleep and spend 23 hours per day. The norm applied to South African prisons for floor space per prisoner is approximately 36 square feet for communal space and 60 for single cells. The JIP report said that few prisoners had access to work and rehabilitation programs, and levels of frustration and violence had increased.
According to the JIP report, there were 1,315 prison deaths in 2006, 1,249 of them from natural causes, including HIV/AIDS. The remaining deaths were the result of suicides, assaults, or accidents.
According to a 2006 Department of Health study and a 2005 national HIV survey, approximately 20 percent of the population aged 15 to 49 were HIV-positive. NGOs working on the issue of HIV/AIDS in prisons believed that the percentage of HIV-positive prisoners was higher than that of the general population. Treatment with anti-retroviral (ARV) therapy was provided in prisons, but the percentage of HIV-positive prisoners receiving this treatment was unknown. The Department of Correctional Services (DCS) completed a survey of HIV/AIDS within South African prisons in early 2007 but the results had not yet been released. In partnership with the Department of Health, the DCS obtained accreditation for eight correctional centers as comprehensive prevention, treatment, care, and support centers to assist the DCS in improving access to ARV treatment.
Prison employees and other prisoners allegedly abused and assaulted prisoners physically and sexually. Detainees awaiting trial reportedly contracted HIV/AIDS through rape.
Official corruption was a problem. In many cases police or correctional officers were suspended or expelled from their services for, among other offenses, stealing food and money from prisoners, colluding with prisoners in escape attempts, and providing drugs to inmates. In October the DCS reported that a total of 93 officials, including senior managers, had been investigated for corruption during the 12-month period ending in March. Of these, 43 had been found guilty and fired, 22 received warnings, and 13 cases were dismissed; investigations of the remaining officials were still in progress.
The Jali Commission completed its 2005 investigation into allegations of corruption and sexual abuse in prisons and released its final report in October 2006. The 1,000-page report cited widespread irregularities, including prisoners leaving the premises illegally, nepotism, drug trafficking, irregular appointments of personnel, extortion, abuse of parole procedure, abuse of disciplinary inquiries and appeal procedures, educational qualifications fraud, and massive medical aid fraud. In response to this report, the DCS established an anticorruption unit during the 2006-07 financial year to implement the commission's recommendations. Sixty-two hearings related to fraud, abuse, or corruption were finalized, with a conviction rate of 92 percent.
There were allegations of corruption and abuse of detainees by officials at the overcrowded Lindela Repatriation Center, the country's largest detention facility for undocumented immigrants. Officers from Lindela were among those convicted by the DCS of corruption or abuse.
Although the government operated 13 youth detention facilities, the JIP reported that 1,165 unsentenced children under the age of 18 were held with adults because they needed to be close to the courts. There were credible reports that these youths were vulnerable to sexual exploitation, including rape.
Pretrial detainees generally were held with convicted prisoners.
The government permitted independent monitoring of prison conditions, including visits by human rights organizations. According to the JIP's annual report, independent prison visitors collectively spent a total of 99,633 hours visiting all 237 prisons, and interviewed tens of thousands of prisoners. Their observations, including prisoner complaints, were reported monthly to the JIP. The judicial inspectorate also visited all prisons regularly.
d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention
The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention, and the government generally observed these prohibitions; however, prolonged pretrial detention was a problem, and police arbitrarily arrested demonstrators.
Role of the Police and Security Apparatus
The SAPS, under the Department of Safety and Security, has primary responsibility for internal security. The South African National Defense Force (SANDF), under the Department of Defense, is responsible for external security but also has domestic security responsibilities. The NPA's Directorate of Special Operations – the "Scorpions" – coordinates efforts against organized crime and official corruption. Municipalities also maintained metropolitan police forces under local control in major cities, such as Johannesburg, Durban, Pretoria, and Cape Town.
SAPS continued its major restructuring and transformation from a primarily public order security force to a more accountable, community-service-oriented police force; however, it remained ill-equipped, overworked, and poorly trained. Although SAPS has made efforts to improve its coverage in poorer areas, the majority of police resources and law enforcement attention remained focused on wealthy residential and business areas.
During the year the ICD received 1,787 allegations of criminal offenses committed by police and 2,760 complaints of misconduct, representing an 8 percent increase in allegations of criminal offenses and a 3 percent decline in complaints of misconduct compared to the previous year.
To address problems of crime and misconduct, SAPS provided its officers with comprehensive training in corruption prevention, human rights, and ethics, and with access to social workers, psychologists, and chaplains to enhance social, spiritual, and psychological well-being. The ICD investigated reports of police misconduct and crime; during the 2006-07 reporting period at least 12 officers were found guilty of murder and sentenced to imprisonment.
Arrest and Detention
The law requires arrest warrants and provides that all detainees are to be informed promptly of the reasons for their detention, and of their right to remain silent and the consequences of waiving that right. Detainees must be charged within 48 hours of arrest, held in conditions of human dignity, allowed to consult with legal counsel at every stage, and permitted to communicate with relatives, medical practitioners, and religious counselors. Courts and police generally respected these rights. Detainees must be released (with or without bail) unless the interests of justice require otherwise; however, bail for pretrial detainees often exceeded what suspects could pay. According to the JIP, an estimated 10,800 prisoners remained in detention because they were unable to post bail. Some school children spent more than a year in detention because their families could not post bail.
Human rights groups, judges, and judicial scholars continued to express concern about the Criminal Procedure Second Amendment Act, which mandates minimum jail sentences and prohibits bail in certain cases.
Lengthy pretrial detention was a problem. According to the JIP, detainees waited an average of three months, but some as long as two years, before a trial. The JIP report found that as of March 31, 48,461, or almost 30 percent of the country's prisoners, were awaiting trial.
The national director of public prosecution continued to prepare cases against persons who were denied amnesty, failed to apply for amnesty, or were implicated in human rights abuses during the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) process. Investigations continued into the cases of Johannes van Zyl and Johannes Koole for the Pebco Three killing in 1985; in July the NPA found human remains at Post Chambers believed to be those of the Pebco Three.
On August 17, Adriaan Vlok, apartheid-era minister of law and order, and Johan van der Merwe, former commissioner of national police, pled guilty to the attempted poisoning in 1989 of Reverend Frank Chikane, now director general of the presidency. Both Vlok and van der Merwe received ten-year suspended sentences. Three lower ranking police officers who were codefendants received five-year suspended sentences.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, and while the judiciary was generally independent, it was understaffed and underfunded.
The bill of rights provides for due process, including the right to a fair public trial within a reasonable time after being charged, and the right to appeal to a higher court. It also gives detainees the right to state-funded legal counsel when "substantial injustice would otherwise result"; however, a general lack of information for accused persons regarding their rights to legal representation and the government's inability to pay for these services remained problems.
There is a legal presumption of innocence for criminal defendants. Judges and magistrates hear criminal cases and determine guilt or innocence. The law requires that a panel of lay assessors and a magistrate hear cases involving murder, rape, robbery, indecent assault, and assault leading to serious bodily harm. The two assessors may overrule magistrates on questions of fact. Magistrates also can use assessors in an advisory capacity in adjudicating bail applications and sentences.
The government operated 46 justice centers in the country, composed of the departments of justice, correctional services, and health, and SAPS, to speed the administration of justice, reduce the court rolls, and alleviate overcrowding in prisons. However, serious delays continued to be a problem.
Political Prisoners and Detainees
There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.
Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies
There is an independent and impartial judiciary in civil matters. There is access to the courts to bring lawsuits seeking damages for, or cessation of, a human rights violation.
f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
The constitution and law prohibit such actions; however, there were allegations of police abuse during sweeps and home searches and other criticisms against government legislation and practices.
The law authorizes state monitoring of telecommunications systems for criminal investigations, including cellular telephones, the Internet, and e-mail, but these provisions had not been implemented by year's end.
The Promotion of Access to Information Act is intended to assist authorities in obtaining personal information in connection with criminal investigations; however, opposition parties and human rights NGOs objected to its broadly defined provision that enabled the government to access an individual's personal information.
Farm owners continued to evict workers legally and illegally. The law requires that evictions be approved by a court; however, fewer than 1 percent of evictions involved a legal process, according to the NKUZI Development Association, a domestic NGO. NKUZI's extensive national eviction survey indicated that farm workers were generally unaware of their right to legal counsel during eviction proceedings.
There were reports that persons accused of witchcraft were attacked and driven from their villages in rural communities, particularly in Limpopo, Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal, and the Eastern Cape, where suspicion of witchcraft activity could lead to accusation, assault, forced exile, and murder.
2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
a. Freedom of Speech and Press
The constitution and law provide for freedom of speech and of the press, and the government generally respected these rights. Individuals criticized the government both publicly and privately without reprisal. Several apartheid-era laws that remained in force posed a potential threat to media independence.
The independent media were active and expressed a wide variety of views, although some journalists expressed concern that the government heavily influenced and tried to control the media.
According to South African Advertising Research Trends 2002-06, print media reached 42.4 percent of the population. Nevertheless, the majority of the population received news through radio broadcasts from the government-owned South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) and community radio stations.
The SABC provided broadcasting in the country's 11 official languages and continued to own and control the majority of television and radio outlets. The SABC provided news coverage of the government and the leading opposition parties; however, media commentators and opposition politicians continued to criticize the SABC for allegedly showing partiality in its coverage of government ministers or events. A 2006 Commission of Inquiry determined that the managing director of the SABC News and Current Affairs Division excluded eight commentators for reasons that were not "objectively defensible," but it found no "definitively consistent pattern" of exclusion based on criticism of government policy or the president. SABC sought to limit public scrutiny of the commission's report by filing a motion in the Johannesburg High Court seeking to require the Mail & Guardian newspaper to remove the report from its website. SABC's case was dismissed by the court and SABC was required to pay the court costs. In August coverage of allegations against Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang was allegedly suppressed for political reasons by SABC management. Some of the excluded commentators were subsequently included in SABC programs; Aubrey Matshiqui was on an SABC program in late October, and Steven Friedman was interviewed on radio earlier in the year.
Low-power, nonprofit community radio stations continued to play an important role in informing the mostly rural public; however, they often had difficulty producing adequate content and maintaining staff. Government broadcast regulators regularly issued new community radio licenses and withdrew others for noncompliance with the terms of issuance.
The only independent television station, e.tv, was accessible to 56.8 percent of the population. Satellite programming was also available.
High-ranking government officials on occasion reacted sharply to media criticism and accused black journalists of disloyalty and white journalists of racism. Some journalists believed that the government's sensitivity to criticism caused self-censorship in the media.
Several laws remained in effect that permitted the government to restrict the publication of information about the police, the national defense forces, prisons, and mental institutions. There were no reports that these laws were invoked during the year; however, journalists and media managers considered them a threat to constitutional protections.
The Foreign Publication Board reviewed written and graphic materials published in, or imported into, the country. The board had the power to edit or ban books, magazines, movies, and videos, and it regularly exercised that power, mostly regarding pornographic material. Journalists, media houses, and industry associations continued to criticize efforts to extend the board's authority to newspapers and broadcast media. A proposed amendment to the Films and Publication Act would allow for board review and classification of print and broadcast products, and has fueled fears that the government was seeking additional control over media.
There were no government restrictions on access to the Internet or reports that the government monitored e-mail or Internet chat rooms. Individuals and groups could engage in peaceful expression of views via the Internet, including by electronic mail. Figures from 2007 Internet World Stats indicated that 10.3 percent of the country's population had ready access to, and routinely used, the Internet.
Academic Freedom and Cultural Events
There were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events.
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
Freedom of Assembly
The constitution and law provide for freedom of assembly; however, police forcibly dispersed several demonstrations during the year, which resulted in injuries.
On June 19, Durban Metro police used rubber bullets, stun grenades, pepper spray, and a water cannon to disperse crowds protesting arrests of informal traders. Police also were alleged to have beaten protestors with batons. Over 500 protesters were arrested, and several were injured.
On August 15, police in Pretoria used rubber bullets and a water cannon to disperse approximately 2,000 students protesting the suspension of classes at Tshwane University of Technology. Sixteen students were arrested; no injuries were reported.
Several protests about poor delivery of basic services took place across the country, including violent demonstrations in Cape Town, Mpumalanga, and Gauteng. Police resorted to batons, rubber bullets, and water cannon to control these demonstrations; several injuries were reported.
Freedom of Association
The law provides for freedom of association, and the government generally respected this right.
c. Freedom of Religion
The constitution and law provide for freedom of religion; the government generally respected this right, and did not tolerate abuse either by government or private actors. In October the Constitutional Court ruled that the wearing of a nose stud by Hindu student Sunali Pillay was a form of religious expression; the school she attends was ordered to review its code of conduct to accommodate diverse religious and cultural practices.
Societal Abuses and Discrimination
There were occasional reports of desecration and vandalism or verbal or written harassment directed against religious minorities during the year. In Johannesburg the Advertising Standards Authority ruled against a religious advertisement deemed to be offensive to Orthodox Jews.
In Durban a teacher reportedly ridiculed Hinduism in her classroom, saying that Hindus were destined for hell. The Human Rights Commission was investigating the complaint.
The Jewish community numbered an estimated 80,000 persons. There were limited instances of anti-Semitic verbal assaults and vandalism of Jewish property and institutions. In December 2006 an ANC member of parliament, speaking at an academic conference at the University of South Africa in Pretoria, referred to the notoriously anti-Semitic czarist forgery The Protocols of the Elders of Zion as a reliable historical document. Another delegate to the conference reiterated Iranian President Ahmedinajad's claim that the Holocaust was "a myth." Following the conference, ANC spokesman Smuts Ngonyama stated that the ANC's position was that the Nazi genocide should be "condemned with the contempt it deserves."
For a more detailed discussion, see the 2007 International Religious Freedom Report.
d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons
The constitution and law provide for freedom of movement within the country, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights in practice.
The law does not prohibit forced exile; however, the government did not use it.
Protection of Refugees
The law provides for the granting of asylum and refugee status in accordance with the 1951 UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 protocol, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees. The law also provides for a broader definition of refugee status to be granted if a person satisfies the definition in the 1969 Organization of African Unity's Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa. In practice, the government provided protection against "refoulement," the forcible return of persons to a country where there is reason to believe they feared persecution, and granted refugee status and asylum.
The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in assisting refugees and asylum seekers. The government also offered temporary protection to individuals who may not qualify as refugees under the 1951 convention and the 1967 protocol. Such protection was provided to approximately 29,000 persons during the year.
With the growing economic and political problems in neighboring Zimbabwe, the number of Zimbabweans seeking employment in South Africa grew rapidly. The UNHCR and the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) reported an increase in Zimbabwean asylum applications, to approximately 29,000 by October, and DHA was struggling to keep up with new applications. A temporary asylum permit is the only legal way for migrants to stay and work in South Africa, creating an incentive for persons with no valid claim to submit asylum applications. While no official statistics were released, press reports asserted that as many as 49,000 illegal immigrants entered from Zimbabwe every month. Several hundred without valid refugee claims were detained each day at the Lindela Repatriation Centre and at the Messina detention facility prior to repatriation to Zimbabwe. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) reported that more than 126,000 Zimbabweans deported from South Africa were registered as seeking assistance at its Beitbridge Repatriation Center at the end of the year.
The NGO Lawyers for Human Rights criticized the DHA for its alleged failure to follow the provisions of the Immigration Act and the Refugee Act. Despite procedural safeguards, efforts to combat a growing illegal immigration problem occasionally resulted in the government arbitrarily deporting illegal aliens, some with potential refugee claims. There were reports that police and immigration officials abused refugees and asylum seekers and that they repatriated asylum seekers from throughout Africa immediately upon their arrival at airports without giving them the benefit of formal asylum processing. Applicants for asylum and NGOs assisting refugees also reported that immigration authorities sought bribes from those seeking permits to remain in the country. However, there were no reports during the year of the forced return of persons to countries where they feared persecution. The DHA adopted anticorruption programs and imposed sanctions on officials found to be accepting bribes.
White farmers in Limpopo Province along the border with Zimbabwe adopted vigilante tactics in an attempt to stem the flow of Zimbabwean refugees. Using vehicles designed for game hunting, the farmers tracked down and detained illegal immigrants and turned them over to local police who deported them. Human rights groups condemned these actions, calling the farm groups "paramilitary organizations behaving in a racist manner."
3. Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government
The constitution and law provide citizens with the right to change their government peacefully, and citizens exercised this right through periodic, free, and fair elections based on universal suffrage.
Elections and Political Participation
The country held a largely peaceful national election in 2004; Thabo Mbeki was elected to a second five-year term as president and head of state. The 2004 election was marred by a few incidents of political violence in KwaZulu-Natal. The IFP registered a number of complaints with the Independent Electoral Commission, including excessive numbers of absentee ballots and incidents of political intimidation. The IPF challenged the election in KwaZulu-Natal but later withdrew its court action and accepted the results. The ANC increased its parliamentary strength from 266 seats to 279 out of 400 seats. Floor crossing by members initially elected as representatives of other parties increased the ANC's seats to 297 at the end of 2007. Three small parties lost their parliamentary representatives to other parties during the year, reducing the number of parties with parliamentary representation to 14.
As of November, women held 12 of 28 ministerial positions and eight of 21 deputy ministerial slots. There were 150 women in the 400-seat National Assembly and 19 women among the 54 permanent members of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP). Women occupied three of four parliamentary presiding officer positions, including speaker and deputy speaker of the National Assembly and deputy chair of the NCOP.
There were approximately 140 members of minorities (non-black citizens) in the National Assembly. There were approximately 20 minority members among the 54 permanent members of the NCOP. The cabinet included six members of minority groups.
Government Corruption and Transparency
The government continued its efforts to curb corruption, but, according to the World Bank's Worldwide Governance Indicators, government corruption remained a problem. The public perception of widespread official corruption, particularly in the police and the DHA, continued.
The government's anticorruption actions included ongoing investigations into the alleged misconduct of public officials, which resulted in numerous convictions during the year. At least 10 agencies were engaged in anticorruption efforts. Some, like the Public Service Commission, the Office of the Public Prosecutor, and the Office of the Auditor-General, are constitutionally mandated. The SAPS Anti-Corruption Unit and the NPA's Directorate of Special Operations have dedicated units to combat corruption. The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) in the Office of the President investigated corruption in government departments and, according to press reports in August, identified hundreds of civil servants alleged to have improperly received state housing subsidies. The government took administrative action to recover these subsidies.
The Office of the Public Protector investigated government abuse and mismanagement and served as the office of last resort for citizens reporting unfair treatment by government entities. The office handled an increasing number of complaints but was hampered by severe resource constraints.
Bloemfontein's municipal manager and its chief operating officer were found guilty of corruption charges by a disciplinary hearing and were fired. They were indicted in October 2006 on charges of corruption and fraud. In December the trial was postponed until an undetermined date in 2008.
The government continued to prosecute officials involved in "Travelgate," the 2004 scandal involving misuse of official funds by parliamentarians and their travel agents. One of the three indicted Members of Parliament (MPs) pled guilty to fraud and theft, as did one of the five travel agents. Trial of the remaining four agents was postponed until February 2008. The two remaining MPs under indictment, Mnyamazeli Booi and Antoinette Versfeld, were granted a separate trial from that of the travel agents, and their trial was also postponed until early 2008.
The NPA continued its investigation into corruption charges against former deputy president Jacob Zuma. On November 8 the Supreme Court of Appeal dismissed Zuma's appeal to stop the NPA from using documents uncovered during the execution of search warrants in its possible prosecution of Zuma. Zuma announced his intention to appeal this decision to the Constitutional Court. On December 28, the NPA indicted Zuma on 16 counts of racketeering, corruption, money laundering, and fraud. Zuma's trial was scheduled for August 2008.
The law provides for access to government information; however the government did not always comply with the law. If a government department refuses to provide information, the requester can launch an internal appeal. If this also fails, the requester may appeal a decision to the high court, a time-consuming process that excludes groups or individuals who cannot afford it. The Open Democracy Advice Center (ODAC) continued to report that many requests for information went unanswered or were answered outside the period provided for in the legislation. However, ODAC's 2005 annual report (the most recent available) noted that many requests were unclear or poorly drafted, making a response difficult.
4. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
A number of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were generally cooperative and responsive to their views. Many organizations participated in governmental bodies that gathered information and developed policies related to human rights.
The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), which was created by the government but operated independently, was responsible for promoting the observance of fundamental human rights at all levels of government and throughout the general population. The SAHRC also has the power to conduct investigations, issue subpoenas, and hear testimony under oath. During 2006 the SAHRC issued reports on xenophobia, school violence, human rights and values, and freedom of expression.
5. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
The constitution and law prohibit discrimination on the grounds of race, disability, ethnic or social origin, color, age, culture, language, sex, pregnancy, sexual orientation, or marital status. However, entrenched attitudes and practices, as well as limited resources, sometimes restricted the practical effect of these legal protections.
Rape, including spousal rape, is illegal, but remained a serious problem. According to the 2006-07 SAPS annual report, the incidence of rape decreased 5.2 percent from the previous year to 111.0 rapes per 100,000 persons. A total of 52,617 rapes were reported. A poor security climate and societal attitudes condoning sexual violence against women contributed to the problem. Amnesty International estimated that the number of reported rapes was only one-third of the number of actual rapes. Although judges in rape cases generally followed statutory sentencing guidelines, women's advocacy groups occasionally criticized judges for using criteria such as the victim's behavior or relationship to the rapist as a basis for imposing lighter sentences.
Allegations of rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment of black citizen and foreign migrant female farm workers by farm owners, managers, and by other farm workers were common.
The government operated 62 sexual offenses courts throughout the country that included designated waiting rooms and counseling for victims. The NPA's Sexual Offenses and Community Affairs Unit (SOCA) operated 10 Thuthuzela Care Centers (TCC), which specialized in rape care management, and streamlined a network of existing investigative, prosecutorial, medical, and psychological services in the hospitals where they were located. Seven more TCCs are planned for 2008. SOCA plans to establish 80 TCCs by 2010.
Domestic violence was pervasive and included physical, sexual, emotional, and verbal abuse, as well as harassment and stalking by former partners. The Domestic Violence Act of 1998 defines victims of domestic violence (including persons who are not in legal or common-law marriages), facilitates the serving of protection orders on abusers, requires the police to take victims to a place of safety, and allows police to seize firearms at the scene and to arrest abusers without a warrant. Violating a protection order is punishable by a prison sentence of up to five years, or 20 years if additional criminal charges are brought.
According to NGOs, an estimated 25 percent of women were in abusive relationships, but few reported it. TCC counselors also alleged that doctors, police officers, and judges often treated abused women poorly.
The government financed 39 shelters for abused women, but more were needed, particularly in rural areas. The SAPS has been converting Child Protection Units to Family Violence, Child Protection, and Sexual Offenses Units (FCS); as of March there were 66 FCSs. FCS investigating officers and other police officers received annual training in gender sensitivity. The government continued to conduct domestic violence awareness campaigns.
Prostitution is illegal but was widespread and practiced openly.
There were reports that women were trafficked to and from the country for exploitation in prostitution.
The law prohibits sexual harassment; however, sexual harassment remained a widespread problem. Discrimination against women remained a serious problem despite their equal rights under the law governing inheritance, divorce, and child custody. Women experienced economic discrimination in areas such as wages, extension of credit, and ownership of land. For example, township housing transfer schemes favored existing titleholders, who tended to be men. Many rural areas were administered through traditional leadership structures, often including a chief or a council of elders, who did not grant land tenure to women, a precondition for access to housing subsidies.
Women, particularly black women, typically had lower incomes and less job security than men. Most women were engaged in poorly paid domestic labor and micro-enterprises, which did not provide job security or benefits. The Department of Trade and Industry provided incentive grants to promote the development of small and medium-size businesses and micro-enterprises for women, young persons, and persons with disabilities.
According to a 2006 survey, the number of women in top leadership positions has grown in recent years. Nevertheless, while women comprised 41 percent of the working population, they held only 16.8 percent of executive-level and 11.5 percent of director-level positions.
Female farm workers often experienced discrimination, and their access to housing often was dependent on their relationship to male farm workers. Female farm workers on maternity leave who could not obtain timely compensation via the Unemployment Insurance Fund often had no choice but to return to work shortly after giving birth, according to NGOs working with farm workers in Limpopo Province.
A number of governmental bodies and NGOs monitored and promoted women's human rights. Numerous active women's rights groups focused on such areas as violence against women and the economic advancement of women.
The government was generally committed to children's welfare. The law provides for greater educational opportunities for disadvantaged children – traditionally black children – through a uniform system for the organization, governance, and funding of schools. It mandates compulsory education from ages seven to 15 and ensures that children cannot be refused admission to public schools due to a lack of funds. However, public education is fee-based and the government does not fully subsidize education. Even if children qualify for fee exemptions, low-income parents had difficulty paying for uniforms, books, and supplies. Children, therefore, may be enrolled in, yet never attend school. According to the October 2006 School Realities Report published by the Department of Education, 98 percent of grade 1-12 school-age children were enrolled in school. Those not enrolled tended to be children with special needs. Most children attended school until the age of 15 or after eligibility for the Child Support Grant ends at age 14. There generally were comparable attendance numbers for boys and girls but a number of factors, including unplanned pregnancies, domestic responsibilities (particularly in rural areas), and gender stereotypes contributed to higher drop-out rates and lower secondary school pass rates for girls.
There continued to be reports of rape, sexual abuse, sexual harassment, and assaults of girls at school by teachers, students, and other persons in the school community. The law requires schools to disclose sexual abuse to the authorities; however, administrators often concealed sexual violence or delayed disciplinary action. The level of sexual violence in schools also increased the risk for girls of contracting HIV/AIDS or other sexually transmitted diseases, as well as unwanted pregnancies.
Although the law prohibits corporal punishment in schools, there were reports that teachers used physical violence to discipline students. Student-on-student violence, including racially motivated violence, continued to be a major concern of educational authorities and parents. Teacher organizations, parents, and police worked together in the "Safe Schools Program" to address these problems. Many schools implemented "Adopt-a-Cop" programs inviting SAPS officers into their schools for training and security.
HIV/AIDS activists, physicians, and opposition parties continued to criticize the government for failing to provide ARV therapy to all pregnant and breast-feeding women and thereby protect young children from HIV/AIDS transmission. The government has expanded the number of antenatal clinics providing nevirapine to HIV-positive mothers, but has not been able to keep up with the rapidly growing number of children affected by HIV/AIDS, including both infected children and AIDS orphans.
Violence against children, including domestic violence and sexual abuse, remained widespread. While there was increased attention to the problem, a lack of coordinated and comprehensive strategies to deal with violent crimes continued to impede the delivery of needed services to young victims. According to the 2006-07 SAPS report, 22,625 children were raped, 1,152 were murdered, 20,445 were assaulted with intention to do grievous bodily harm, and 4,710 were subjected to indecent assault. Observers believed that these figures represented a small percentage of the actual incidence of child rape, especially because most cases involving family members were not reported. TCC staff reported that over 60 percent of the victims treated at four TCCs during the month of September 2007 were children. The country had a low conviction rate for rape and child abuse. The age of consent is 16 and the statutory sentence for rape of a child is life in prison; however, the law grants judges the discretion to issue more lenient sentences.
The high incidence of HIV/AIDS has resulted in an increase in the number of child-headed households. These children sometimes turned to prostitution to support themselves and their siblings. NGOs provided shelter and medical and legal assistance for children in prostitution and a hot line for victims of child abuse. The government donated land and buildings for shelters for such children, as well as other victims of sexual abuse, street children, and orphans.
AIDS activists alleged that children in prostitution were often highly sought after because of the widely-held belief that sex with a virgin provided a cure for HIV/AIDS.
Despite outreach programs to discourage the practice, ritual adult male circumcision, usually by medically unqualified practitioners, was still a prevalent initiation tradition in various parts of the country. Initiation practices, which included circumcisions, continued during the year. The House of Traditional Leaders attempted to address unsafe initiation practices and designed strategies to prevent deaths and the spread of diseases, such as HIV/AIDS. The Department of Health in the Eastern Cape provided surgeons, health officials, and vehicles during the June initiation season to monitor initiation practices. Nonetheless, 12 circumcision-related deaths were reported in the Eastern Cape during the June initiation period, according to press reports. More than 20 illegal traditional surgeons were arrested and nearly 100 youths were hospitalized for botched procedures.
The government continued to increase its social welfare programs for children affected by poverty and the loss of their parents, and, according to a Social Security Agency report, more than 7.9 million children had received such grants as of July 31. Child support grants covered children up to the age of 14, but it was sometimes difficult for children, particularly those in rural areas or without documentation, to obtain access to health care facilities and other social welfare programs. The government's 2007-08 budget proposed to make the child support grants available up to age 16.
Trafficking in Persons
The law prohibits "the recruitment, sale, supply, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of children, within or across the borders of the Republic." The law also prohibits the commercial sexual exploitation of children, sexual intercourse with children under 16, or permitting a female under 16 to stay in a brothel for the purpose of prostitution. However, the Department of Social Development has not yet issued the regulations that will govern the implementation of this legislation. The maximum penalty for violations of the law is 20 years in prison.
The government uses several provisions of criminal law to prosecute traffickers. The Sexual Offenses Act of 2007 contains measures outlawing trafficking for purposes of sexual exploitation.
The country was a destination, transit route, and point of origin for the trafficking of persons, including children, from other countries in Africa, Asia, and Europe for prostitution and forced labor. Domestic and international organized crime syndicates trafficked women into the country for use in the sex industry. Young men were trafficked chiefly for agricultural work.
The precise extent of trafficking operations was unknown, but a substantial number of persons were believed to be trafficked annually. The IOM reported in 2003 that 12 major routes for trafficking operations made use of the country.
Trafficked women and children who worked in the sex industry often lived with other trafficked victims in segregated areas. They were frequently under constant surveillance; usually had no money or identifying documents; were often in debt to the agents who arranged their travel; often worked long hours – in some cases up to 18 hours each day and on weekends and when ill; and sometimes were fined by their traffickers for infractions of arbitrary rules. Young men trafficked for forced agricultural labor often were subjected to violence and food rationing.
According to the IOM, several major criminal groups operating in the country trafficked women: Bulgarian and Thai syndicates, and Russian, Chinese, and African (mainly West African) criminal organizations. Traffickers also included South African citizens and African refugees resident in the country.
In most cases traffickers lured foreign women with promises of employment, marriage, or educational opportunities abroad. Traffickers often lured the children of poor families with promises of jobs, education, or a better way of life. Victims, who could be kidnapped or forced to follow their traffickers, were subjected to threats of violence, withholding of documents, and debt bondage to ensure compliance.
During the year an interagency task team led by SOCA was established and began to develop a strategy for dealing comprehensively with trafficking in persons. The task team included representatives from SOCA, SAPS, NPA, IOM, UNODC, and several government ministries, as well as local and international NGOs. Assisted by funding from external donors, the task team planned to establish a rapid response team in 2008 to deal with trafficking cases.
Corruption within the police, immigration, customs, and private services at the international airports impeded interdiction efforts. Traffickers reportedly bribed officials to help them move victims out of the transit area to avoid detection. During the year DHA dismissed several immigration officers for involvement in trafficking and for petty corruption relating to trafficking. The border police, SAPS, and judicial officials received additional training in antitrafficking during the year, but confusion between smuggling and trafficking remained a problem and the lack of antitrafficking legislation inhibited prosecutions.
The country has established 62 sexual offenses courts with authority to handle trafficking cases. The case against a person who allegedly trafficked a Zimbabwean national was brought before the sexual offenses court in Makhado in July. The defendant was charged with violations of migration laws and the Sexual Offense Act; charges were pending at year's end.
The NPA maintained a witness protection unit headed by a special director of public prosecutions, but relied heavily on NGOs to provide witness protection for trafficking victims.Some domestic victims of trafficking were placed in government facilities for the sexually abused. The government continued to fund private shelters that provided short- and long-term care to trafficking victims.
Durban police arrested and detained on prostitution and related charges 21 Thai women suspected of being trafficking victims during the year. At year's end two criminal cases were under investigation, and four of the Thai women had agreed to testify against their traffickers; these women were placed in protective custody. The other 17 were deported. No trial date had been set for either case by year's end.
Persons with Disabilities
The law prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability; however, government and private sector discrimination in employment existed. The law mandates access to buildings for persons with disabilities, but such regulations were rarely enforced, and public awareness of them remained minimal.
The law provides persons with disabilities with protection from harassment and, in conjunction with the Employment Equity Act, also provides guidelines on the recruitment and selection of persons with disabilities, reasonable accommodation for persons with disabilities, and guidelines on proper handling of employee medical information. Enforcement of this law was limited. The law also requires employers with more than 50 workers to create an affirmative action plan with provisions for achieving employment equity for persons with disabilities. The Black Economic Empowerment Act is law, and codes of good practices specifying company obligations under the act were published in the official gazette on February 9. Persons with disabilities constituted 5.9 percent of the general population, but only a minuscule estimated 0.02 percent of the public service workforce.
The law requires employers with 50 or more employees to ensure that previously disadvantaged groups, legally defined as "Blacks" (including "Africans," "Colored," and "Asians," and collectively constituting more than 90 percent of the country's population) are represented adequately at all levels of the workforce. Notwithstanding the country's antidiscrimination legislation, however, the Department of Labor's (DOL) 2005 "Employment Equity Analysis" reports that Blacks remained underrepresented, particularly at the professional and managerial levels. According to that report, only 28 percent of top management positions, and approximately 53 percent of professional positions, were held by Blacks. The report makes it clear that Black women remained by far the most disadvantaged in terms of the number and quality of management or skilled jobs. Employers cited a lack of training and development, poor recruitment processes, and an antagonistic corporate culture as the main impediments to affirmative action.
The continued killings of mostly white farm owners by black assailants created concern among white farmers that they were being targeted for racial and political reasons. There also were reports that white employers abused and killed black farm laborers, and complaints that white employers received preferential treatment from the authorities.
There were a number of attacks on foreigners, and anti-immigrant groups such as the Unemployed Masses of South Africa often blamed immigrants for job losses and increasing levels of crime. In February police used stun grenades to quell anti-Somali rioting in Port Elizabeth. Police arrested 27 persons after a crowd pelted Somali-owned shops with stones. In June a Somali store owner was shot and killed and three others injured in incidents in the Western Cape; no arrests were made.
Zimbabweans, believed to be the largest African immigrant group in the country, frequently complained that they were targeted by criminals and harassed by police in major cities.
The Khoikhoi, indigenous nomadic herders of cattle and sheep, were dispossessed of their native lands and dispersed throughout the country in the 1970s. Today only a few thousand Khoikhoi remain, some of whom work as farmers or as farm laborers. Under the law the Khoikhoi have the same political and economic rights as other citizens; however, their participation was limited due to fewer opportunities, minimal access to education, and relative isolation.
Other Societal Abuses and Discrimination
The post-apartheid constitution outlaws discrimination based on sexual orientation, and in December 2006 the country legalized same-sex marriage. There was some societal violence and discrimination against homosexuals, but no reports of official violence or discrimination.
Although the government conducted campaigns to reduce or eliminate discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS, the social stigma associated with HIV/AIDS remained a general problem. There were reports that families and communities abused HIV-infected individuals.
6. Worker Rights
a. The Right of Association
The law allows all workers with the exception of members of the National Intelligence Agency and the Secret Service to form and join unions of their choice without previous authorization or excessive requirements, and these laws were applied. A labor court and labor appeals court enforced these rights. There were slight gains in union membership during the year despite significant job layoffs in heavily unionized sectors of the economy, such as manufacturing. According to a March 2006 labor force survey, 29 percent of the total labor force was unionized.
Although labor laws extend to farm workers, some unions encountered difficulties trying to organize farm workers because union organizers were considered trespassers on private property. In addition, farm workers or residents who attempted to organize were sometimes harassed, dismissed, and evicted. The DOL and unions enlisted the cooperation of AgriSA, the national farmers' organization, to educate farmers about workers' rights and to improve working conditions. The DOL reported in March 2006 that only 8 percent of the 649,000 workers in the agricultural labor force were unionized, a drop of 10 percent in a single year that some observers attributed to recent droughts and poor harvests.
b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively
The law allows unions to conduct their activities without interference. The government protected these rights and workers exercised them. Unions were able to organize workers freely in most sectors (farm workers living on privately-owned farms were an exception), and to bargain collectively by sector. The government sets minimum wages in certain sectors where unions are present but represent only a small proportion of the labor force in that sector.
The law provides for the right to strike, and workers exercised this right. Although members of the SANDF were allowed to join a union, they and other workers considered to be providing an essential service were prohibited from striking. Disputes between workers in essential services and their employers that are not resolved through collective bargaining, independent mediation, or conciliation are referred to arbitration or the labor courts. Despite the prohibition, public sector employees, including essential personnel, went on strike in May and June after the government refused to conclude a minimum staffing agreement. Some employees in essential services received warning letters.
During the May-June public sector employee strike, there were incidents of damage to public property and injuries to persons. Allegations of threats and intimidation were common, as was violence against non-striking workers and students. After settlement of the strike in July, the government insisted that all striking workers who resorted to violence and intimidation would be severely disciplined. However, by year's end all such charges appear to have been dismissed.
There were no export processing zones.
c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
The law prohibits forced or compulsory labor, including by children; however, there were reports that such practices occurred.
d. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment
Child labor is prohibited by law; however, child labor was widespread in informal and agricultural sectors, particularly in the former homeland areas. The government generally enforced child labor laws in the formal sectors of the economy. The death of parents by HIV/AIDS has increased the number of children who have to support themselves and often younger siblings in households headed by children.
The law prohibits employment of a child less than 15 years of age or under the minimum school-leaving age. Children over 15 but under 18 are also prohibited from work that places at risk the child's wellbeing, education, physical or mental health, or spiritual, moral, or social development. Underage children were allowed to work in the performing arts if their employer received DOL permission and agreed to follow specific guidelines.
According to the Survey of Activities of Young People, issued by the DOL in 2002, approximately 800,000 of the country's children older than 10 were working as laborers, either in or outside the home. The study stated that nearly 270,000 children reported having difficulty in school because of work obligations, while 80,000 children reported missing school completely. Among those who claimed that work was damaging their school performance, approximately 21,000 children said they were doing paid labor or working in a family business. Of all child laborers, roughly 92,000 were doing work that violated the country's labor laws. Child laborers, including some from Zimbabwe and Mozambique, worked illegally in the country on commercial farms, for the taxi industry, or as domestic servants.
During the year the DOL employed approximately 1,000 labor inspectors to investigate reports of violations and to enforce existing policies. Violation of laws regulating child employment is punishable by a maximum prison sentence of three years or a fine of $2,135 (15,000 rand). During the year employers were convicted of violating child labor laws and sentenced to fines or up to three years in prison. In some cases, DOL inspectors opted to resolve child labor cases by counseling of employers, parents, and children, or by enlisting the services of professionals in the welfare and education departments. There were reports that inspectors had difficulty gaining access to farms where child labor was reported. In December a farmer in Northwest Province faced prosecution after labor inspectors found 16 children working on his farm.
The government's Child Labor Program of Action integrated the priorities of government ministries to combat child labor. However, the single largest factor in reducing child labor remained the Child Support Grant which was recently increased to nearly $30 (200 rand) per month and covers children up to 14 years old.
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
There was no legally mandated national minimum wage, although the law gives the DOL authority to set wages by sector. Minimum wages were established for the retail sector, farm laborers, domestic workers, and taxi (minibus) drivers. The minimum wage for farm workers was approximately $149 (1041 rand) a month in urban areas and $141 (989 rand) a month in rural areas. The minimum monthly wages for domestic workers employed more than 27 hours per week ranged from $88 (613 rand) to $153 (1068 rand). Depending on the province, compliance with the minimum wage rate generally ranged from 65 to 90 percent, according to 2004 DOL figures. Minimum wages did not provide a decent standard of living for a worker and family; the government undertook other actions to alleviate poverty, including annual above-inflation mandatory wage increases for farm workers, exemptions from school fees, and improved access to health care.
Annual negotiations between employers and employee associations or unions set wage rates on an industry-by-industry or plant-by-plant basis for unionized workers in the formal economy. Such negotiated wages were generally sufficient to provide a decent standard of living for a worker and family; however, this was not the case in sectors where workers were not organized sufficiently to engage in collective bargaining. As a result, many unskilled or rural workers were unable to provide an adequate standard of living for themselves and their families.
The law establishes a 45-hour workweek, standardizes time-and-a-half pay for overtime, and authorizes four months of maternity leave for women. A ministerial determination exempted businesses employing fewer than 10 persons from certain provisions of the law concerning overtime and leave. Farmers and other employers could apply for variations from the law by showing good cause.
The government set occupational health and safety standards through the Department of Minerals and Energy for the mining industry and through the DOL for all other industries. Occupational health and safety issues were a top priority of trade unions, especially in the mining, construction, and heavy manufacturing industries where processes were dangerous and sometimes deadly. The law provides for the right of mine employees to remove themselves from work deemed dangerous to health or safety. In addition, a tripartite mine health and safety council and an inspectorate of mine health and safety were responsible for enforcing the law and monitoring compliance with its provisions. On December 4, miners staged a one-day strike to protest safety conditions following a number of serious accidents. The government ordered a safety inspection of all of the country's 2,800 mines, which was under way at the end of the year. The Department of Minerals and Energy reported preliminary figures showing that there were 221 mining fatalities in 2007, an increase of 11 percent over the previous year.
The law prohibits discrimination against an employee who asserts a right granted by the law and requires mine owners to file annual reports providing statistics on health and safety incidents for each mine.
Other than in the mining industry, there were no laws or regulations that permitted workers to remove themselves from work situations deemed dangerous to their health or safety without risking loss of employment; however, the law provides that employers may not retaliate against employees who disclose dangerous workplace conditions.
Labor conditions were harsh for farm workers, most of whom were black. Many farm owners did not accurately measure working hours. Twelve-hour days were common during harvest time, and few farmers provided overtime benefits. Human Rights Watch reported low wages, a lack of basic services in farm workers' housing, and inadequate education for workers' dependents. Farm owners continued to evict workers legally and illegally. There was a lack of compliance with labor legislation and significant violence and crime against farm workers and farm owners. Health and safety regulations often were not observed when chemicals were used in agricultural work. Trade unions reported that some farm workers continued to be paid at least in part with alcohol and that compliance with wage legislation was spotty.