Cape Town and Pietermaritzburg, 5 October 2016 - Poorly-regulated mining and coal-fired power generation in South Africa are responsible for air and water pollution, destruction of arable land, and biodiversity loss, violating the human rights of many communities, including their rights to life, health, water, food, culture and a healthy environment. Despite the human rights harms of mining and of coal-burning, the South African government is not enforcing the relevant environmental standards, and allows excessive pollution to continue. Government has also allowed the mining industry to be one of the least transparent industries in SA.

This dire situation has increased public opposition to mining projects. Tragically, the response has been a pattern of harassment and violence against opponents exercising their human rights to freedom of expression and assembly. In March 2016, a culture of intimidation and violence around a proposed mine in the Eastern Cape led to the assassination of Sikhosiphi “Bazooka” Rhadebe, a leader of the opposition to the proposed mineral-sands mine near his community. To date, no one has been brought to justice for this crime.

These concerns form the basis of a submission made by a group of civil society organisations to the United Nations’ (UN) Human Rights Council (HRC) on Wednesday 5 October 2016, in preparation for its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of SA, which is set to take place in Geneva, in March 2017.  Entitled: The threats to human rights from mining and coal-fired power production in South Africa, the submission was prepared by seven organisations working for environmental justice in the country, namely: groundWork (gW), the Vaal Environmental Justice Alliance (VEJA), the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA), the Highveld Environmental Justice Network (HEJN), the Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS), the Centre for Environmental Rights (CER), and Earthjustice (EJ).

Unique process

The UPR procedure reviews the human rights records of all 193 UN Member States once every four years. It provides an opportunity for States to describe the actions they have taken to fulfil their international human rights obligations. It also provides the opportunity for civil society and other UN Member States to raise concerns about a country’s human rights track record. Upon completion of each review, the UN HRC provides recommendations for the State to implement.

The joint submission explains that:

Stakeholder recommendations

The submission concludes with a strong call to action to the HRC to make the following recommendations to SA:

For more on the UPR process, previous recommendations received by South Africa, and South Africa’s upcoming review, visit https://www.upr-info.org/en/review/South-Africa.

For comment on the joint civil society submission on The threats to human rights from mining and coal-fired power production in South Africa to the UN’s HRC for its Universal Periodic Review, contact:

Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS)
Louis Snyman, Attorney: Environmental Justice Programme
Email: louis.snyman@wits.ac.za
Mobile: 083 355 6482

Centre for Environmental Rights (CER)
Robyn Hugo, Head: Pollution and Climate Change Programme
Email:  rhugo@cer.org.za
Mobile:  082 389 4357

groundWork (gW)
Bobby Peek, Director
email:  bobby@groundwork.org.za
Mobile:  082 464 1383

Highveld Environmental Justice Network
Anton Doda
Mobile:  073 463 4149

South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA)
Desmond D’ Sa, Co-ordinator
Email:  desmond@sdceango.co.za
Mobile:  083 982 6939

Vaal Environmental Justice Alliance (VEJA)
Samson Mokoena, Co-ordinator
Email:  samson.mokoena@gmail.com
Mobile: 084 291 8510

Earthjustice (EJ)
Martin Wagner, Managing Attorney, International Program
Email:  mwagner@earhjustice.org
Tel: + 1 (415) 217-2000