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Professor Asmal: We did what you asked us to do

Professor Kader AsmalProfessor Kader Asmal is quoted as saying in January 2007 that NGO's must be "assertive and judicial" when it comes to holding corporations accountable for human rights violations. But now Prof Asmal and several others oppose Khulumani's efforts, a 58,000 strong South African NGO doing just that?

Professor Asmal urged participants of the 2007 Business, Accountability and Human-Rights conference, in Rosebank, to hold corporations accountable for enforcing human rights: “It should be our aim to move away from the idea that the state is the only one accountable for enforcing human-rights, and corporations need to take the responsibility," he said.

Khulumani again urges the former minister and fellow comrade to return to his earlier convictions and withdraw his Amicus Curiae in support of the defendant corporations who aided and abetted the apartheid regime. The full article by Engineering News follows:

From: Engineering News, 16 January 2007, http://www.engineeringnews.co.za

South Africa's Department of Trade and Industry should consider drafting and implementing a human-rights code of conduct for South African companies operating outside the country, ANC National Executive Committee member and human-rights champion Kader Asmal said on Tuesday.

Speaking at the a Business, Accountability and Human-Rights conference, in Rosebank, north of Johannesburg, he stated that there were recurring views that South African companies did not adopt proper human-rights policies, and that it would be in the country's best interest to change this.

“Extractive industries have the worst record for human-rights violations, but the food and IT industries are also guilty,” Asmal said, singling out gold, diamond and iron-ore producers.

“It is in the interests of the businesses themselves to protect human-rights,”
he stressed, reiterating that there should be a code of conduct to govern their behaviour.

The Department of Trade and Industry should consider drafting and implementing a code of conduct for South African companies operating outside the country, Asmal put forward.

He added that it was very important to the country's reputation that South African companies subscribed to a code of conduct , particularly regarding women's rights and the fight against corruption.

“It is in the interests of South Africa, because sSome South African companies have given the country a bad name from their global operations,” Asmal noted. “A code of conduct may also help South African executives understand human-rights better.” Asmal concluded by saying that nongovernmental organisations, especially from the southern hemisphere, must be “assertive and judicial”.

“It should be our aim to move away from the idea that the state is the only one accountable for enforcing human-rights, and corporations need to take the responsibility,” he said.

Meanwhile, The South African government was conducting a far-reaching review of investments made by its State-owned enterprises (SoE) in the rest of Africa over the last 12 years, and the Department of Public Enterprises (DPE) was expected to draft a new framework for their future involvement on the continent by the end of last year.

The review had reportedly shown up a series of weaknesses in past practices, with the majority of investments by companies such as Eskom, Transnet and South African Airways (SAA) having underperformed against initial expectations.

Issues of bribery and corruption would also be covered by the code, with the SoEs being bound to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development guidelines in this regard.

But DPE was not concerned only with the economic strengths and weaknesses of SoE investments into the rest of Africa, and the framework was also likely to offer policy parameters for the more intangible political and social consequences associated with successful or unsuccessful cross-border forays.

Government was reportedly aware of some rising resistance to South African companies, as well as of complaints of an 'imperialistic attitude'. Therefore, study was being made into the approach taken by other medium-sized economies, such as Sweden, into Africa, where the investment had not been seen as imperialistic or a threat to national sovereignty.

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