Tag Archives: Torture

International Day in Support of Victims / Survivors of Torture

29 Jun

On Saturday 26 June 2010, fifty-eight Khulumani members came together at Freedom Square in Kliptown, Soweto, to declare that they will never be silent, but will continue to speak out (khulumani) about torture and its devastating consequences on their lives. The members came from Mamelodi in Pretoria/Tshwane; Katlehong and Vosloorus in Ekurhuleni; Sharpeville and Sebokeng in Sedibeng; and from Soweto to remember the anniversary of the June 26, 1987 United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. (UNCAT).

The common thread running through the Khulumani members’ narratives was their experiences of torture. This is not surprising given that torture was condoned by all levels of the apartheid police and security apparatus in South Africa, not only to intimidate but to extract information from anti-apartheid activists.

For most survivors of torture, the major persistent consequence is a destruction of their capacity to establish and sustain meaningful and trusting interpersonal relationships. As torture survivor Peter Pitso Moletsane from Klerksdorp had explained in his testimony to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC): torture was designed to render its victims ‘unfit for life’.

When survivors of torture come together to collectively speak out about the abomination of torture, they are making a stand for life, rather than for death. A declaration by victims of torture that they are committed to working together for a world free of torture, is a powerful reclamation of survivors’ agency.

Despite worldwide condemnation of torture and the existence of treaty provisions that forbid torture and that criminalise perpetrators of torture, torture still occurs in two thirds of the world’s nations, including those that promote themselves as ‘civilised nations’. In South Africa, there is evidence that torture is still practiced by our security forces today in situations of involuntary detention. For Khulumani, it remains a responsibility to continue to SPEAK OUT in the struggle to ‘wipe the scourge of torture from the face of the earth so that torture may finally be consigned to the darkest spaces of history’. (Kofi Annan, June 26, 1998)

The June 26 Khulumani Commemoration programme to remember our history; to honour those who lived this history; and to speak out to stop the use of torture in South Africa, demonstrates that what happens in small places out of the public gaze will increasingly be exposed and those who commit the crime of torture will be held accountable.

Torture is one of the crimes which the defendant companies in the South African apartheid litigation, Daimler, General Motors, Ford Motor Company, IBM and Rheinmetall, are accused of knowingly aiding and abetting – through their deliberate business dealings with the security forces of the apartheid regime.

The Khulumani Commemoration ended with the launch of the book, ‘All That Was Lost’ by Professor Cath Byrne. The book is dedicated to the memory of Khulumani founder member, the late Mr Duma Kumalo.

Duma Kumalo performing at a Khulumani Support Group event

Duma was sentenced to death based on a fellow Sharpeville resident’s false testimony which was extracted under torture. Although Duma was released from jail hours before he was due to be executed, justice has not been served. His name has still not been cleared, despite his testimony to the TRC and three applications to the Department of Justice for the expunging of his criminal record. Unfortunately Duma died unexpectedly on 3 February 2006 at the age of 48. Khulumani Support Group and Duma’s family believe that a posthumous order by the Minister of Justice or the President of South Africa to expunge his criminal record would be in order, and call on the Minister and the President to expedite this request.

To the G8. For the Freedom Charter. From Torture Survivors.

26 Jun

Today, the 26th of June, is a significant one: in Toronto the leaders of the most economically powerful nations in the world meet to decide on their joint policies and practices going forward; here in South Africa we commemorate the 55th anniversary of the signing of the Freedom Charter; and worldwide the day is observed as one to acknowledge the victims of torture — past and ongoing.

These events are all tied together by one common theme: the interaction of the most powerful with those most marginalised. The G8 talks supposedly focus on development and aid for the poorest on the globe – and will probably produce yet another faux commitment which could soon be  forgotten. The Freedom Charter was a brave attempt by oppressed South Africans to imagine the unimaginable 55 years ago — a framework for a just post-apartheid era. Most famously the Freedom Charter proclaims joint ownership of the country by “all those who live in it”. And the International Day focusing on victims of torture – particularly relevant in South Africa with our brutal history – is a small token of recognition by the world of those who have suffered some of the worst practices human beings have inflicted on each other, and in some instances, still do.

What will probably have been missed in the hours of reporting, commemorations and recognitions that take place worldwide today is the place of multinational corporations in these relations between the powerful and the marginalised.

The G8 comprises the largest country economies of the world; yet we rarely recognise that of the 100 largest economies in the world, over half are individual multinational corporations. The vast majority of these economically powerful corporations are housed within G8 countries – their fates are intricately and inextricably linked (as we saw in the bank and auto industry bailouts to save the US economy); what is good for corporations is usually good for the G8, and what this often means is that principles, accountability and regulation is sacrificed on the altar of profit maximisation.While the G8 focuses on the developing world, we call on it to also reflect on the way in which its corporations operate, often exploiting people and countries for their own profit. As with the companies willing to sell equipment to the apartheid security forces.

The Freedom Charter identifies  a number of different areas in which South Africans need(ed) to seek and achieve freedom. One important principle is clearly articulated in the section on the country’s wealth: “All…industry and trade shall be controlled to assist the wellbeing of the people.” Today, as we commemorate the Freedom Charter, we call for this particular phrase to be acknowledged and implemented as one of the most equitable and just ways for business to function. Indeed all companies – domestic and multinational – must acknowledge that the local citizenship wherever business operations are based, are as important as the shareholders. These citizens are stakeholders – which is in and of itself a form of shareholding. This requires a shift from a simplistic ‘because we pay taxes, we have met our obligations’. For  the ‘wellbeing of the people’ to be addressed, corporations would have to know who the people directly involved and affected are. This would mean a hands on and face to face, humanisation of the corporations’ personae.

Finally on 26 June 2010, Khulumani recognises and acknowledges all its members who have survived torture. We remember that brave activists were handed over to the apartheid security forces through equipment used to track them down which was provided by companies like IBM. We remember that the military vehicles that picked them up, and transported them to detention to be tortured, were sold to the security forces by companies like Ford, Daimler and General Motors. And that the ammunition that was shot at crowds and individuals was provided by companies like Rheinmettal.

So today, on this G8-Freedom Charter-Torture Survivors day, we call on the world to recognise the damage corporations have wreaked in South Africa and globally; and to hold them accountable. It is time to secure what our people called for when they wrote in the Freedom Charter that: “All…industry and trade shall be controlled to assist the wellbeing of the people.”

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