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Title:  South Africa Human Rights Practices, 1995   
Author:  U.S. Department of State    
Date:  March 1996    
 
 
 
 
                           SOUTH AFRICA 
 
 
In 1995 South Africa's governing institutions and civil society began to 
consolidate the changes initiated after the historic 1994 national 
elections which marked the end of more than 300 years of white-minority 
rule.  In the next phase of the country's democratic transition, most 
areas held local government elections in November, the first democratic 
selection of local officials.  Ministers from three major parties, the 
African National Congress (ANC), the National Party (NP), and the 
Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) form the Cabinet of the Government of 
National Unity (GNU) headed by President Nelson Mandela.  The Cabinet 
has functioned exceptionally smoothly, with almost every decision 
approved by consensus after lengthy debate and compromise.  In 
Parliament the three major parties plus the Democratic Party (DP), the 
Pan Africanist Congress (PAC), the Freedom Front (FF), and the African 
Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) compose the 400-seat National Assembly 
and the 90-seat Senate.  Parliament has changed from being a rubber 
stamp to its new role as the chief forum of national political debate.  
The Government currently operates under an Interim Constitution.  
However, the Constitutional Assembly (the National Assembly and Senate 
sitting jointly) is in the process of producing a final constitution by 
May 1996.  The judiciary is independent.   
 
The South African National Defense Force (SANDF) and the South African 
Police Service (SAPS) have undergone monumental changes.  Although they 
remain powerful and influential, they are answerable to civilian 
leadership to a far greater degree than under the former government.  
Despite initial disturbances over pay, living conditions, and grades, 
20,000 former members of Umkhonto We Sizwe (MK), the ANC's military 
wing; 6,000 former members of the Azanian People's Liberation Army 
(APLA), the armed wing of the PAC; and 9,000 members of the former 
homeland armies have been successfully integrated with the 65,000 member 
government defense forces.  The integration brought the total SANDF 
forces to approximately 100,000.  However, the military leadership has 
begun to reduce this number to between 65,000 and 75,000 through 
voluntary and involuntary resignations and retirements.  The SAPS totals 
120,000, having assimilated 30,000 police from the former homelands.  
Some members of the security forces committed human rights abuses.   
 
South Africa has a diversified and productive economy with strong 
agricultural, mining, and industrial sectors.  In 1994 the manufacturing 
sector contributed just under 25 percent to a gross domestic product of 
$120.2 billion.  Unequal opportunities and disproportionate government 
spending over the years have resulted in illiteracy, high unemployment, 
and other social ills among the black majority.  The official 
unemployment rate in the formal sector is approximately 32 percent but 
may actually be over 40 percent.  Over 60 percent of the black 
population is either totally without work or employed in the informal 
sector.   
 
South Africa's democratically elected government has demonstrated a deep 
commitment to human rights, and the country's newly independent 
judiciary has protected those rights.  President Mandela appointed a 
government Human Rights Commission in September which is specially 
charged with ensuring that these protections are respected in fact.  In 
order to foster national reconciliation, a Truth and Reconciliation 
Commission (TRC) has been created with the power to investigate 
apartheid-era human rights abuses, compensate victims, and grant amnesty 
or indemnity for many politically-motivated crimes.  Although the pace 
of social change was very slow, Parliament passed a series of bills 
designed to alleviate discrimination.  The Labor Relations Act, the 
South African Police Service Bill, the Land Tenure Bill, the Gender 
Equality Bill, the Censorship Bill, and the Abolition of the Death 
Penalty Bill were all intended to eliminate legal bias against specific 
sectors of the population. 
 
Some members of the security forces reportedly occasionally tortured and 
abused detainees; 189 persons died in police custody.  Political 
violence, while down substantially since the April 1994 national 
elections, was on the increase again in KwaZulu/Natal.  As the year 
progressed, ANC/IFP rivalry continued to claim many lives in 
KwaZulu/Natal but did not spread to any significant degree to other 
parts of the country.  Discrimination and violence against women and 
violence against children continued to be serious problems.   
 
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS 
 
Section 1   Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom 
from: 
 
   a.   Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing 
 
The number of political and extrajudicial killings continued to 
decrease, following the general trend after the April 1994 national 
elections.  The Human Rights Committee (HRC), a nongovernmental 
organization (NGO), reported that political violence resulted in 1,195 
deaths in 1995, less than half the 2,687 reported by the HRC in 1994.  
The South African Institute for Race Relations (SAIRR) figure is 1,044 
fatalities as a result of political violence in 1995.  In November the 
HRC reported the lowest monthly number of politically related deaths 
(54) since it began keeping such figures in 1990. 
 
Despite this general decline, politically related deaths in the troubled 
province of KwaZulu/Natal continued to constitute the vast majority of 
such incidents nationwide, reflecting continuing ANC-IFP rivalry in that 
region.  The HRC reports that 835 of 1,195 deaths from political 
violence occurred in KwaZulu/Natal.  A downward trend towards year's end 
was reversed in December, when 74 people died in the province as a 
result of political violence.  Thirty-seven of these were slain in four 
separate massacres, including one on Christmas day in Shobashobane in 
which 19 people died.   
 
Deaths in police custody remain a matter of concern.  The HRC has 
acknowledged that this category was severely underreported in the past 
due to a lack of information, but that the SAPS now provides statistics 
in this area.  Through the end of September, SAPS reported 189 deaths in 
police custody (excluding natural causes).  Of these, SAPS reported 102 
died as a result of injuries inflicted by the police during or after 
arrest, 27 died as a result of injuries inflicted by the public during 
or after arrest, and 40 were suicides.   
 
There were no new reports of politically motivated killings attributed 
to rightwing organizations.  However, there were scattered reports of 
racially motivated murders committed by individuals allegedly affiliated 
with such organizations.  The murder trial of retired SAP Colonel Eugene 
de Kock, who commanded a police unit allegedly used for "third force" 
activities, continued.  Evidence presented at the trial linked de Kock 
and other former officials to political murders and other crimes.  For 
procedural reasons, the trial of the 26 Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging 
(AWB) members accused of carrying out a preelection bombing campaign has 
been postponed until February 1996.  As of September, one individual 
reportedly suspected of involvement in the 1994 assassination of former 
Dutch Reformed Church moderator Johan Heyns remains in custody on 
unrelated charges; however, no charges have been filed in the Heyns case 
to date.   
 
Former Defense Minister Magnus Malan and 19 codefendants will go on 
trial in March 1996 on murder charges arising from the 1987 massacre of 
13 persons near Durban.  Malan's coaccused include former senior 
officers of the SANDF's predecessor organization, the South African 
Defense Force (SADF), officials from the IFP, and from the KwaZulu 
police.  The massacre allegedly was carried out by an IFP paramilitary 
unit created and trained by the SADF while Malan was defense minister.  
Malan has denied the charges and vowed not to seek amnesty from the TRC.   
 
   b.   Disappearance 
 
There were no new reports of politically motivated disappearances caused 
by government authorities or agents.  The TRC, appointed in late 1995, 
is empowered to investigate a broad range of political disappearances 
that occurred since 1960.  These investigations, scheduled to begin by 
early 1996, are intended to throw light on the circumstances surrounding 
several disappearances during the apartheid period. 
 
   c.   Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or 
Punishment 
 
The Interim Constitution stipulates that "no person shall be subject to 
torture of any kind, whether physical, mental, or emotional, nor shall 
any person be subject to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or 
punishment."  Courts have been active in enforcing these provisions, and 
broad efforts to reform police practices have largely curbed such 
activities. 
 
However, there were scattered but credible reports of police abusing 
detainees while in custody.  Monitoring organizations have reported:  
threats to the life of a detainee with a drawn weapon, electric shocks 
to the body (including the extremities and the genitalia), simple 
assaults, and ejection from a moving vehicle.  In February, according to 
a report compiled by the Independent Board of Inquiry, members of the 
SAPS Brixton Murder and Robbery Unit in Johannesburg allegedly assaulted 
and tortured a security guard suspected of involvement in a bank 
robbery.  The HRC reported an incident in which members of the SANDF 
allegedly detained and assaulted 10 men in Loskop, KwaZulu/Natal, after 
they were arrested for possession of two unlicensed weapons, as well as 
a similar incident in Kwamashu, KwaZulu/Natal. 
 
The SAPS has undergone sweeping and positive changes under the 
leadership of Commissioner George Fivaz, appointed by President Mandela 
in January.  Fivaz instituted reforms designed to create partnerships 
between local police forces and the communities they serve.  He also 
demilitarized the force, substituting civilian titles for military 
ranks, and has emphasized the "service" role of the police.  
Resignations and retirements of senior police officials have permitted 
the infusion of new blood at senior levels, from both inside and outside 
the SAPS.  These appointments have also contributed toward achieving 
affirmative action goals within the SAPS. 
 
Prison conditions meet minimum international standards and the 
Government permits unannounced visits by human rights monitors.  In 
February the Government signed an agreement providing the International 
Committee of the Red Cross access to detainees held by or on behalf of 
SAPS without prior notice, formalizing a working arrangement which had 
been in place since October 1992. 
 
   d.   Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile 
 
The Interim Constitution expressly prohibits detention without trial.  
It also provides that every "detained person" has a number of other 
rights, including the right to be informed promptly of the reasons for 
detention; 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.  In 
September President Mandela signed into law a statute which makes it 
somewhat more difficult for persons accused of certain very serious 
crimes to obtain bail by placing the burden on the accused--rather than 
the prosecution--to demonstrate that bail is in the interests of 
justice.  At year's end, courts and police were generally acting in good 
faith to respect these rights. 
 
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.  The 11 justices of the 
new Constitutional Court, South Africa's supreme judicial body, were 
sworn in by President Mandela on February 14.  The Court began hearing 
cases the next day and early on moved to establish its independent 
authority.  In its second ruling, the Court abolished capital 
punishment, a decision which was in line with ANC policy but harshly 
criticized by other political parties and reportedly contrary to 
widespread public opinion.  In September the Court overturned one 
section of a statute governing local elections.  This marked the Court's 
first major ruling against the ANC-led Government of National Unity, 
further establishing the Court's independence.  Drawing on its powers of 
judicial review, court rulings have also limited the use of police-
compelled confessions, banned the use of corporal punishment in the 
criminal justice system, upheld the right to state-provided counsel, and 
guaranteed access to police documents. 
 
While the precise relationship between the Constitutional Court and the 
Appellate Division of the Supreme Court (which was formerly the 
country's supreme judicial body) remains unclear, the interim 
Constitution makes the former the highest court in interpreting 
constitutional issues; the latter remains supreme in all others.   
 
Judges try criminal cases; the jury system was abolished in 1969.  
Serious offenses are tried in the Supreme Court, while magistrates, who 
are career civil servants, hear lesser offenses.  The presiding judge or 
magistrate determines guilt or innocence.   
 
The Constitution's section on fundamental 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 detained persons a right to state-funded legal counsel when 
"substantial injustice would otherwise result."   
 
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 now more 
reflective of society, although still far short of a representative 
composition. 
 
There were no reports of political prisoners.  Some persons remained 
incarcerated for common crimes which they claim were committed for 
political reasons. 
 
   f.   Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 
Correspondence 
 
Police and security forces retain the legal authority to engage in 
domestic surveillance activities.  Most observers believe that use of 
this authority generally has been limited to the pursuit of legitimate 
law enforcement and national security activities.  At year's end, 
evidence emerged of wiretapping and electronic eavesdropping of senior 
police officials and a government minister, although the identities and 
motives of the perpetrators remain unclear.   
 
In July the Government selected judges for the Constitutional Land Court 
established to adjudicate claims of persons dispossessed and removed 
from land during the apartheid era.  Several thousand land claims have 
already been lodged with the Commission on Restitution of Land Rights 
which has been set up to process, investigate, and attempt to settle 
claims.  Decisions will be referred to the court for approval, and 
complex claims will be heard and decided by the Court.  The deadline for 
lodging claims is May 1997, and the Court must complete its work within 
5 years.    
 
Unauthorized land invasions by squatters also continued sporadically 
throughout the year, a practice severely criticized by the Government as 
inimical to the housing strategy it devised as part of its 
Reconstruction and Development Program (RDP).   
 
Section 2   Respect for Civil Liberties, Including: 
 
   a.   Freedom of Speech and Press 
 
The Constitution provides for freedom of speech and the press, and the 
Government respects these rights in practice.  The press criticizes both 
the Government and the opposition. 
 
The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) controls all broadcast 
television and most radio.  Once seen as the Government's mouthpiece, 
the SABC is in the midst of an historic reorganization and change of 
direction.  Under the leadership of a new board of directors and top-
level management, the SABC became a laboratory for the Government's push 
for affirmative action in hiring and promotions.  At the same time, the 
SABC is carefully building and protecting editorial independence from 
the Government.  In May the SABC turned down a government request for 
weekly 30-minute prime time slots on television and radio.  The 
Government accepted this display of independence, having declared 
publicly that it would not attempt to use the SABC as an instrument of 
official propaganda.  SABC news programming offered balanced coverage of 
the Government and the leading opposition parties, although the smaller 
opposition parties regularly complained of insufficient coverage of 
their activities. 
 
The Independent Broadcast Authority (IBA) began to effect major changes 
in the electronic media.  The IBA granted 80 licenses for community 
radio broadcasters and approximately 40 stations began broadcasting in 
1995.  The IBA also released its "Triple Inquiry Report" in August, 
calling for dissolution of the SABC's television monopoly and a further 
diminution of the SABC's primacy in radio.  While the IBA report 
established local content quotas for the electronic media, its 
fundamental effect was to begin to bring real competition to the 
country's airwaves for the first time in history. 
 
Although rarely invoked, considerable legislation remained on the books 
that permits the Government to restrict the publication of information 
about the police, the national defense forces, prisons, and mental 
institutions.  Other legislation still in effect, though not invoked, 
can compel reporters to reveal their sources.  NGO's, notably the 
Freedom of Expression Institute, actively work for the repeal of these 
laws and for ironclad guarantees of press freedom in the permanent 
Constitution. 
 
There were no instances of government or police sanctioned harassment of 
the press, nor of systematic attempts by political organizations to 
intimidate the media. 
 
There are no official restrictions on academic freedom. 
 
   b.   Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association 
 
Political parties and organizations exercise broad constitutional 
freedoms of assembly and association.   
 
   c.   Freedom of Religion 
 
The Interim Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the 
Government respects this right in practice. 
 
   d.   Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, 
Emigration, and Repatriation 
 
The Interim Constitution provides for freedom of movement, including 
travel abroad, choice of residence, and safeguards on citizenship.  The 
Government of National Unity has not restricted the movement of citizens 
domestically or their freedom to travel overseas, emigrate, or 
repatriate. 
 
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has largely 
completed its efforts to assist with the repatriation of South African 
exiles under its September 1991 mandate.  On May 15, the United Nations 
acted to end the refugee status afforded to South Africans abroad.  The 
Government cooperates with the UNHCR and other humanitarian 
organizations in assisting refugees.   
 
In some cases, however, energetic efforts to combat illegal immigration 
resulted in wrongful deportations.  In at least one instance, 
Mozambicans claiming refugee status, including some with proper 
documentation, were wrongfully detained and deported by the SANDF.  In 
this instance, the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) in Pretoria admitted 
its error and acted to prevent any such recurrence by providing 
additional training for SANDF and immigration officers.  In 1995 the 
UNHCR has trained over 300 government officials from the SAPS, the 
SANDF, and the DHA to improve their understanding of the rights and 
protections afforded refugees.  In addition, the DHA joined with the 
UNHCR to train members of the DHA committees that rule on applications 
for refugee status, shortening the time applicants wait for a ruling on 
their refugee status to an average of 6 months. 
 
Section 3   Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens to 
Change Their Government 
 
South Africa is governed under an Interim Constitution which allows for 
executive power sharing among political parties, based on the proportion 
of the vote they received in South Africa's first nonracial election in 
April 1994.  It provides for a bicameral parliament, an executive state 
president, and an independent judiciary which, for the first time, 
includes a Constitutional Court.  All citizens over 18 years of age were 
permitted to vote in the election. 
 
The Parliament comprises the National Assembly and the Senate, and, when 
in joint session, serves as the Constitutional Assembly.  According to 
the Interim Constitution, the Constitutional Assembly is required to 
draft and approve a new and permanent constitution which is consistent 
with 34 constitutional principles by May 9, 1996.  If it fails to do so, 
and absent a constitutional amendment extending the deadline, Parliament 
will be dissolved, and a new election held.  By year's end, delays in 
the drafting process had led to consideration of postponement of the 
deadline for approval; a decision on this matter was expected in early 
1996.   
 
The National Assembly is made up of 400 members elected by a system of 
proportional representation.  Of the 19 parties which stood for 
election, 7 received enough votes to gain seats in the Assembly.  The 
Senate consists of 90 members, 10 from each of the 9 provinces created 
under the Constitution.  With a few exceptions, the Senate has coequal 
legislative powers with the National Assembly.  The legislature may 
approve, amend, or rewrite legislation submitted by the Cabinet for 
consideration. 
 
In addition to President Mandela, who is the Executive Head of State, 
South Africa has two Executive Deputy Presidents, Thabo Mbeki, from the 
ANC, and F.W. de Klerk, the former president, from the NP.  A 
constitutional amendment created an additional 28th cabinet seat beyond 
the original maximum of 27 seats provided for in the Interim 
Constitution.  Under the terms of the Interim Constitution, any party 
holding at least 20 seats in the Assembly is entitled to a proportional 
share of cabinet seats.  The ANC, which gained 252 seats, shares cabinet 
positions with the NP which has 82 seats and with the IFP which holds 43 
seats.  According to the Interim Constitution, the Cabinet must in the 
first instance seek consensus.  To date in practice, the Cabinet has 
generally functioned on that basis, although there have been concerns 
about the coordination and effectiveness of the established 
bureaucracies in carrying out the policies of the new political 
leadership.   
 
The Interim Constitution provides for a Constitutional Court whose 
responsibility is to interpret, defend, and enforce the Constitution.  
The Court has the power to overturn any law or executive act that it 
deems unconstitutional.  Chapter three of the Constitution delineates 
over 25 fundamental rights of a citizen which it is the Court's duty to 
protect.  The Constitutional Court must also rule on whether the 
national constitution or any of the provincial constitutions are 
consistent with the constitutional principles in the Interim 
Constitution.   
 
Transitional authorities continued to administer local governments 
throughout South Africa for the first part of 1995, in preparation for 
the country's first democratic local government elections.  Legislation 
was passed in September to allow these elections to be held on staggered 
dates.  Most areas of the country conducted voting on November 1 to 
elect representatives to nearly 700 local councils.  Despite a number of 
logistical problems, elections proceeded peacefully and the results were 
generally accepted by all parties.  Disputes over demarcation of 
boundaries and other issues forced postponement of elections in the Cape 
Town Metropolitan Area, KwaZulu/Natal, and a few other scattered 
districts.  Elections in these areas are now scheduled to be completed 
by the end of May 1996.   
 
There are no legal impediments to women's participation in government 
and politics.  President Mandela has publicly stated that he is 
committed to ensuring adequate representation of women in all aspects of 
governance.  Nearly one third of the National Assembly members are 
women; there are 18 women in the 90-member Senate, and a woman was 
elected Speaker of the National Assembly.  However, women are less well 
represented in the Cabinet, where only 3 out of 28 ministers are women.  
There are no women among the nine provincial premiers.  In an effort to 
increase female representation in the political sphere, the ANC set a 
goal of 50 percent female candidates for its November 1 local government 
elections lists, although that figure was not reached in some cases. 
 
Section 4   Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights 
 
During 1995 Parliament passed and President Mandela signed into law 
legislation creating a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, empowered:  
to look into apartheid-era gross human rights abuses dating from 1960; 
to grant indemnity or amnesty to perpetrators of a broad range of 
politically-motivated crimes; and to award compensation to victims of 
human rights abuses.  After nominations from a broad range of public and 
private organizations, Mandela named the members of the TRC in late 
1995.  The investigations of this body are expected to shed light on a 
broad range of abuses that occurred before South Africa's democratic 
transition in 1994.   
 
President Mandela also named the members of the newly created Human 
Rights Commission in September, drawing from a broad spectrum of civil 
society.  The Commission is tasked with promoting the observance of 
fundamental human rights at all levels of government and throughout the 
general population.  The commissioners may conduct investigations, issue 
subpoenas, hear testimony under oath, and assist individuals wrongly 
deprived of fundamental rights to seek redress. 
 
In June the Parliament appointed an individual to fill the Office of 
Public Protector, who will be responsible for investigating abuse and 
maladministration by the Government. 
 
A number of human rights groups operate without government restriction, 
investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases.  
Government officials are generally cooperative and responsive to their 
views.  Many of these organizations are now represented on governmental 
bodies seeking to gather public input and to fashion policies related to 
human rights. 
 
Section 5   Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, 
Language, or Social Status 
 
The Constitution explicitly prohibits discrimination on grounds of race, 
gender, ethnic or social origin, color, sexual orientation, age, 
disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, or language. 
 
   Women 
 
There is a high rate of domestic violence against women. According to a 
study by People Opposing Women Abuse, the figures for reported rape rose 
from 19,308 to 27,056 between 1988 and 1993, an increase of 40 percent.  
Unofficial estimates by the National Institute for Crime Prevention and 
Rehabilitation of Offenders suggests that only 1 in 20 rapes is reported 
to police. 
 
Discrimination against women, particularly against black women, remains 
a serious problem despite legal and constitutional advances and 
government attention to this issue. 
 
South Africa ratified the 1981 U.N. Convention on the Elimination of All 
Forms of Discrimination Against Women on December 15.   
 
The Interim Constitution provides for the establishment of a Commission 
for Gender Equality, which will advise and make recommendations to 
Parliament on legislation which affects women.  The Commission was not 
yet in place by year's end, although it is slated to be considered early 
in the 1996 parliamentary session.   
 
A team of South African experts on gender has urged the Government to 
create an Office on the Status of Women to ensure tht a gender 
perspective is integrated into all publicly funded policies and 
programs.  The Government is now looking into how the office could be 
incorporated.  The team recommended that the OSW be located in the 
President's office to give it political influence, and Deputy President 
Mbeki indicated in a press conference that the office might be in 
operation by the end of March 1996.   
 
South Africa has now officially ended tax discrimination against married 
women.  However, discrimination against women in traditional law 
continues.  For example, women's groups continue to press for 
legislation to protect women in customary marriages.   
 
The Government has made a concerted effort in several areas to increase 
women's participation in governance and heighten awareness of women's 
issues.   
 
   Children 
 
The Interim Constitution stipulates that children have the right "to 
security, basic nutrition, and basic health and social services."  
Although the Government is committed to providing these services and to 
correcting past race-based imbalances, it is still developing the 
mechanisms for delivering necessary services. 
 
Special programs known as "Presidential Initiatives" because the reflect 
President Mandela's personal interest are part of the Reconstruction and 
Development Program.  They offer free health care to pregnant mothers 
and children under 6 years of age, and provide nutritious meals for 
primary school children.  Following President Mandela's criticism last 
year of keeping unsentenced children in jail, the Correctional Services 
Act was amended to prohibit the detention of children younger than 18 in 
jail or police cells.  Arrested children must now either be released 
into the custody of their parents or kept in a "place of safety" as 
defined by the Child Care Act. 
 
Violence against children remains widespread and likely underreported.  
The Goldstone Commission investigating the effects of violence on 
children released a report stating that South Africa had become a 
"child-abusing" society and that violence had come to be expected.  Many 
NGO's, such as the National Children's Rights Committee, are working to 
enhance the quality of life of South Africa's children. 
 
Female genital mutilation (FGM), which is widely condemned by 
international health experts as damaging to both physical and 
psychological health, is traditionally practiced in some remote areas of 
South Africa, but the practice is not thought to be widespread.   
 
   People with Disabilities 
 
The Interim Constitution and Bill of Fundamental Rights include 
disability as a basis for nondiscrimination.  South African society 
continues to promote an increasingly modern concept of people with 
disabilities as a minority whose civil rights must be protected. 
 
In 1986 the NP government incorporated architectural specifications into 
the National Building Code to ensure equal access to public buildings 
for the physically disabled.  However, these have rarely been enforced 
and until recently, public awareness of them was virtually nonexistent.  
The National Environmental Accessibility Program, an NGO whose 
affiliated members comprise disabled consumer as well as service-
provider groups, has now established a presence in all nine provinces in 
order to lobby for compliance with the regulations and to sue offending 
property owners, as necessary. 
 
De facto government and private sector discrimination in employment 
still exists, given the wide discretion allowed managers in hiring 
practices.  The Government is attempting to ensure that all RDP projects 
take account of the needs of disabled citizens. 
 
   National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities 
 
The Government has theoretically eliminated all forms of racial 
discrimination with the adoption of the Interim Constitution and the 
Bill of Fundamental Rights and the near total repeal of the race-based 
statutes of the apartheid era.  It has also begun reorganizing and 
redesigning the educational, housing, and health-care systems to benefit 
all racial and ethnic groups in society more equally.  The public and 
private sectors continue to pursue a vigorous program of affirmative 
action, which is expressly permitted under terms of the Interim 
Constitution. 
 
Section 6   Worker Rights 
 
   a.   The Right of Association 
 
Freedom of association is guaranteed by the Interim Constitution 
and given statutory effect by the recently approved 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 
South African National Defense Force, the National Intelligence Agency, 
and the South African Secret Service, are also entitled to join a union.  
No employee can be fired or prejudiced because of membership in or 
advocacy of a trade union.  There are 201 registered trade unions and 47 
unregistered trade unions, with an approximate total membership of 3.4 
million, or 44 percent of the employed, economically active population. 
 
The largest trade union federation, the Congress of South African Trade 
Unions, is formally aligned with the ANC and the South African Communist 
Party.  The second largest trade union federation, the National Council 
of Trade Unions, while officially independent of any political grouping, 
has close ties to the Pan Africanist Congress and the Azanian Peoples 
Organization.  There are 62 trade unionist in national and provincial 
government following the 1994 elections.   
 
The right to strike is provided for in the Constitution.  This right is 
given statutory effect by the new LRA, which established a simple 
procedure for a protected strike.  All that is required is that the 
dispute be referred for conciliation.  If conciliation fails to resolve 
the dispute, then a trade union is entitled to engage in a legal strike.  
Such a strike is not liable to criminal or civil action.  The LRA does 
allow employers to hire replacement labor for striking employees, but 
only after giving 7 days' notice to the striking trade union. 
 
The LRA applies to public sector as well as private sector workers.  
Therefore, public sector employees are also guaranteed the right to 
strike, with the exception of those performing essential services and 
members of the three components of the security services mentioned 
above.  While this right was first asserted in the Public Sector Labor 
Relations Act of 1993, the new LRA simplifies and rationalizes 
collective bargaining in the public sector and the resort to industrial 
action. 
 
The Government does not restrict union affiliation with regional or 
international labor organizations.  The International Labor Organization 
(ILO) readmitted South Africa in 1994.  Originally an ILO member since 
its 1919 inception, South Africa withdrew from the ILO in 1964.  
Following the reinstatement, the International Labor Conference 
rescinded its declaration concerning action against apartheid. 
 
   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 new LRA statutorily entrenches "organizational rights," such as 
trade union access to worksites, deductions for trade union 
subscriptions, and leave for trade union officials, which strengthen 
trade union ability to organize workers. 
 
The creation of the National Economic Development and Labor Council, a 
tripartite negotiating forum, will solidify the role of trade unions as 
social partners with government and business in the formation of 
economic and labor policy.  The new LRA creates workplace forums which 
will allow for better shopfloor communication between management and 
labor over issues of work organization and production.  The forums, to 
receive statutory protection, can only be initiated by trade unions in 
businesses with more than 100 employees.  However, the law is designed 
to build wide support within the trade union movement and business for 
new workplace relationships.  It is intended that with time and support 
the sections of the law regarding workplace forums will be expanded to 
include such groups no matter what the size of the workplace. 
 
To further reduce the adversarial nature of South African labor 
relations, the new LRA also creates a Commission for Conciliation, 
Mediation, and Arbitration (CCMA), which will play an aggressive, 
interventionist role in resolving disputes before they become full-
fledged strikes or lockouts. 
 
In the event the CCMA is unable to resolve a dispute, it may be referred 
to the Labor Court.  However, the intent of the LRA is to reduce 
judicial intervention into labor relations, relying on the parties to 
resolve disputes whenever possible. 
 
South Africa has no export processing zones. 
 
   c.   Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor 
 
Forced labor is illegal under the Interim Constitution and is not 
practiced. 
 
   d.   Minimum Age of Children 
 
Employment of minors under age 15 is prohibited by the law.  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.  This is common 
practice in the agricultural sector.  Use of child labor in the informal 
economy is also common.  The Ministries of Labor and Justice are weak 
and reactive in enforcing child labor laws, depending largely on 
complaints made against specific employers. 
 
   e.   Acceptable Conditions of Work 
 
There is no legally mandated national minimum wage.  Instead, the LRA 
provides a mechanism for negotiations between labor and management to 
set minimum wage standards, industry by industry.  Currently, 100 
industries covering most manufacturing workers come under the provisions 
of the Act.  In those sectors of the economy not sufficiently organized 
to engage in the collective bargaining processes which establish minimum 
wages, the Wage Act gives the Minister of Labor the authority to set 
minimum wages and conditions.  The Wage Act, however, does not apply to 
farm or domestic workers. 
 
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 dramatically, including 
passage in 1993 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, industrial 
and mining processes are still dangerous and sometimes deadly.  A Mines 
Commission of Inquiry convened in 1994 to address health and safety 
issues in the mining sector.  Its findings and recommendations have been 
incorporated into new mine safety and health legislation which is 
currently before Parliament.   
 
Current occupational health and safety laws, while requiring an employer 
not to place employees at unreasonable risk, do not give employees the 
right to remove themselves from a hazardous job.  An employee's decision 
to leave a hazardous worksite could possibly lead to dismissal but more 
probably would result  
 
in disciplinary action.  Occupational health and safety laws do provide 
protection for workers who report or file complaints against unsafe 
working conditions.  Such workers cannot be dismissed or reduced in 
salary or rank. 
 
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[end of document]

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