For Immediate Release

Organization Profile: 

Tel: +44 (0) 20 7413 5566
After hours: +44 7778 472 126

Human Rights Concerns in South Africa During the World Cup

LONDON - There has been an increase in police harassment of informal traders
(hawkers), homeless South Africans, and refugees and migrants who are
living in shelters or high density inner city accommodation.

This harassment has included police raids, arbitrary arrests,
ill-treatment and extortion, as well as destruction of informal housing.

The tearing down of informal housing has taken place without prior
notice, provision of adequate alternative housing or compensation and in
violation of domestic law prohibiting forced evictions.   

Regulations created to comply with FIFA World Cup requirements in
host cities are being used by police to expel homeless people and street
traders from “controlled access sites” and exclusion zones around World
Cup venues. Penalties for offences under the regulations include fines
of up to Rand 10,000 {$1,300] or imprisonment of up to six months.

In May 2010 hawkers protested outside the local FIFA operations
centre in Soweto calling for an end to evictions and the disruption of
their means of livelihood near soccer stadiums. Elsewhere tense
confrontations have occurred between police and street traders, over
seizures of street traders’ goods, in the name of cleaning up the
streets for the World Cup.

Xenophobic violence

In the first five months of 2010 at least  eleven incidents were
recorded in five provinces involving violent attacks and looting of
shops, particularly of Somali and  Ethiopian nationals. .

This violence has often been linked to public protests over
corruption and failures of local government to deliver basic services in
poor neighbourhoods.

Migrants and refugees are perceived by some as competing for jobs,
housing and economic opportunities, and become targets of violence
during the protests. However xenophobic attitudes also fuel the violence
and appear to underlie the local police failure to respond swiftly or,
in a few cases, to connive with the perpetrators of the violence. 
Access to justice and compensation for the victims has also proven very

In early June the government responded to appeals from South African
civil society, Amnesty International and others to give urgent attention
to the  indications of possible large-scale xenophobic violence,
including threats made to refugees and migrants that, “after the World
Cup” they will be driven out again from their neighbourhoods or the

After its cabinet meeting on 2 June, the government announced the
establishment of an inter-ministerial committee to focus on incidents
and threats of attacks on foreign nationals and promised that law
enforcement agencies would act swiftly against any person inciting or
participating in violence against foreign nationals.  Amnesty
International welcomes this move.

Violent crime and policing

The security forces have made plans to ensure the protection of
football stadiums and other areas where fans and visitors are expected
to gather. 


Get our best delivered to your inbox.

AI has a number of concerns in light of these plans. First, that the
enormous resources which have had to be deployed for the World Cup,
largely as part of requirements set by FIFA, will have consequences for
the safety and security of South Africans, particularly those living in
poorer neighbourhoods where effective policing and crime prevention is
already a serious challenge.

Refugees and migrants, already unable to secure adequate police
protection against xenophobic attacks may be increasingly vulnerable. 

Secondly, the priority given to protecting visitors may lead the
police to misuse lethal force against criminal suspects and in a manner
contrary to international human rights standards. Police contingency
plans relating to “domestic extremism” and “protests” should not result
in the excessive use of force and or violate the right of protestors to
peaceful assembly.  

Amnesty International and other bodies have documented an increase in
instances of torture of suspects in criminal investigations, the
excessive use of force against protestors and deaths as a result of the
misuse of lethal force in 2009. KwaZulu-Natal province showed a 47 per
cent increase in fatal shootings by the police over the past two years.

World Cup expenditure

South Africa faces major socio-economic challenges and the government
is struggling to effectively address persistent high unemployment
rates, severe inequality and gaps in the provision of basic services in
poor urban and rural communities. 

AI does not have a view on governments’ expenditure in relation to
the hosting of mega-sports events. Some temporary employment
opportunities appear to have been created in the preparations for the
World Cup and there may be a longer-term benefit from the development of
improved urban public transport infrastructure. .

However, protestors from poor communities have continued to raise
concerns that the majority of South Africans are still being excluded
from the benefits of hosting the World Cup.

The requirements under the “FIFA by-laws” which create extensive
exclusion zones for informal economic activity are seen as particularly
prejudicial in the context of a country where a large group of South
Africans are totally reliant on the informal sector economy for their

One of Amnesty International’s main campaign focuses in South Africa
is to promote increased and non-discriminatory access to HIV-related
health services for prevention, treatment and care, particularly for
women in distant rural areas.

While the government recently launched a new drive to combat the HIV
epidemic, it will need to display the same level of determination
evident in its World Cup preparations to overcome transport and other
obstacles to the right to health for women in these areas and who are
disproportionately affected by the epidemic.

Amnesty International calls on the South African government  to:
End arbitrary arrests and other abuses against poor South Africans,
including street traders, and migrants through the misuse of local
government by-laws and World Cup-related regulations;
•    Institute
an independent and full investigation into the alleged abuses by police
and local government authorities, and ensure access to justice and
compensation for those affected
•    Ensure that any use of force by
police to maintain public order is proportionate and consistent with
international human rights standards;    
•    Ensure the speedy
implementation of effective prevention and emergency response
mechanisms, as well as measures to combat impunity for crimes against
refugees and others in need of international protection.   
Increase efforts to address persistent abuses of women’s rights to
dignity and equality, as key components of HIV prevention and treatment

For an overview of Amnesty International’s human rights concerns in
South Africa, please see the Annual Report 2010 South Africa entry which
can be found here:


This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Won't Exist.

Please select a donation method:

Amnesty International is a worldwide movement of people who campaign for internationally recognized human rights for all. Our supporters are outraged by human rights abuses but inspired by hope for a better world - so we work to improve human rights through campaigning and international solidarity. We have more than 2.2 million members and subscribers in more than 150 countries and regions and we coordinate this support to act for justice on a wide range of issues.

Share This Article