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Justice for Communities Affected by Mining

stand against exploitation of human rights and environment

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Our Programme Areas


ActionAid South Africa was established is a part of Action Aid International, an anti-poverty agency working with poor people in over 40 countries.

Natural Resources

We support mining affected communities and strive to empower womxn and youth in claiming and defending their rights to land and food sovereignty.

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Youth & Education

We aim to promote quality education, end sexual violence in schools and build youth activist networks that educate and flight for the rights of youth.

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Natural Resources

We support mining affected communities and strive to empower womxn and youth in claiming and defending their rights to land and food sovereignty.

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Why We Have Chosen These Areas

ActionAid South Africa was established is a part of Action Aid International, an anti-poverty agency working with poor people in over 40 countries.

Land Issues

Contextual analysis

Located on the southernmost tip of the African continent, South Africa spans a total area of 1,219,912 km². It is the 25th largest country in the world.

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South Africa and the world

South Africa is a powerful country on the African continent, competing with Nigeria for the status of biggest economy. This creates both problems and opportunities.

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There are a myriad of challenges facing the public education service provision in South Africa. These include physical and sexual violence in schools; reduced teacher commitment; privatisation; and inadequate support from Department of Basic Education. The inputs in the system such as trained and motivated teachers; infrastructure and sanitation; instructional material such as textbooks; as well as strong leadership with vision to steer the winds of change are important in providing the desired outcomes.

The budget allocation to education in South Africa is quite significant constituting 20% of the total annual budget, yet despite this, results remain dismal and poor output remains a vexing feature of South African society. 2015 saw the rise of the Fees Must Fall movement which inspired nationwide protests at universities against fee increases. Despite its own shortcomings, the movement ushered in an era of student activism and a spotlight was shone on the inequalities perpetuated by the education crisis and growing privatisation. Fees Must Fall offered new and exciting possibilities for mass mobilisation, digital communication, democratic processes and the intersection of struggles, all of which AASA can learn from and develop over the next five years.


Poverty and the condition of womxn

Poverty in the South African context is broadly characterised by a lack of purchasing power; exposure to risk; malnutrition; high mortality rates; low life expectancy; insufficient access to social and economic services; and few opportunities for income generation. It is difficult to begin to address gender inequality without a clear understanding of how the historical and contemporary dislocation of black people in South Africa is inextricably tied to socio- economic poverty and gender injustice that manifests in modern South Africa. Race, class and gender are mutually reinforcing factors that serve to deepen inter-generational poverty in South Africa. The lives of the poor in general and black womxn in particular, are at odds with the constitutional intention of a life of dignity for all. Patriarchy, as a societal norm, prevails at all levels of society and finds expression in inequality of opportunity; disproportionate poverty; unemployment; ill health; food insecurity (especially among rural womxn); and pandemic proportions of sexual and other forms of violence against womxn. womxn, especially black womxn, are the main group affected by economic, social and political uncertainties, and carry the triple burden of structurally ingrained race, class and gender oppression. The focus on gender responsive public services that AA has been a pioneer in developing provides an important framework to bring together issues of tax, public services, sexual violence, shifting patriarchal norms and access to the city. AASA will look to this framing as a key opportunity for the next five years.


Sexual and reproductive health and rights

Women’s control over their own bodies is central to achieving gender equality. Denying or limiting women’s and girls’ sexual and reproductive rights has devastating consequences for their lives, and repercussions for their families and communities.

What are sexual and reproductive health and rights?

Sexual and reproductive health and rights means the right for everyone, regardless of age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, HIV status or other aspects of identity, to make informed choices regarding their own sexuality and reproduction.

It includes the right to make informed choices about whether or when they have children, the right to access the full range of affordable and informed family planning services, including safe abortion, the right to accurate information and services to prevent and treat sexually transmitted infections (STIs) including HIV and AIDS, and sexual health information and education.

ActionAid supports the rights of womxn and girls around the world to claim their full range of sexual and reproductive rights, and we challenge practices that deny them control over their own bodies. It is to this end that AASA focuses on the rights to the realisation of these rights.

Bodily Integrity: Women’s bodies are a major site of attempted control over women’s freedoms, movement and choices as well as community, political, social and economic participation. The ability of womxn to control their own fertility forms a core component of women’s rights, However, UNFPA and the Guttmacher Institute estimate that 215 million womxn globally who wish to limit or space their childbearing are not using a modern contraceptive method. This unmet need is disproportionately high among poor, adolescent and rural womxn and contributes to further marginalisation and social exclusion.

The South African constitution section 12 denotes that the following should apply to freedoms regarding security of the person:

(1) Everyone has the right to freedom and security of the person, which includes the right.

a)not to be deprived of freedom arbitrarily or without just cause;

b)not to be detained without trial;

c)to be free from all forms of violence from either public or private sources;

d)not to be tortured in any way; and

e) not to be treated or punished in a cruel, inhuman or degrading way.

(2) Everyone has the right to bodily and psychological integrity, which includes the right

(a) to make decisions concerning reproduction;

(b) to security in and control over their body; and

(c) not to be subjected to medical or scientific experiments without their informed consent.

d) Defending women’s rights to reproductive choice;

(e) Defending women’s rights to freedom from violence and bodily integrity; and

(f) Defending women’s rights to sexuality and sexual autonomy.



The mining sector continues to be one of the most significant contributors to the South African economy in GDP terms, and is an important foreign currency earner. However, the sector has seen major challenges with strikes and protests for increased wages by the workers. In 2012, this culminated into the first post-apartheid massacre— Marikana. State police killed 34 mineworkers and although a commission of inquiry was conducted, no one has been brought to book. The drop in commodity prices has also affected the levels of income generated from the minerals with a knock-on effect on the earnings for the mine workers as well as mass retrenchments across the country.

The environmental impact of mining on South Africa’s landscape is dire. Extensive areas of the region are becoming devoid of vegetation due to acidification and contamination of the soil, air and land. This development has far reaching health and livelihood consequences, especially for communities in mining regions, and agriculture in the country as a whole could potentially be affected. These operations contribute to and exacerbate climate change, already hitting the country hard with widespread droughts and water shortages. The work of AASA with social movements grounded in communities impacted by mining has started to build democratic and alternative spaces to discuss and mobilise around not just the actions of individual mines but the broader policy environment in which they operate. The opportunity to link with similar communities across the African continent will be a key focus over the next five years.


Land issues

While South Africa is highly urbanised, the long standing land question remains unresolved. 2017 marks 104 years since the 1913 Land Act which officially dispossessed Black South Africans of their land, yet today, the bulk of South African agricultural land remains in the hands of minority white farmers, while much of the food is produced for export markets, particularly in Europe. In sharp contrast to the rest of the continent, small scale subsistence farming, while not insignificant in its contribution to feeding rural households, is not the main source of food.

Located within its neo-liberal economic framework the African National Congress (ANC) adopted a market-based, willing-buyer-willing-seller model of land reform that requires that the state buy land back from white farmers at market-based prices. However, since the dawn of democracy, less than 5% of land has been transferred back to Black South Africans using this model.

Pressures on land in Southern Africa have increased over the past decade due to interests in food for export, agro-fuels and other natural resources, as well as speculative investments. There has been a rapid and high concentration of land holdings through amalgamations of agro-businesses and large-scale land acquisition. The acquisitions of South African companies have increased within the country as well as regionally. This expansion has almost always been accompanied by rights violations against land-reliant communities, with especially devastating consequences for womxn. Women’s access to and ownership of land increases their engagement in agricultural production, which is central to food security, particularly for rural households.


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