Friday, August 27, 2004

Commemorating International Day of the Disappeared

On Monday August 30, 2004, International Day of the Disappeared will be commemorated for the first time in South Africa at a public gathering to be held in the Library Gardens, Johannesburg between 12:30 and 13:30 on Monday, August 30, 2004. This gathering will highlight the disappearances which occurred in our country during Apartheid. You are warmly invited to attend. The event is hosted by the Khulumani Support Group, the press statement is below:


Public Gathering to Commemorate International Day of the Disappeared on August 30th 2004 in the Johannesburg Library Gardens between 12:30 and 13:30

On Monday August 30, 2004, International Day of the Disappeared will be commemorated for the first time in South Africa at a public gathering to be held in the Library Gardens, Johannesburg between 12:30 and 13:30 on Monday, August 30, 2004. This gathering will highlight the disappearances which occurred in our country during Apartheid. You are warmly invited to attend.

Who is a disappeared person?

“A disappeared person is a person arrested, detained, abducted or otherwise deprived of his / her liberty by officials of different branches or levels of government or by organized groups or private individuals acting on their behalf, or with the support, direct or indirect, consent or acquiescence of the government, followed by a refusal to disclose the fact or whereabouts of the person concerned or a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of his/her liberty, thereby placing such persons outside the protection of the law.” Draft International Convention on the Protection of all Persons from Forced Disappearance

While the Draft Convention provides a legal definition of a ‘disappeared person’, it does not explain the impact that a case of disappearance has on the lives of family members of the disappeared.

“…living in a vacuum caused by the uncertainty about what happened to their family member is a daily torture. There can be no rest, no mourning, no closure as long as the truth has not emerged. This search for the truth is extremely frustrating and painful, and family members are often completely alone in their despair.” - Ewoud Plate, Coordinator of the Project Linking Solidarity

The Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa states that the TRC received more than 1500 victim statements concerning persons who went missing or who disappeared after being forcibly abducted during the period between 1960 and 1994. Some of these cases were resolved as a result of various amnesty hearings for perpetrators. In 477 cases, some investigations have been conducted without determining the actual fate of the persons named. The remaining cases have not been investigated or resolved. These cases represent one aspect of the Unfinished Business of the TRC.

“The resolution of […] disappearance cases is perhaps the most significant piece of unfinished business for the commission. The commission is therefore of the view that these cases should not simply be abandoned, but that further mechanisms should be put in place to finalize them.” Volume Six, Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa Report

The Project on Disappearances, ‘The Voiceless Silent’ launched by Khulumani Support Group (KSG) is one “mechanism” [1] towards securing some closure on these matters for family members. The project was established for the purpose of helping the families of disappeared South Africans to deal with the medical, legal, social and psychological effects of having a loved-one disappear and to support them in the process of trying to find out what really happened.

Khulumani Support Group is a membership organisation of people who were the direct or indirect victims of apartheid violence and gross human rights abuses. Its mission is the re-empowerment of these survivors and their reintegration into mainstream society. The organisation has a national database of information about disappeared South Africans, which is being used towards filling some of the gaps for family members.

Our partners in this work nationally are the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR) and the Task Force on Disappearances of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA). Khulumani Support Group is also a founding member of RADIF, Réseau Africain Contre les Disparitions Forcées (RADIF), an African-based co-ordinating body for the network of African NGOs working in the domain of enforced disappearances, which was established in June 2003. Work is underway to develop a Southern African Network on Disappearances (SANAD) to link relevant organisations in this region.

For further information please contact:

Marjorie Jobson 082 268 0223
Francois Giasson 072 971 7715 or the above mentioned Khulumani Support Group National Office.

[1] Volume Six. Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa. Report. Cape Town, 2003, p. 532

Board Members

Shirley Gunn
Brandon Hamber (Northern Ireland)
Marjorie Jobson
Kabelo Lengane
Tlhoki Mofokeng
Musa Ndlovu
Alegria Nyoka
Sipho Phuwani
Ike Tlholwe

Friday, August 13, 2004

Bush launches controversial mental health plan

Jeane Lenzer writes in the British Medical Journal this week that "President Bush announced on 26 July that his administration has begun implementing the recommendations of the New Freedom Commission on Mental Health to "improve mental health services and support for people of all ages with mental illness" through comprehensive screening. The plan states that schools are in a "key position" to screen the "52 million students and six million adults who work at the schools" and includes recommendations for screening preschool children. Mr Bush's announcement comes after new reports showing that increasing numbers of toddlers and children are being prescribed amphetamines, anti-depressants, and antipsychotic drugs. Concern that widespread screening will only increase the number of young people taking drugs has triggered criticism of the plan. Dr Daniel Fisher, one of the 22 commissioners responsible for writing the final report for the president, said that widespread screening—at a time when medical education was "geared to the biomedical model and teachers want to get kids fixed"—could result in greater numbers of children being given "a label, a diagnosis, and a medication. What troubles me a little bit," said Dr Fisher, "is that mental health will continue to be used as a substitute for addressing the social, cultural, and economic needs of children." More...

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Endorse the Apartheid Lawsuit

Today the Khulumani group launched a campaign to get endorsements for their lawsuit against companies that supported apartheid. To read more about this, and consider whether you will endorse the campaign, click here.

Endorse the Khulumani lawsuit


Endorse the Khulumani lawsuit

On 11 November 2002, the Khulumani Support Group, an organisation of survivors of apartheid violence, instituted a lawsuit in the U S against 23 multinational corporations, for their role in human rights abuses committed in apartheid South Africa. The lawsuit is supported by Jubilee South Africa and a number of national and international organizations. Khulumani alleges that these corporations supplied financing, technology, transportation, oil and arms to the Apartheid government and in so doing, aided and abetted the Apartheid government to violate international law. With their support the apartheid government committed extra-judicial killing, torture, sexual assault, prolonged arbitrary detention, and crimes against humanity. Apartheid has been officially recognised as a crime against humanity by the United Nations

The Khulumani lawsuit provides a strong opportunity to develop and build upon a new global principle, which would be binding on nations, national leaders and multinational corporations. The principle is to hold corporations liable and to secure redress for universally recognised violations of customary international law.

The right of foreigners to institute lawsuits in the United States was upheld by the U S Supreme Court, on 29 June 2004, despite objections from corporations and the US, British, Swiss and other governments. This represents a victory for human rights globally.

But the victory is under threat because some governments, including our own, and some of the world’s largest multinationals are opposing the so-called “apartheid lawsuits”. The reasons advanced by our government for their opposition to the lawsuits, do not apply to the Khulumani lawsuit.

What are the facts of the Khulumani litigation?

The Khulumani lawsuit names as defendants foreign corporations that refused to participate in the TRC process and that failed to take responsibility for their involvement in the apartheid state’s security apparatuses.

The Khulumani lawsuit does not seek to undermine the sovereignty of democratic South Africa. It seeks rather to strengthen South Africa’s constitutional democracy.

The Khulumani lawsuit does not seek any action that is inconsistent with government’s approach to achieving its own long-term goals. It supports programmes of community reparation and rehabilitation. Please join us in making national judicial systems acknowledge the supremacy and universality of a rule of law, which obligates adherence to behaviour that respects basic human dignity.

For more information, you can contact:

Khulumani Support Group, c/o Marjorie Jobson or Tel: +27-82-268-0223

Jubilee South Africa, c/o Makoma Lekalakala or Tel: +27-11-403 7622

Abrahams Kiewitz Attorneys, c/o Charles Abrahams or Tel +27-21-934-4842

or visit the website ENDORSE THE KHULUMANI LAWSUIT by sending a message of support to or by cutting out this advertisement, signing it and faxing it to +27 (011) 339 4560.

I / we endorse the Khulumani litigation and request the South African government to clearly distinguish the Khulumani litigation from the other so-called “apartheid lawsuits” by either withdrawing their affidavit to the New York court or by writing to the judge to clarify that their affidavit does not apply to the Khulumani lawsuit.

Signed: ______________________________

Date: ________________________________

Organisation: _______________________________________________________________

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Boeremag had breeding plans

The Mail and Guardian reports today that "The Boeremag dreamed of using a building like that of Armscor in Pretoria as a sort of breeding farm for "a new [Afrikaner] nation", the city's High Court heard on Tuesday.Free State potato farmer Henk van Zyl testified in the trial of 22 alleged Boeremag members -- facing charges ranging from high treason to terrorism and murder -- about a conversation with alleged Boeremag leader Tom Vorster.He said a Makopane herb farm owned by one of the accused, Dr Lets Pretorius, had at one stage been used as the headquarters to plan a violent coup. After one of their meetings at the farm, he and Vorster drove past Armscor's building in Pretoria".

Monday, August 9, 2004

Apartheid's final surrender

The Mail and Guardian reported recently that "the party that built apartheid and turned South Africa into a pariah state completed its march to oblivion on Saturday by deciding to merge with its one-time nemesis, the African National Congress. The New National Party, heir of a mighty movement that jailed Nelson Mandela and built nuclear bombs, said its shrunken membership would dissolve and fight future elections under the banner of the black ruling party. A meeting of the NNP's federal council proposed that members join the ANC, a bitterly ironic twist for a party founded almost a century ago to promote the interests of white Afrikaners and keep blacks from power.Officials are to retain their party membership and parliamentary and local government seats as a transitional arrangement until September 2005. 'Individual members of the NNP would be encouraged to join the ANC in their respective localities. The NNP will in future contest elections under the banner of the ANC,' the NNP said in a statement".

Friday, August 6, 2004

Shattered Voices: Language, Violence, and the Work of Truth Commissions

Teresa Godwin Phelps has written a new book entitled "Shattered Voices: Language, Violence, and the Work of Truth Commissions". I have not read it yet, but the blurb on the book reads as follows: "When grievous harm happens, a rebalancing is bound to occur, whether it is orderly and lawful or disorderly and unlawful. Shattered Voices contends that language is requisite to any adequate balancing, and that a solution is viable only if it provides an atmosphere in which storytelling and subsequent dialogue can flourish. In the developing culture of ubiquitous truth reports, Phelps argues that we must become attentive to the form these reports take--to the narrative structure, the use of victims' stories, and the way in which a political message is conveyed to the citizens of the emerging democracy. By looking concretely at the work and responsibilities of truth commissions, Shattered Voices offers an important and thoughtful analysis of the efficacy of the ways human rights abuses are addressed". To find out more details about this book click the relevant link depending on your location US UK CA.

Thursday, August 5, 2004

Iraq wants South African-style TRC

The Mail and Guardian reports, "Human Rights Minister Bakhtiar Amin said on Tuesday he wanted to create a truth and reconciliation commission for Iraq, modelled on the experiences of post-apartheid South Africa. Such a commission, 'based on confessions and pardons, would be a way to strengthen the feeling of national unity', said Amin, following his return from talks in Amman with United Nations agencies". Why does this worry me!