PRESS RELEASE

Release of NEW Critical Report CHALLENGING GOVERNMENT AND THE CONSTITUTIONAL COURT TO GIVE MEANING TO OUR BILL OF RIGHTS

Pietermaritzburg, Friday 5th November 2004 - Today an insightful report on the Bill of Rights, with specific reference to Section 24, is being launched by groundWork [1] at the Elijah Barayi Memorial Training Centre, 19 Old Harrow Road, Yeoville, JHB at 15:30.

The report will be forwarded to President Thabo Mbeki, the South African Human Rights Commission and the Constitutional Court Judges for their perusal and commentary.

The report, entitled: The groundWork Report 2004 - The Balance of Rights, calls for a new development agenda to be created by our democratically elected government that would deliver environmental justice [2] in South Africa immediately.

This report is a follow up to groundWork's previous two successful annual publications in 2002: Corporate Accountability in South Africa [3] and 2003: Forging the Future: Industrial Strategy and the making of environmental
injustice in South Africa [4].

South Africa's democratic constitutional order was won at considerable cost. However, what has been won is very far from what many South Africans imagined they were fighting for. People are still suffering from the ravages caused by polluting industry, mines and the lack of basic services such as water and clean energy that will ensure environmental justice. The negotiations that guided our transition to democracy was influenced by the institutions of global capital, such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and big business (Shell, Sasol, etc) and the mining conglomerates (Anglo American and Billiton) who still undermine our democracy by polluting our people and neighbourhoods and at times killing our people. The report demonstrates how, as a result, government policies are reproducing environmental injustice.

But these injustices provoke resistance and new social movements have emerged criticising government policy and demanding at the very least that the poor should have somewhere to live, that they should get affordable services and that they should not have to live with pollution. It is now abundantly clear (if it wasn't before) that environmental justice, including delivering on peoples rights, will only be achieved by a fundamental transformation of economic, social and political conditions. This report
argues that post-apartheid struggles over the use and distribution of resources are inherently concerned with environmental justice.

To deliver environmental justice for the peoples of South Africa the production practices of South Africa must be questioned - and this can only be achieved by discussing the impact of production on the people at the fence-line. Part of the task is to bring the environmental justice debate up-front and centre-stage as the basis for securing the material conditions for realising people's rights. The present development paradigm cannot offer us a change to the continuing pollution of our neighbourhoods and the withholding of services in our townships. If the present order cannot deliver on the rights it promises, then people need to turn again not only to the question of what rights they are fighting for, but also to envision and work towards transforming relations of power in society and the economy, in South Africa and the world. This report provides the foundation for this challenge - the demand for environmental justice.

For more information please call:
Ferrial Adam @ 033 342 5662 or 084 484 3387
Bobby Peek @ 033 342 5662 or 082 464 1383

[1] groundWork is and an environmental justice NGO working with community organisations and people in the industrial areas of, the Vaal Triangle, Sasolburg, Secunda, south Durban and Richards Bay to name a few.

[2] Environmental justice is about understanding that 'environment' is about equitable relationships between different sectors of society that would result in the delivery of clean and affordable air, water, energy and land.

[3] See the 2002 groundWork report here.

[4] See the 2003 groundWork Report here.

For copies of the report, please contact the groundWork office on 033-342 5662 or bathoko@groundwork.org.za. Alternatively, the report can be downloaded here.