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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

South Africa


Country Reports on Human Rights Practices
Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor
1999
February 23, 2000
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South Africa is a multiparty parliamentary democracy in which constitutional power is shared between the President and the Parliament, which includes the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces. President Thabo Mbeki leads the African National Congress (ANC) party, which holds 266 seats in the 400-seat National Assembly. The Parliament was elected in free and fair elections on June 2; the Parliament, in turn, elected the President during its first sitting on June 14. The country's governing institutions and society continued to consolidate the democratic transformation initiated by the historic 1994 elections. The Government includes ministers from the African National Congress (ANC) and the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) but is dominated by the ANC, which gained in parliamentary strength in the June elections. The Democratic Party (DP) replaced the New National Party (NNP) as the official opposition in the National Assembly. The judiciary, including the Constitutional Court, is independent.

The South African Police Service (SAPS) has primary responsibility for internal security, although the Government continues to call on the South African National Defense Force (SANDF) to provide support for the SAPS in internal security situations. The 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 understaffed, overworked, and undertrained. The SANDF and the SAPS border control and policing unit share responsibility for external security. The Government formed a Special Directorate of Investigations (SDI), dubbed " the Scorpions," in mid-year to coordinate efforts against organized crime. The civilian authorities generally maintain effective control of the security forces. However, some members of these forces committed human rights abuses.

The economy continues to undergo important fundamental changes as the Government attempts to shift towards the manufacturing and services sectors and away from a historical focus on mining and commodities exports. The gross domestic product is $133 billion, of which manufacturing accounts for 20 percent, services 41 percent, and mining 6.5 percent. Agriculture, though only 5 percent of the gross national product, is an important source of export earnings. Since the fall of apartheid, foreign investors have used the country as a base of operations for economic expansion into the Sub-Saharan region. The economy is driven largely by market forces, although some sectors such as banking and mining remain tightly controlled by a handful of powerful corporations. Although a privatization program is underway, the State holds majority stakes in the telecommunications, transport, and power sectors. The Government's Growth, Employment, and Redistribution macroeconomic program largely has been successful in controlling inflation and instilling discipline in government spending. Ownership of wealth remains highly skewed along racial lines. The disparity between skilled and unskilled workers is considerable, as is the income distribution gap between white and black, and urban and rural citizens. Official unemployment is approximately 25 percent, though figures are debated widely. A significant number of citizens, particularly blacks, are employed in the largely retail-oriented informal sector. The numerous social and economic problems that developed largely during the apartheid era are expected to persist for many years.

The Government generally respected the human rights of its citizens; however, problems remain in several areas. Some members of the security forces committed human rights abuses, including killings due to use of excessive force, and there were deaths in police custody. In addition to killings by security forces, there were more than 200 political and extrajudicial killings, but although political violence remained a problem, it was reduced slightly from 1998 levels, both in KwaZulu-Natal and countrywide. Security forces were responsible for torture, excessive use of force during arrest, and other physical abuse. The Government has taken action to investigate and punish some of those involved. Prisons are seriously overcrowded. The judiciary is overburdened, and lengthy delays in trials and prolonged pretrial detention are problems. Discrimination against women, violence against women and children, and discrimination against the disabled remained serious problems. Child labor, including instances of children forced into prostitution, is a problem. Vigilante violence and mob justice increased during the year. Trafficking in persons is a problem.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), created to investigate apartheid-era human rights abuses, make recommendations for reparations for victims, and grant amnesty for full disclosure of politically motivated crimes, continued its work on a large backlog of amnesty and restitution applications following the release of its 1998 report.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

Section 1 -- Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom From

a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

Police use of lethal force during apprehensions resulted in numerous deaths, and deaths in police custody also remain a problem. The Government's Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD) investigates deaths in police custody and deaths as a result of police action. The ICD reported 450 deaths as a result of police action between January and November. Of these deaths, 192 occurred while in police custody, and 258 occurred as a result of police action. These figures represented a decrease compared with the estimated 789 deaths as a result of police action that occurred in 1998. The ICD's report lists the subcategories under deaths in police custody, which include natural causes, suicide, injuries in custody, injuries prior to custody, and possible negligence. The ICD experienced some resistance to its activities from the SAPS; for example, members of the SAPS refused to appear in identity line-ups or to make statements; however, cooperation on the part of the SAPS reportedly improved by year's end.

In January police opened fire with rubber bullets on a group of protestors with Muslims Against Global Oppression (MAGO) in Cape Town, killing one protestor and injuring several others (see Sections 2.b. and 2.c.).

In October the trial of Dr. Wouter Basson, the head of the chemical warfare program under the former apartheid government, began. Dr. Basson faces 61 charges including 30 counts of murder, fraud, and narcotics trafficking. His trial was ongoing at year's end.

The TRC denied amnesty to the killers of Steve Biko and Chris Hani, and granted it to the killers of Sizwe Kondile, Dr. Fabian Ribeiro, Piet Ntuli and Griffiths Mxenge, and to 10 right-wing activists responsible for a series of bombings that killed 21 persons. Other amnesty applications involving killings remained pending (see Section 4).

In September a black lieutenant killed 6 white officers at an army base in Tempe before he was shot and killed. A Government investigation into the possibility that the shootings were the result of racial tensions on the base was ongoing at year's end.

The South Africa Institute for Race Relations, a nongovernmental organization (NGO) that follows political and extrajudicial killings, reported 204 politically motivated killings during the first 7 months of the year, most of which occurred in the province of KwaZulu-Natal, compared with 219 for the same period in 1998.

On January 23, the general secretary of the United Democratic Movement (UDM), Sifiso Nkabinde, was killed in Richmond, KwaZulu-Natal. Within hours of the killing, ll persons associated with the ANC were killed and several others wounded in what appeared to be a retaliatory attack. Seven persons were arrested in connection with the Nkabinde killing. All seven were denied bail and remained in detention awaiting a trial scheduled for March 2000. One person was arrested for the retaliatory attack--he also was denied bail, and is scheduled to appear in court in March 2000. In March one ANC member and four UDM members were killed in Cape Town; reportedly as the result of both political and economic competition. On November 2, a prominent Zulu leader and ANC member, Prince Cyril Zulu, was killed by unknown persons. It is not known whether this was a politically motivated killing; no suspects were arrested by year's end.

A peace process continued between the IFP and the ANC, the two parties most closely associated with the political violence in KwaZulu-Natal. In May 3 weeks before the general elections, a special provincial bilateral IFP-ANC Peace Committee signed a provincial peace code of conduct. Although violence in KwaZulu-Natal remained higher than in other provinces, resulting in dozens of deaths during the year, there was an improved level of overall tolerance during campaigning and voting, attributable to the IFP-ANC talks as well as an increased police presence. Complaints to the committee concerned primarily posters being removed or defaced, individuals being threatened because of political affiliations, and other incidents of intimidation. There are several theories to explain the violence in KwaZulu-Natal, including a legacy of " warlordism" that fuels interparty conflict, and the actions of criminal elements involved in a Mafia-like illegal trade in drugs, arms, and wildlife. Some have blamed an undefined " third force," which allegedly combines criminal and conservative elements determined to undermine the new political order. Observers warn that the fact that the province has not yet been demilitarized and disarmed promotes the area's violence.

Violence in Richmond was reduced significantly during the year due largely to the replacement in 1998 of the regular police force in the area with a special, larger " public order police" force.

Taxi drivers in crime-ridden neighborhoods were responsible for a continuing series of attacks on rivals. Conflict between warring taxi companies resulted in gun battles and other street violence, frequently resulting in deaths and injuries to bystanders. The SAPS began an investigation of the Cape Town taxi rivalries that caused approximately 13 deaths as of July and a large number of injuries. No arrests were announced at year's end.

Vigilante action and mob justice remained problems. In Northern and Mpumalanga Provinces, a vigilante group called Mapogo A Mathamaga has grown in membership and has opened offices in at least nine cities, including Pretoria. Mapogo members attacked and tortured, including beating with clubs and whips, suspected criminals and drug dealers. Some members of the Cape Town-based People Against Gangsterism and Drugs (PAGAD), an Islamic-oriented, community-based organization that called for stronger action against crime and drugs, engaged in acts of intimidation and violence against suspected drug dealers, gang leaders, and critics of its violent vigilantism. Gun battles erupted between this group and other gangs, but its earlier tactics of mass marches and drive-by shootings largely were replaced by pipe-bomb attacks, none of which resulted in deaths during the year (see Section 1.c.). Homes of suspected drug dealers and gangsters were targeted, as were homes of anti-PAGAD Muslim clerics, academics, and business leaders. In January a high-profile anti-PAGAD task force policeman was killed as he drove home after a police search of a farm suspected of being a hideout for PAGAD-affiliated persons. At year's end, there were 55 cases pending against over 100 PAGAD members in Western Cape courts. In December a court convicted one PAGAD member for murder. Another PAGAD member was acquitted of murder charges amid allegations of witness intimidation, including the killing of a witness.

The murders of farm families in rural parts of the country have received considerable media attention. Between January and March, there were approximately 228 attacks on farms and smallholdings, usually by black assailants, which resulted in 31 killings of farm owners, most of whom were white. There is widespread concern that white farmers are being targeted for racial and political reasons, although no evidence exists that the murders are part of an organized political conspiracy, and statistics indicate that crimes against farmers occur at approximately the same rate as crimes against the general population.

There were incidents of abuse and killings of black farm laborers by their white employers. NGO's claim that rural police and courts refuse to arrest whites in many incidents, and the Human Rights Commission (HRC) criticized the " unfair collusion between the farmers, the police prosecution services, and the magistrates," citing several cases in which farmers attacked their employees without penalty.

There were occasional reports of killings linked to the continued practice of witchcraft in some rural areas. In the Northern Province, where traditional beliefs regarding witchcraft remain strong, officials reported dozens of killings of persons suspected of witchcraft. The Government has instituted educational programs to prevent such actions.

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances caused by government authorities or agents.

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

The Constitution's Bill of Rights prohibits torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment, and provides for the right to be free from all forms of violence from either public or private sources; however, some members of the police tortured and otherwise abused suspects and detainees through beatings and rape. The ICD reported 24 cases of torture and 8 cases of rape perpetrated by security forces between April and November; the Government investigated these allegations and prosecuted some offenders. In April the British Broadcasting Corporation broadcast a documentary that showed police officers beating and abusing four suspected criminals. Two of the officers were suspended and a trial against them was ongoing at year's end. There also were reports of police abuse of detainees awaiting deportation (see Section 2.d.). Broad efforts to reform police practices have reduced such activities substantially, and the ICD investigates reports of police misconduct and corruption (see Section 1.a.). NGO's continued to conduct human rights education programs for the SAPS. In 1993 the SAPS Training Division initiated a human rights program and has trained 6,000 NGO and SAPS instructors who are, in turn, expected to train 90,000 police officers through 2001.

In January police opened fire with rubber bullets on a group of MAGO protesters who attempted to attack a government building in Cape Town, killing one protester and injuring several others (see Sections 1.a., 2.b., and 2.c.). In April police fired rubber bullets at teen-age protestors who were marching to a political rally. In August police used rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse a group of students whose peaceful demonstration led to looting (see Section 2.b.).

Following the killing of an anti-PAGAD task force police officer in January (see Section 1.a.), police, while searching the homes of two senior PAGAD members, allegedly roughed-up the son of PAGAD's national coordinator.

In 1998 police at a Guguletu police station severely beat a Cape Town journalist, Thabo Mabaso, after he went to the station to report a traffic accident. The officers responsible were initially suspended, then reinstated and transferred to another police station pending their trial scheduled for February 2000.

Security personnel in detention centers beat refugees and robbed them of money and personal belongings (see Section 2.d.)

The SAPS continued to undergo sweeping, mostly positive changes, including the institution of reforms designed to create partnerships between local police forces and the communities that they serve. The SAPS finalized the merger of the country's 11 former police forces into a single organization. Resignations and retirements of senior police officials have permitted the infusion of new personnel at senior levels, from both inside and outside the SAPS; these appointments also have served to further affirmative action within the SAPS. However, the SAPS has been left with deficiencies in midlevel leadership, and an institutional memory that has been harmful to its overall performance. The SAPS continued to be understaffed, overworked, and undertrained. The first intake of new recruits since 1994 occurred in 1998.

The TRC granted amnesty to apartheid-era government officials responsible for the 1988 bombing of Khotso House in which 20 persons were injured, and to Jeffrey Benzien, a former police officer responsible for torturing anti-apartheid activists (see Section 4).

There were a number of bombings during the year, which resulted in numerous casualties, including at least 80 pipe-bomb explosions in Cape Town for which no organization claimed responsibility. For example, in January a pipe-bomb exploded at the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront injuring 3 persons, and another pipe-bomb exploded at the downtown headquarters of the Cape Town police, injuring 11 persons. In November a pipe-bomb exploded at a crowded Cape Town beachfront restaurant injuring 48 persons. On December 23 a bomb exploded outside of a Cape Town restaurant injuring seven police officers. In December, the national coordinator of PAGAD, his wife, and two other members of PAGAD were arrested and charged with, among other things, possession of equipment for explosive devices; however, none of the charges specifically were in connection with the bombings. The wife was released on bail, and trials were ongoing at year's end.

There were incidents of abuse, including killings, of black farm laborers by their white employers, and NGO's claim that rural police and courts refuse to arrest whites in many incidents (see Section 1.a).

Vigilante action and mob justice resulted in attacks on suspected criminals and drug dealers, some of whom were tortured (see Section 1.a.).

Xenophobia is a growing problem. There were a number of violent attacks on foreigners, particularly refugees and asylum seekers. In December 1998, the U.N. High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR), the National Consortium on Refugee Affairs, and the HRC launched a campaign called " Roll Back Xenophobia" to raise public awareness of the situation and rights of refugees and the difference between refugees and economic migrants. The campaign has produced several publications and organized several public relations events.

The trial of two suspects arrested for a series of bombings in January 1997, including a mosque in Rustenberg that injured two persons, was ongoing at year's end (see Section 5).

Prison conditions generally meet minimum international standards; however, overcrowding remains a serious problem.

In 1997 the Government commissioned the first of several planned " C-MAX" prisons in Pretoria. C-MAX prisons are designed to hold the country's most dangerous criminals. Human rights groups have raised serious concerns regarding C-MAX facilities, including the Government's criteria for transferring prisoners from other prisons to a C-MAX facility and the restrictive, solitary conditions of the prisons themselves. No additional C-MAX prisons had begun operations by year's end.

Parliament passed legislation in late 1998 to restructure the prison service and bring prison law in line with the Constitution. Parts of the Correctional Services Act went into effect in February, but the sections relating to treatment of prisoners still had not been implemented at year's end. A Judicial Inspectorate for prisons began operations during the year, and a number of civilian prison visitors were appointed throughout the country.

Juveniles between the ages of 14 and 18 accused of serious crimes, including murder or rape, sometimes are placed in pretrial detention in prisons with adult offenders (see Section 5).

The Government permits independent monitoring of prison conditions, including visits by human rights organizations.

d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The Bill of Rights prohibits detention without trial, and the Government generally respects this right in practice. It also provides that every detained person has the right to be informed promptly of the reasons for the detention; to be advised promptly of the right to remain silent and the consequences of waiving that right; to be charged within 48 hours of arrest; to be detained in conditions of human dignity; to consult with legal counsel at every stage of the legal process; to communicate with relatives, medical practitioners, and religious counselors; and to be released (with or without bail) unless the interests of justice require otherwise.

Courts and police generally respected these rights; however, there was a growing problem with bringing detainees to trial expeditiously. According to the HRC, prisoners wait on average for 6 months to be tried in the regional courts and 6 months to 1 year in the high courts; however, in extreme cases detention can extend up to 2 years. This problem primarily is the result of an understaffed, underfunded, and overburdened judiciary (both magistrates and prosecutors), with more cases than can be handled efficiently (see Section 1.e.). Parliament passed laws in 1997 mandating minimum sentences and refusing bail in most cases for certain serious offenses, which raised concern among some human rights groups about judicial independence and civil liberties (see Section 1.e.).

There were no reports of forced exile.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The Constitution provides for an independent and impartial judiciary subject only to the Constitution and the law, and the Government respects this provision in practice.

Under the Constitution, the Constitutional Court is the highest court for interpreting and deciding constitutional issues, while the Supreme Court of Appeal is the highest court for interpreting and deciding other legal matters. Generally magistrates' courts and high courts are the courts of original jurisdiction in criminal cases.

Judges try criminal cases. The jury system was abolished in 1969. The presiding judge or magistrate determines guilt or innocence. In 1998 Parliament passed the Magistrates Court Amendment Act, which made it compulsory to have a panel of lay assessors hear cases along with a magistrate in 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 are required to use their discretion in using assessors in an advisory capacity in bail applications and sentencing. The Office of the National Director of Public Prosecutions (the so-called super Attorney General) exercises national control over prosecution policy, and applies a consistent national policy for the prosecution of offences. In 1998 Parliament established nine provincial directors and offices to coordinate and streamline prosecutions.

The Bill of Rights provides for due process, including the right to a fair, public trial within a reasonable time of 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." In practice the law functions as intended. However, a general lack of information on the part of accused persons regarding their rights to legal representation, and the Government's inability to pay the cost of those services are continuing problems. There was public concern about the capacity of the criminal justice system to deal with the high level of crime, as well as the continuing political violence in KwaZulu-Natal and elsewhere. The resurgence of vigilante justice (see Sections 1.a. and 1.c.) reflects these concerns.

In 1997 parliament passed laws that provided minimum sentencing guidelines and provided for the refusal of bail in most cases for certain serious offenses. Some human rights groups expressed concern with parts of these new laws, stating that they would harm judicial independence and limit civil liberties. The law mandating minimum sentences came into force in 1998 and was used in December in the sentencing of a PAGAD member on charges of murder (see Section 1.a.) However, in October a Cape Town High Court Judge, when exercising his discretion, chose not to follow minimum sentencing guidelines in a rape case. The new bail law was upheld by the Constitutional Court.

The Government and legal bodies have acted to redress historic racial and gender imbalances in the judiciary and the bar. The ranks of judges, magistrates, senior counsels, and attorneys are more reflective of society, although they still fall far short of a representative composition. On August 30, the Justice Minister criticized the judiciary for retaining vestiges of apartheid. He noted that the High and Constitutional Courts still were staffed mostly by whites--of 187 judges, 142 are white--and had light caseloads, while the Magistrates courts were " hopelessly underresourced."

There were no reports of political prisoners.

f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence

The Constitution prohibits such practices, government authorities generally respect these prohibitions, and violations are subject to effective legal sanction. In 1994 the Redistribution of Land Rights Act established the Constitutional Land Court and the Commission on Restitution of Land Rights. The Court's mission is to settle cases previously vetted and evaluated by the Commission. Claims only can be filed for land dispossessions following the promulgation of the Natives Land Act of 1913, although this does not include dispossessions that occurred in 1913, which marked the year of the Government's most significant land redistribution in favor of whites. The various forms of compensation offered to claimants are the return of the original land, a deed to another piece of land, financial remuneration, or preferential access to government housing. A deadline of December 31, 1998, was set for receiving claims. There is no deadline for completion of the claim settlements, and the pace at which cases are moving is slow. As of December 1998, 63,455 cases had been received, of which 4,000 were accepted and are under investigation. Only 795 claims had been resolved by year's end. A provision passed by Parliament in late 1997, which allows the Ministry of Land Affairs to offer settlements without first going to court, has expedited the resolution process.

Section 2 -- Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution provides for freedom of speech and of the press, and the Government respects these rights in practice. However, these rights can be limited by law under some circumstances. Several apartheid-era laws that remain in force pose a potential threat to the media. In addition, the Constitution bans the advocacy of hatred based on race, ethnicity, gender, or religion, and that constitutes incitement to cause harm. Nevertheless, the press freely criticized both the Government and the opposition.

Several laws from the apartheid era remain in effect that permit the Government to restrict the publication of information about the police, the national defense forces, prisons, and mental institutions. While these laws have not been enforced regularly, journalists perceive them to be a threat to the freedom of the press. Another law, the Criminal Procedure Act, could be used to compel reporters to reveal their sources. In June the South African National Editors' Forum (SANEF) launched a media campaign to compel changes to legislation that restrict the free flow of information. In July SANEF and the Government reached an informal agreement to introduce safeguards to prevent the use of the Criminal Procedure Act against journalists; however, in September the ICD stated that the Provincial Director of Public Prosecutions decided to invoke a section of the Criminal Procedure Act against an unnamed person. The Act reportedly was not invoked officially during the year; however, SANEF continues to push for a formal amendment of the Act that would ensure this agreement.

The Government used both legislative and structural means to encourage greater racial, ethnic, and gender diversity in the ranks of the media. The media offer a broad range of news, opinion, and analysis. Coverage of news and expression of opinion is vigorous. However, high-ranking government officials on occasion have reacted sharply to media criticism of government programs and problems, going so far as to accuse journalists, particularly black journalists, of disloyalty. A few journalists fear that the Government would like to control the media. A larger number of journalists believe that the Government's sensitivity and its reaction to criticism cause self-censorship in the media.

Three publishing conglomerates own 80 percent of the newspapers in South Africa. All newspapers except one are independent. The independent Sowetan had the greatest circulation with an estimated readership of 1.2 million. Print media reaches only about 20 percent of the population due to illiteracy, the lack of newspapers in rural areas, and the cost of newspapers. The majority of the population receive the news through radio broadcasts.

The state-owned South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) continues to own and control the majority of the television and radio outlets. In December the SABC became a limited company increasing the potential for private ownership and greater editorial independence; the process of splitting the corporation into commercial and public services is scheduled to begin in April 2000. The SABC is managed by black citizens, provides broadcasting in the country's main African languages, and offers balanced news coverage of the Government and the leading opposition parties. The SABC maintains editorial independence from the Government; however, the summary dismissal of several of the SABC's most senior journalists in late 1998 and early in the year raised concern about its tolerance for dissenting voices. During the period preceding the June elections, a number of opposition leaders accused the SABC of marginalizing their parties in its coverage of the campaign; however, the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA), the government agency that regulates broadcasters, ruled that there was no evidence of biased reporting by the SABC.

The first commercial television station, E-TV, began broadcasting in October 1998. Most of E-TV's schedule consists of newscasts and foreign-produced programs. Majority ownership of E-TV is held by Midi Television, a black-owned consortium composed of a number of South African associations and syndicates representing workers, women, and disabled persons.

In addition to E-TV, the SABC competed with two pay-per-view broadcasters, M-NET and Multichoice, several commercial radio broadcasters, and a large number of low-power, not-for-profit community radio stations. The IBA has issued more than 100 community radio licenses since 1994; many of the licensees continue to experience startup and personnel-retention problems. Nevertheless, community radio provides radio access for the first-time to thousands of historically marginalized citizens, providing special event information and news tailored for specific interest groups.

In 1997 a black-owned consortium acquired control of the country's leading black-oriented newspaper, the Sowetan, and of a major, traditionally white-oriented publishing business, Times Media Limited. These acquisitions made inroads into the historic monopoly of white citizens over the print and electronic media. Black citizens also are gaining access to the media through community radio and in upper level management positions at the SABC. In the spring, the HRC launched an investigation into racism in the media; the investigation focused journalists on the issue of subliminal racism, while creating some concern that it would have an intimidating effect on freedom of the press. The HRC monitored the media to assess whether allegations of racism are used to co-opt black journalists and to pressure white journalists into changing their reporting. The HRC's final report was delayed pending public hearings on the report scheduled for March 2000.

In a landmark judgement in September 1998, the Supreme Court ruled that if journalists could prove that they had taken all the steps necessary to verify that the information they obtained was genuine and the articles published as a consequence were reasonable and not negligent in their reporting of the facts, journalists would not be liable if the information obtained was defamatory.

There are several government agencies with media-related responsibilities. The IBA, created in 1994 to dismantle the Government's monopoly of electronic media and serve as a regulatory agency for the broadcast media, lost some of its independence in 1998 when it was placed under the Minister of Post, Telecommunications, and Broadcasting. The Board of Censors reviews and passes judgment on written and graphic materials published in or imported into the country. The Board has the power to edit or ban books, magazines, movies, and videos. It regularly exercises that power, although with restraint. The Government Communications and Information Services, coordinates and facilitates communications with the citizenry through its Directorate for Media Diversity and Development, which began operations in March.

There are no restrictions on academic freedom.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Constitution provides for freedom of assembly, and the Government generally respects this right in practice.

In January in Cape Town, the Government denied MAGO, a group believed to be associated with the radical Islamic-based political group Qibla, a permit to march in protest of U.S. and British air strikes against Iraq. Despite the denial, MAGO members demonstrated on January 7 and 8 and attempted to attack a government building in which a foreign dignitary was speaking. In attempts to disperse the demonstration, police arrested several protesters and opened fire on the protesters with rubber bullets, killing one protester and injuring several others. On January 13, the Government denied a permit to Qibla to demonstrate against Israel's occupation of Jerusalem on the last Friday of Ramadan; however, a magistrate overturned the denial and Qibla was permitted to march.

In April police fired rubber bullets at a group of teenage protestors who were marching to a political rally in Umtata to commemorate the fifth anniversary of South Africa's first democratic elections (see Section 1.c). In August a group of secondary school students marched in protest of an ongoing labor dispute between teachers and the government. When some of the marchers began looting and vandalizing property, the police used teargas and rubber bullets to disperse the demonstration (see Section 1.c.).

The Constitution provides for freedom of association, and the Government respects this right in practice.

c. Freedom of Religion

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government respects this right in practice.

Members of PAGAD complained that they were the target of police brutality. There was no indication that police targeted PAGAD members for investigation because of their religious affiliation. Some religious communities believe that the Government is too lenient in regards to PAGAD.

In January the Government denied MAGO, a group believed to be associated with the radical Islamic-based political group Qibla, a permit to march(see Section 2.b.). MAGO members demonstrated despite the denial; police arrested several protesters, and fired rubber bullets that killed one protestor and injured several others (see Sections 1.a. and 1.c.). Also in January, the Government denied a permit to Qibla to demonstrate; however, a magistrate overturned the denial (see Section 2.b.)

d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

The Constitution provides for these rights, and the Government respects them in practice.

The law does not contain provisions for the granting of refugee or asylee status in accordance with the 1951 U.N. Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol. In November 1998, the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces passed the Refugees Act--framework legislation that codified the country's obligations under the U.N. Convention and its Protocol; however, the act had not gone into effect by year's end. The Refugees Act stipulates that no persons shall be expelled, extradited, or returned to any other country if they face persecution due to race, religion, or political affiliation, or when " his or her life, physical safety, or freedom would be threatened." The act also stipulates that designated refugees lose their status if they voluntarily return to their country of origin, take citizenship of another country, or if the circumstances that caused their flight from the country of origin change. However, the act stipulates that in order to renew their temporary residency permits, asylum seekers must return to the town in which they originally lodged their application to be recognized as refugees. Permits that are lost, stolen, or destroyed are not renewed. If found without a valid permit, asylum seekers are subject to arrest, detention, and deportation. However, until the Act goes into effect, the more restrictive Alien's Control Act of 1991 remains in effect. The Alien's Control Act does not differentiate between refugees and aliens, and does not take into account commitments made by Government in signing international conventions governing the treatment of refugees.

The Government cooperates with the UNHCR and other humanitarian organizations in assisting refugees. The Government provides first asylum, granting applicants the right to work and study. There were 9,536 applications for refugee status submitted during the year. Of those applications, 524 were accepted, 3,185 were rejected, and 1,193 were cancelled. The rest still were outstanding at year's end. Recognized refugees include refugees from Angola, Burundi, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Republic of Congo, Liberia, Somalia, and Sudan.

About 70 percent of the thousands of illegal immigrants deported during the year came from Mozambique. Illegal immigrants are processed for deportation at a central facility, and sent back to Mozambique and Zimbabwe by weekly trains. Inadequate security on the trains allows many deportees to jump from the train en route, perpetuating the illegal immigration problem. Despite numerous procedural safeguards, efforts to combat a mounting illegal immigration problem occasionally resulted in the wrongful deportation of aliens legally in the country. However, no persons were returned forcibly to countries where they feared persecution. There also were credible reports of overcrowded, unhygienic detention facilities; beatings by security personnel in detention centers; and the theft of money and personal possessions from refugees by security personnel.

Xenophobia led to a number of violent attacks on foreigners, particularly refugees and asylum seekers (see Section 1.c.).

Section 3 -- Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government

Citizens exercised the right to change their government in June elections that observers deemed to be free and fair. There was an improved level of overall tolerance during the campaigning and voting period over the 1994 elections, attributable to IFP-ANC talks, as well as an increased police presence. Complaints primarily concerned posters being removed or defaced, individuals being threatened because of political affiliation, and other incidents of intimidation.

The new Constitution went into effect in February 1997. Under its terms, the country retains a bicameral parliament, an executive state presidency, and an independent judiciary, including a constitutional court.

The 400-member National Assembly was retained under the Constitution. A National Council of Provinces (NCOP), consisting of six permanent and four rotating delegates from each of the nine provinces, replaced the former Senate as the second chamber of Parliament. The NCOP, created to give a greater voice to provincial interests, must approve legislation that involves shared national and provincial competencies according to a schedule in the Constitution. An 18-member Council of Traditional Leaders, which the Constitution accords an advisory role in matters of traditional law and authority, was inaugurated in 1997.

Two parties, the ANC and the IFP, continued to share executive power, although the ANC dominated the Government and gained in parliamentary strength in the June elections. The ANC fills 24 of the 27 cabinet positions. In June the ANC leader, President Thabo Mbeki, succeeded Nelson Mandela as Head of State. As a result of the June elections, the Democratic Party (DP) replaced the New National Party (NNP) as the official opposition in the National Assembly. In addition to the ANC, IFP, DP, and NNP, the National Assembly includes the UDM, the African Christian Democratic Party, the Freedom Front, the Pan Africanist Congress, the United Christian Democratic Party, the Federal Alliance, the Afrikaner Unity Movement, the Azanian People's Organization, and the Minority Front.

There are no legal impediments to women's participation in government; however, women are underrepresented in government and politics. Of the 400 National Assembly members 119 are women, while in the NCOP, 17 of the 54 permanent delegates are women. Women currently occupy three of four parliamentary presiding officer positions (speaker and deputy speaker of the National Assembly, chair of the NCOP). Women hold 8 of 27 ministerial positions, as well as 8 of 13 deputy ministerial slots.

Section 4 -- Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights

Human rights groups operate without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials generally are cooperative and responsive to their views. Many organizations participate in governmental bodies that seek to gather public input and to fashion policies related to human rights.

The government-created HRC is tasked with promoting the observance of fundamental human rights at all levels of government and throughout the general population. The HRC also has the power to conduct investigations, issue subpoenas, and hear testimony under oath. While commissioners were named in late 1995, the HRC's powers were not determined formally until May 1996. Its operations have been hampered by red tape, budgetary concerns, the absence of civil liberties legislation, several high-level staff resignations, and concerns about the HRC's broad interpretation of its mandate.

The Office of the Public Protector investigates abuse and mismanagement by the Government, and acts as an office of last resort where citizens report unfair treatment by government organizations. Such complaints generally take the form of concerns over lost pension checks or unfair hiring practices. The office handles an increasing number of complaints but is hampered by severe resource constraints.

Under its 1995 enabling legislation, the TRC was empowered to look into apartheid-era gross human rights abuses committed between 1960 and 1994, to grant amnesty to perpetrators of a broad range of politically motivated crimes, and to recommend compensation for victims of human rights abuses. Due to the volume of work, the TRC's original 2-year mandate was extended to allow the continuation of amnesty hearings, and the TRC continued to operate freely throughout its fourth year. Its 5-volume report was released in 1998, and a codicil is to be added upon completion of the amnesty process. In its report, the TRC found that apartheid was a crime against humanity, that the former apartheid regime was responsible for most of the human rights abuses during the era of its rule, and that the ANC and other liberation movements also committed abuses during their armed struggle. Following a court challenge in 1998, findings on former State President F.W. De Klerk were excised from the report, pending a hearing that has yet to be scheduled. Former President P.W. Botha was subpoenaed to testify in the TRC's amnesty hearings but refused and was convicted of contempt in 1998. In June the Cape Town High Court overturned his conviction on procedural grounds.

By January approximately 7,120 amnesty applications had been filed with the TRC. By year's end 700 cases remained outstanding, 300 of which remained unheard. An estimated 80 to 90 percent of all applications were from persons already incarcerated. In October the TRC began amnesty hearings on 10 former members of the Umkhonto we Sizwe, the armed wing of the ANC, for their role in a series of bar bombings in Durban in 1986. A decision still was pending at year's end. A decision on amnesty for the killer of ANC activist Ruth First still was pending. The applications for amnesty by the killers of South African Communist Party (SACP) leader Chris Hani and black consciousness leader Steve Biko were denied. Amnesty was granted to the killers of human rights lawyer Griffiths Mxenge, anti-apartheid activist Sizwe Kondile, ANC member Dr. Fabian Ribeiro, and minister Piet Ntuli, and to Jeffrey Benzien, a former police officer who tortured anti-apartheid activists. In December the TRC granted amnesty to 10 right-wing activists responsible for a series of bombings, which killed 21 persons and wounded almost 200, leading up to the 1994 elections. The TRC granted amnesty to a former Minister of Law and Order, Adriaan Vlok; the former Commissioner of Police, General Johan van der Merwe; the former head of the Vlakplaas police unit, Eugene de Kock; and 16 others for their roles in the 1988 bombing of Khotso house, a church headquarters in Johannesburg, which injured more than 20 persons. The TRC is still considering Vlok's amnesty applications for other offenses. The TRC granted amnesty to all applicants in the bombing of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) House. The TRC granted amnesty to De Kock and General John Coetzee, head of the Security Branch from 1980 to 1983 and National Police Chief from 1983 to 1987, for their roles in the bombing of ANC offices in London in 1982. In December De Kock was granted amnesty for his role in the murder of the " Cradock Four" in 1985. In 1998 a Cape Town High Court overturned a blanket amnesty from the TRC for 38 high-profile ANC leaders, declaring there was no provision in the law for group amnesties. Twenty-nine of the leaders resubmitted individual amnesty applications, which the Committee declared to be invalid in March because the applications did not provide details of specific acts for which amnesty was being requested.

The TRC report called for a reconciliation summit to be scheduled during the year, but had not received a formal response from the Government by year's end. The TRC also called for increased counseling services for victims of trauma, and consideration of a mechanism for restitution, such as a wealth tax. The Cabinet and Parliament have yet to approve the TRC's recommendations for an overall payment formula for reparations, which include monetary compensation as well as community support and legal and symbolic reparations. The Government had not resolved any of these matters by year's end; however, the processing of financial reparation applications from eligible victims continued through year's end. In 1998 interim assistance was given to those considered to be in the greatest financial difficulty. The TRC officially expressed concern regarding delays in implementing reparation measures along with doubt about the level of government support for reparation funding.

In March the Director of Public Prosecutions revealed that his office had established a special unit to set up a process for proceeding against those who had failed to ask for amnesty or to whom amnesty had been denied. The unit would establish uniform criteria on which cases should be prosecuted; the criteria would include the strength of evidence available as well as the " implications for national reconciliation." The case against Dr. Basson is the first, and at year's end only, case to be pursued by this unit (see Section 1.a.).

Section 5 -- Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status

The Constitution prohibits discrimination on grounds of race, religion, disability, ethnic or social origin, color, age, culture, language, sex, pregnancy, or marital status. Legal recourse is available to those who believe that they have been discriminated against; however, entrenched attitudes and practices, as well as limited resources, limit the practical effect of these protections.

Women

There is a high rate of violence against women including rape, assault and battery, and domestic violence. Approximately 23,900 women reported being raped between January and June. Police sources believe that a majority of rapes still are unreported. Entrenched patriarchal attitudes towards women are a significant factor in underreporting. Abused women have difficulty getting their cases prosecuted effectively and also often are treated poorly by doctors, police, and judges.

The Domestic Violence Act, passed by Parliament in 1998 and enacted in December, defines victims of domestic violence, facilitates the serving of protection orders on abusers, provides places of safety for victims, allows police to seize firearms at the scene and arrest abusers without a warrant, and compels medical, educational, and other practitioners working with children to report abuse immediately. The Prevention of Family Violence Act of 1993 defines marital rape as a criminal offense, and it allows women to obtain injunctions against their abusive husbands and partners in a simpler, less expensive, and more effective manner than under previous legislation. However, the implementation process is inadequate, as the police generally are unwilling to enforce the act. As a consequence, a limited number of women pressed complaints under the law, despite government and NGO efforts to increase public awareness of it. Parliament began considering additional legislation to remedy these and other defects.

While some progress has been made, the number of shelters for battered women remained insufficient. The SAPS continued to operate new units that deal specifically with domestic violence, child protection, and sexual violence, and which are intended, in part, to increase victims' confidence in the police, thereby leading to increased reporting of such crimes. However, these units often were hampered by a lack of training among officers.

Discrimination against women remains a serious problem despite legal and constitutional protections, particularly in areas such as wages, extension of credit, and access to land. Progress was made in bringing customary law in line with constitutional provisions. The Recognition of Customary Marriages Bill, passed by Parliament in 1998, recognizes customary marriages, both monogamous and polygynous, but it does not address religious marriages, which are not recognized under law; however, the bill was not enacted into law by year's end. The bill includes a number of safeguards for women and children, including requiring a minimum age of 18 and the consent of both spouses to enter into such marriages and a court decree to dissolve them. The bill also addresses inequities of property arrangements under some customary laws. The 1998 Maintenance Bill, which, except for one section, was enacted into law in November, tightens procedures for child support payments and improves the ability of caregivers, most of whom are women, to collect maintenance payments from partners. Other legislation, such as the Employment Equity Act, and the Basic Conditions of Employment Act, counter discrimination against women in the workplace. The 1997 Interim Protection of Informal Land Act protects persons who have insecure and informal rights and interests in land; many women are in this category. There are 12 known women's private investment companies in the country.

A number of governmental and nongovernmental organizations monitor and promote women's rights. The Office on the Status of Women, located in the Deputy President's office, coordinates departmental gender desks, which develop strategies to ensure integration of gender concerns in policy and planning. The Commission on Gender Equality (CGE), a constitutionally mandated body, is authorized to investigate allegations of gender discrimination and make recommendations to Parliament on any legislation affecting women. As with some of the other statutory watchdog bodies, the CGE continued to be hampered by a lack of funding. The Women's National Coalition, an umbrella organization of women's groups from labor, political parties, trade unions, and religious, cultural, and professional bodies, monitors and promotes women's equity and issues of interest to women.

Polygyny continues to be practiced by several ethnic groups. Exacting a bride price (" lobola" ) also is a traditional practice of some ethnic groups.

Children

The Constitution stipulates that children have the right " to security, education, basic nutrition, and basic health and social services." The Government remains committed to providing these services and has made some progress toward developing the mechanisms for delivering them, including improvements in the provision of education and a campaign against child abuse. However, the demand for such services far outstrips the resources available.

The Schools Act and the National Education Policy Act, passed by Parliament in 1996, provide 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 7 to 15 and ensures that children cannot be refused admission to public schools due to a lack of funds. Approximately 95 percent of school-age children are enrolled in school. The school funding formula, based on norms and standards tied to physical resources and performance, devotes 75 percent of nonpersonnel resources toward the 40 percent most needy schools. However, the availability and quality of primary schooling still is a problem, especially in rural areas where schools may not be easily accessible or children may have to work (see Section 6.d.). To address this problem, the Government is building many new schools, introducing basic skills development and prevocational training into the curriculum and, in some cases, developing plans to provide food for disadvantaged children.

Student populations on university campuses are becoming more representative of the general population, with previously all-white universities reaching out to recruit students from black and colored communities. The enrollment of black students has risen to between 30 and 40 percent at prestigious universities, including the University of Pretoria.

Social programs known as " Presidential Initiatives," which were included in the former Reconstruction and Development Program, continued to receive government support. These initiatives offer free health care to pregnant women and to children under 6 years of age and provide nutritious meals for primary school children.

In December a Cape Town High Court ruled that children in squatter camps have a constitutional right to housing, and thus, are entitled to state-provided shelter. The High Court also ruled that children have a constitutional right to family, and therefore, have the right to be accompanied by their parents in state-provided shelter. The Government requested leave to appeal the case to the Constitutional Court due to the significant resource implications of this ruling.

Violence against children remains widespread. While there has been increased attention to the problem by the Government, the public, and the media, a lack of coordinated and comprehensive strategies to deal with such crimes continues to impede the delivery of needed services to young victims. Reports of child rape have increased significantly, as have reports that men are committing rape due to a growing myth that having sexual intercourse with a virgin can cure HIV/AIDS.

Traditional circumcision rituals still are practiced on teenage boys in rural areas of the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal and resulted in the hospitalization, mutilation, or death of several youths.

Child prostitution is on the rise, primarily in Cape Town, Durban, and Johannesburg. There reportedly has been an increase in the number of children who live on the streets, and observers believe that this has contributed to the growing number of child prostitutes. The child sex industry increasingly has become organized, with children either being forced into prostitution or exploited by their parents to earn money for the family. In March the Parliament passed the Child Care Amendment Bill, which prohibits the commercial sexual exploitation of children. The Bill is scheduled to be implemented in January 2000.

Female genital mutilation (FGM), which is widely condemned by international health experts as damaging to both physical and psychological health, still is practiced in some rural areas of the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal, although it is not thought to be widespread. There is no legislation that addresses FGM; however, a person who subjects another to FGM is subject to the common-law offense of assault.

Parliament passed legislation in 1995 prohibiting the detention of unconvicted juveniles in prisons, police cells, or lock-ups. A 1996 law gave courts limited discretion to detain in prison 14 to 18-year-old children who were awaiting trial for serious crimes such as murder or rape. The measure was expected to be temporary pending the establishment of " places of safety" for the detention of juveniles. However, due to delays in the establishment of such centers, provisions of the 1996 law lapsed in 1998. Amid concerns that dangerous juvenile offenders were being released to return to the streets, additional legislation was passed in 1998 to regulate limited pretrial detention of juvenile offenders accused of serious crimes. The law states that any child under the age of 14 must be released within 24 hours into the custody of a parent or guardian when possible.

People With Disabilities

The Constitution prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability. Society is increasingly open to the concept of persons with disabilities as a minority whose civil rights must be protected. The Government attempts to ensure that all government-funded projects take account of the needs of disabled citizens. However, in practice government and private sector discrimination against the disabled in employment still exists. According to an NGO, the Affirmative Action Monitor, fewer than two-thirds of companies target the disabled as part of their affirmative action programs. The law mandates access to buildings for the disabled, but such regulations rarely are enforced, and public awareness of them remains minimal. The Employment Equity Act requires private firms with more than 50 workers to create an affirmative action plan with provisions for achieving employment equity for the disabled. The National Environmental Accessibility Program, an NGO comprising disabled consumers as well as service providers, has established a presence in all nine provinces in order to lobby for compliance with the regulations and to sue offending property owners when necessary.

Religious Minorities

Relations between the various religious communities generally are amicable. However, there is a concern among Christians about the perceived growing influence of Islam. Reports of violence perpetrated by PAGAD have fueled these concerns.

PAGAD portrays itself as a community organization opposed to crime, gangsterism, and drugs; however, it is known for its violent vigilantism (see Section 1.a.). PAGAD also claims to be a multifaith movement, even though its orientation is Islamic and the vast majority of its members are Muslim. PAGAD is most active in the Western Cape, but also has branches elsewhere in the country. Surveys indicated that some two-thirds of Muslims supported PAGAD soon after its inception in 1995, but that figure has dropped significantly since; the vast majority of Muslims no longer support PAGAD. While PAGAD continues to lose support when it is linked to violent acts, it gains sympathy when high-profile incidents occur that are perceived by the Muslim community to have been acts of discrimination against Muslims.

PAGAD members disrupted prayers at mosques led by anti-PAGAD clerics. PAGAD also targeted the homes of anti-PAGAD Muslim clerics, academics, and business leaders.

In January 1997, a mosque in Rustenberg was bombed in a series of bombings that also struck a post office and general store and injured two persons. Authorities arrested two suspects for the bombings, but their trials still were pending at year's end.

In December 1998, a synagogue in Wynberg was bombed. Four suspects have been arrested, and their trials still were pending at year's end.

Indigenous People

The Constitution provides for the recognition of " the institution, status, and role of traditional leadership," and requires the courts to " apply customary law when that is applicable, subject to the Constitution and any legislation that specifically deals with customary law."

The Constitution further permits legislation for the establishment of provincial houses of traditional leaders and a National Council of Traditional Leaders, to deal with matters relating to traditional leadership, the role of traditional leaders, indigenous and customary law, and the customs of communities that observe a system of customary law. Six provinces have established houses of traditional leaders. Under the terms of the Constitution and implementing legislation, the National Council of Traditional Leaders was inaugurated in 1997. The Council is to advise the Government on matters related to traditional authorities and customary law. However, much work remains to be done to integrate traditional leadership and customary law into the formal legal and administrative system.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The Constitution and Bill of Rights prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, ethnic or social origin, and culture. The Government continued efforts to reorganize and redesign the educational, housing, and health care systems to benefit all racial and ethnic groups in society more equally. The Government has instituted an effective affirmative action program, and, under the Employment Equity Act, also requires private firms with more than 50 employees to institute affirmative action programs. According to a 1996 Department of Labor survey, 82 percent of private sector firms already have instituted affirmative action programs.

According to the Affirmative Action Monitor, affirmative action policies have had little impact on the top echelons in business. Based on a consultants' survey in 1996, one-third of the organizations with no affirmative action program did not intend to implement one. Twelve percent of the companies surveyed stated that they had experienced a drop in standards or deterioration in quality of work due to affirmative action. However, the country's black majority increasingly is making inroads into the previously all-white entrepreneurial sector through pooled investments and acquisitions. The armed forces have struggled with the process of integrating blacks into the predominantly white officer corps.

Xenophobia led to a number of violent attacks on foreigners, particularly refugees and asylum seekers (see Section 1.c. and 2.d.).

The continued killings of mostly white farm owners by black assailants created concern that the white farmers were being targeted for racial and political reasons (see Section 1.a.) There also were reports that white employers abused and killed black farm laborers, but avoided penalty due to collusion with the authorities (see Section 1.a.).

Section 6 -- Worker Rights

a. The Right of Association

The Constitution provides for freedom of association and the right to strike, and these rights are given statutory effect in the 1996 Labor Relations Act (LRA). All workers in the private sector are entitled to join a union. Most workers in the public sector, with the exception of members of the National Intelligence Agency, and the Secret Service, also are entitled to join a union. In May the Constitutional Court struck down the prohibition on members of the National Defense Force joining a union, although they may not strike. No employee can be fired or discriminated against because of membership in or advocacy of a trade union. Union membership in the private sector has continued to decline steadily in the last few years as a result of job layoffs and declining employment, including in sectors that have been heavily unionized, such as mining. However, some public sector unions have experienced growth. Total union membership is approximately 3.4 million persons, nearly 35 percent of those employed in the wage economy.

The largest trade union federation, COSATU, is aligned formally with the African National Congress (ANC) and the South African Communist Party (SACP). About 20 ANC members of the Cabinet have a COSATU leadership background, and the current premier of Gauteng, the country's richest province, is a former COSATU general secretary. COSATU's largest rival, the Federation of Unions of South Africa (FEDUSA), is an apolitical, multiracial federation that was formed in 1997 by merging several smaller worker organizations. A relatively minor labor federation, the National Council of Trade Unions, while officially independent of any political grouping, has close ties to the PAC and the Azanian Peoples Organization.

The LRA seeks to create an industrial relations regime that is stable and recognizes that basic worker rights need to be protected. The act protects workers against unfair dismissal, recognizes their right to form trade unions, provides for the right to strike, and establishes a simple set of procedures that protect striking workers from the threat of dismissal. Essentially, for a strike to proceed, all that is required is that a dispute be referred for conciliation. There is no time limit on conciliation efforts; however, if conciliation fails to resolve the dispute, or lasts more than 30 days, a trade union is entitled to advise an employer of intent to strike so long as it gives 48-hours notice to a private sector employer or 7-days notice to a state employer. Organized labor also has the right to engage in " socioeconomic protest," whereby workers can demonstrate, without fear of losing their jobs, in furtherance of broader social issues. The LRA also allows employers to hire replacement labor for striking employees, but only after giving 7 days' notice to the striking trade union. Employers have the right to lock out workers if certain conditions are met.

The LRA applies to public sector as well as private sector workers. Public sector employees, with the exception of essential services and the three components of the security services, also are provided with the right to strike. While this right first was asserted in the Public Sector Labor Relations Act of 1993, the LRA simplifies and rationalizes collective bargaining in the public sector and the resort to industrial action.

Wage negotiations between the Government and public sector unions led to a number of strikes by public sector employees during the year. In April 18,000 employees of 18 long distance bus companies went on strike, and in August 26,500 members of the Communications Workers' Union went on strike against Telkom, the Government's telecommunications parastatal.

The Government does not restrict union affiliation with regional or international labor organizations.

b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

The law defines and protects the rights to organize and bargain collectively. The Government does not interfere with union organizing and generally has not interfered in the collective bargaining process. The LRA statutorily provides for " organizational rights," such as trade union access to work sites, deductions for trade union dues, and leave for trade union officials, which strengthens the ability of trade unions to organize workers.

Union participation as an equal partner with business and government in the National Economic Development and Labor Council, a tripartite negotiating forum, ensures a direct voice for labor in the formulation of economic, social, and labor policy.

The LRA allows for the establishment of workplace forums that are intended to promote broad-based consultation between management and labor over issues such as work organization, corporate downsizing, and changes in production processes. The forums, in order to receive statutory protection, can be established by trade unions only in businesses with more than 100 employees. Although trade unions in a few factories have established workplace forums, the intent of the law is to build wide support within the trade union movement and business for such cooperative workplace relationships.

To further reduce the adversarial nature of labor relations, the LRA also created a Commission for Conciliation, Mediation, and Arbitration (CCMA). Since its inception in 1996, the CCMA has resolved many disputes referred to it successfully and remains critical to the emergence of a less confrontational business climate. The CCMA also gradually is beginning to play an interventionist role by getting involved in disputes before they deteriorate into a full-fledged strike or lockout. A labor court and a labor appeals court are other important creations of the LRA. The labor court has jurisdiction to resolve disputes that the CCMA is unable to mediate to the satisfaction of both parties. Notwithstanding the existence of the CCMA and specialist courts for labor disputes, the thrust of industrial relations is to minimize the need for judicial intervention in labor relations, leaving it to the contending parties themselves to resolve disputes whenever possible.

There are no export processing zones.

c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

Forced labor by either adults or children is illegal under the Constitution; however, there were reports that children were forced into prostitution (see Section 5). Smugglers use the country as a transit and destination point for trafficking in persons for purposes of forced prostitution and forced labor (see Section 6.f.).

d. Status of Child Labor Practices and Minimum Age for Employment

The law prohibits the employment of minors under the age of 15. Children between 15 and 18 years of age may not be employed in jobs that risk their " well-being, education, physical or mental health, or spiritual, moral, or social development." However, the law gives discretionary powers to the Minister of Welfare to exempt certain types of work to allow individual employers or groups of employers to hire children under certain conditions (for example, on weekends and holidays when they are not in school). This is a common practice in the agricultural and informal sector. Child labor also is used on a more regular basis in the informal economy.

According to the NGO Network Against Child Labor, an estimated 200,000 children, some as young as 5-years-old, work in rural areas, mostly in the agricultural sector. This figure does not include unpaid domestic work or children working in the informal sector. Child laborers from Zimbabwe and Mozambique work in the country on commercial farms, for the taxi industry, or as domestic servants. Child prostitution is a growing problem in metropolitan areas (see Section 5). Child labor figures for the informal sector nearly are impossible to quantify, since the Government has yet to identify the size of the informal sector's contribution to employment and the economy in general. The Government has stated that it is committed to abolishing child labor through new legislation and improving the enforcement of current child labor laws.

In 1998 the Ministry of Defense adopted a policy that raised the minimum age of enlistment into the National Defense Force from 17 to 18; however, this policy does not become law until passage of the Defense Act, which still was under consideration by Parliament at year's end.

Forced or bonded labor by children is illegal under the Constitution; however, there were reports that children were forced into prostitution (see Sections 5 and 6.c.).

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

There is no legally mandated national minimum wage. Instead, unionized workers in the formal sector of the economy set wage rates on an industry-by-industry basis through annual negotiations with employer organizations. Such wages generally are sufficient to provide a decent standard of living for a worker and family. In those sectors where workers are not organized sufficiently to engage in the collective bargaining process, the Basic Conditions of Employment Act, which went into effect in December 1998, gives the Minister of Labor the authority to set wages, including, for the first time, for farm laborers and domestic workers. However, income disparities between skilled and unskilled workers and the income distribution gap between rural and urban workers mean that many workers are unable to provide a decent standard of living for themselves and their families.

The Basic Conditions of Employment Act, which went into effect in December 1997, standardizes time-and-a-half pay for overtime, establishes a 45-hour workweek and longer maternity leave for women (4 months instead of 3). A ministerial determination exempted businesses employing fewer than 10 persons from certain provisions of the act concerning overtime and leave.

Occupational health and safety issues are a top priority of trade unions, especially in the mining and heavy manufacturing industries. Although attention to these issues has increased significantly, including passage in 1993 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, the country's industrial and mining processes are dangerous and sometimes deadly. Government attempts to reduce mining fatalities culminated in the 1996 Mine Health and Safety Act, which went into effect in January 1997. The act provides for the right of mine employees to remove themselves from work deemed dangerous to health or safety. Moreover, it establishes a tripartite mine health and safety council and an inspectorate of mine health and safety tasked with enforcing the act and monitoring compliance with its provisions. The Act specifically makes it an offense for a company to discriminate against an employee who asserts a right granted by the act (for example, to leave a hazardous work site) and requires mine owners to file annual reports that provide statistics on health and safety incidents for each mine being worked.

There are no laws or regulations in other industries that permit workers to remove themselves from work situations deemed dangerous to their health or safety without risking loss of employment.

f. Trafficking in Persons

The Alien Control Act prohibits trafficking in persons; however, South Africa is a destination point for the trafficking of persons from Mozambique, Thailand, and other countries. In August there were reports that women and girls from neighboring countries, particularly Mozambique, were lured into South Africa by Nigerian and other organized crime syndicates based in the country with the promise of jobs and decent wages, and then held as near-slaves on farms and other enterprises. In August a group of Mozambican women were discovered being held against their will in a brothel. The women apparently had been recruited in Mozambique to work as domestic servants, but upon arriving in the country were forced to work as prostitutes. Women from Thailand, and a few women from Cambodia and China, were being smuggled into the country for prostitution by Chinese and South African organized crime syndicates. While many of these women come willingly, some claim that they were tricked into coming, or that they were forced to continue working as prostitutes until they had paid off the cost of their transport. South Africa is also a transit point for a large trafficking network operating between developing countries and Europe, the United States, and Canada. Migrants from foreign countries, particularly China, India, the Middle East, former Eastern Bloc countries and other African countries, are lured to South Africa with stories of money and jobs in the West. Once in the country they are provided with documentation and accommodation before being moved on to final destinations where they are forced into prostitution, drug dealing, or other criminal activity or forced to work in factories as virtual slaves until they pay off the debt of their travel expenses. Traffickers apparently have identified the country as one in which fraudulent documents are easy to obtain and in which direct flight and shipping routes are available to most countries in the developed world.

Government efforts to deal with trafficking through its police services are hampered by corruption, lack of training, and understaffing. The courts generally deal with trafficking through deportations and fines, rather than exacting criminal penalties. Reportedly there were some arrests and prosecutions during the year for trafficking, but no convictions.

[end of document]



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