South African Women Arrive in Australia to Hold Mining Company South32 to Account for Rights Violations
08/11/2018: Two women from the small settlement of Phola, South Africa, will be flying to Australia this month to put pressure on Australia’s fourth largest mining company, South32, which operates a large coal mine near their community.
Nonhlanhla Lorraine Mvubelo and Millicent Nomfundo Shungube say that their women’s group has documented evidence showing increased violence against women, health problems, and environmental damage due to the mine. South32 is now planning to extend the mine despite local opposition.
The women will speak at a series of events in Sydney, Melbourne, and Perth to draw attention to the harm done by South32 in their community.
Following a protest by ActionAid Australia supporters outside the South32 AGM in Perth last month, the company agreed to meet with community representatives, but no meeting has yet been forthcoming and the women will be pressing for this to be addressed as a matter of urgency while they are in Australia.
The two women’s visit has been funded by women’s rights organisation ActionAid Australia.
Millicent Nomfundo Shungube said:
“Ever since the mine came in there’s been a lot of changes. People no longer have space for farming, they’re taking our water. Illnesses have increased in a way that small children are suffering from asthma, sinus problems and eye irritation because of the dust that they cause. We no longer live in an environment that is stable.”
“South32 hasn’t done any justice for the community of Phola Ogies, that’s why we are demanding they be held accountable.”
ActionAid Australia and a coalition of other Australian NGOs are calling for suite of corporate accountability measures, including a human rights watchdog to ensure people adversely impacted by Australian companies overseas have access to justice.
Lucy Manne, ActionAid Australia Head of Policy and Campaigns, said:
“Most troubling to us is that 92% of the women we spoke to said they had already raised these concerns with South32 to no avail. Millicent and Mam Nonhlanhla are here to make sure that South32 can no longer ignore the women of Phola.
“Australia has one of the largest mining footprints in the world, and unless the government takes action, the companies involved will continue to act with impunity. Our leaders have a responsibility to ensure that our corporations respect and uphold human rights, no matter where they operate.”
The principles of the proposed human rights watchdog include powers to investigate both individual cases of human rights abuses and the systemic problems that give rise to them; independence from government and corporate interests; and powers to recommend referring criminal wrongdoing to law enforcement bodies.
For more information and interview opportunities please contact Gemma Pitcher: [email protected] or tel: 0434 865441
Notes to editors:
ActionAid Australia is a women’s rights organisation, part of a global Federation working across 45 countries to achieve social justice, gender equality and poverty eradication. ActionAid supporters in Australia provide emergency supplies, leadership training and skills development for women around the world affected by disasters, conflicts and gender-based violence. www.actionaid.org.au
Click for more detail on the principles of the proposed human rights watchdog.