*By Sunit Bagree
Action for Southern Africa (ACTSA) was established in 1994 as the successor organisation to the Anti-Apartheid Movement. ACTSA supports the people of Southern Africa to achieve a region free of poverty, based on human rights and equality for all. ACTSA encourages individuals and civil society organisations (CSOs) in the UK and beyond to stand in solidarity with those struggling for rights and justice in Southern Africa. ACTSA currently has two major campaigns: ‘Justice for Southern African Gold Miners’ and ‘Human Rights, Democracy and Development for Swaziland’. In addition, the organisation works on a broad range of other countries (especially Angola and Zimbabwe) and issues (especially trade, HIV/AIDS and the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people).
Justice for Southern African Gold Miners
Possibly hundreds of thousands of mainly ex-gold mineworkers across Southern Africa have silicosis, an incurable, debilitating and progressive disease which makes the sufferer much more likely to contract tuberculosis (TB). Silicosis is preventable as long as the correct health and safety measures – which have been known for well over a century – are followed. Yet the owners and managers of apartheid South Africa’s gold mines treated black mineworkers recruited from rural areas of South Africa and neighbouring countries as cheap labour, to be exploited then discarded when ill. This injustice is compounded by the scandalous refusal of the mining companies to accept responsibility for the suffering of these mineworkers. ACTSA calls on the companies to provide decent medical screening, compensation, healthcare and support for all former and current mineworkers with silicosis and TB.
Human Rights, Democracy and Development for Swaziland
Swaziland’s ruler, King Mswati III, is Africa’s last absolute monarch. His extensive powers include the ability to appoint the Prime Minister, members of the judiciary and two thirds of the upper house, as well as the right to veto legislation. The country’s largest opposition party, the People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), is banned. Candidates for election to the lower house are selected by local chiefs who report to the King. Trade unions and other CSOs endure systematic oppression. As a result of mismanagement and corruption, the economy is in a dire state, with 63% of the population living below the poverty line, and wealth concentrated in the hands of the royal family and a tiny elite close to the King. ACTSA calls on the international community – especially the UK, Commonwealth, European Union and US – to increase pressure on the Government of Swaziland so that it fulfils its international obligations. We also call on international actors to more actively support the work of Swazi civil society in its struggle for human rights and democratic governance.
How We Work
ACTSA uses a wide variety of campaigning tactics to create change. These range from writing reports and letters, to developing petitions and online actions, to organising peaceful demonstrations. Lobbying meetings, either in person or using Skype and WhatsApp, are also an important tactic. Indeed, where possible, we seek to host visitors from our allies in Southern Africa, so that together we can physically meet and influence the powerful actors who are our campaign targets. Often we work as an active member of civil society coalitions such as the Zimbabwe Europe Network and Trade Justice Movement. Ultimately, ACTSA relies on its members, affiliates and supporters. If you would like to find out more you can email firstname.lastname@example.org or you can become an individual member of ACTSA by joining online.
*Sunit Bagree is Senior Campaigns Officer at Action for Southern Africa (ACTSA). He is also a pro bono advisor to the Jubilee Debt Campaign. He has worked for various civil society organisations on a wide range of global justice issues both as a professional (since 2003) and as a volunteer (since 2000). He holds a BSc (Econ) in Economics and Geography from University College London, an MA in Conflict Resolution from Lancaster University and an LLM in Human Rights Law from the University of Nottingham.