The week in political activism

| Delphine Pedeboy
Paul McNally receiving the Webber Wentzel Legal Journalist of the Year Award. Photo courtesy of Wits Justice Project.

This week we have reports from WITS Justice Project, SECTION27 and Greenpeace Africa.

WITS Justice Project

The Wits Justice Project (WJP), based at Wits University’s Journalism Department, is a group of journalists and researchers working to improve the criminal justice system.

Recently WJP was awarded the Webber Wentzel Legal Journalist of the Year award for Paul McNally’s radio broadcast about drug withdrawal in awaiting trial prisoners, which aired on community radio station, Thetha FM. You can listen to Paul’s show here:

This month, a senior journalist at WJP, Ruth Hopkins published the results of a year-long investigation into torture at the privately-run Mangaung Correctional Centre. The company running the prison is the notorious G4S. Her article revealed the use of electro-shock as well as the forced injection of anti-psychotic substances to non-pyschotic inmates. Since its publication, Minister of Correctional Services Sibusiso Ndebele has announced that the Department of Correctional Services will launch an investigation into the allegations of torture.

Also, Carolyn Raphaely, a journalist with the project, published an article examining the newly ratified South African DNA bill. Better DNA analysis, she noted, will have a dual function – it may help to convict the guilty and may also assist in exonerating those wrongfully convicted.

Visit for more on WJP’s work


SECTION27, the well-known public interest law firm, has had a very busy couple of weeks. The organisation made a joint submission with the Treatment Action Campaign and Medecins Sans Frontieres to the Department of Trade and Industry on intellectual property. It is working with Sonke Gender Justice on improving access to antiretrovirals in Boksburg prison. It hosted an activist dialogue on 1 November on the right to protest. The organisation also presented to the health portfolio committee in Parliament on 6 November, along with the Eastern Cape Health Crisis Action Coalition, about the problems in the Eastern Cape health system.

For more about SECTION27 and their recent work, go to

Greenpeace Africa

The African branch of Greenpeace will be staging a Drumming for Justice event this Saturday at Pieter Roos Park, on the corner of Empire and Victoria Avenue in Johannesburg. It has now been over 50 days since 28 Greenpeace activists and two freelance journalists were grabbed at gunpoint and detained in Russia after a peaceful protest against oil drilling in the Arctic. They are now known around the world as the ‘Arctic 30’.

Ruth Mhlanga, Climate and Energy Campaigner for Greenpeace Africa, said, “This Saturday Greenpeace Africa will stand together with them [the detainees] because we believe that justice for people is justice for the planet and vice versa. Together with drumming groups we shall beat the drum of justice and raise our voices to call for their freedom and against oil drilling in the Arctic. While our drums will not be in Russia, our friends will know that we stand with them and we will send a clear message to companies like Shell and Gazprom that they can neither drill in the Arctic nor frack our Karoo.”

Speaking about the courage of the Arctic 30, Ruth said, “They are being held because they believe in the power of individuals to change the world. They are ordinary people who chose to do something brave, they are heroes because they prioritized the welfare of others before their own comfort.”

For more information about Greenpeace Africa and how to get involved, go to:

TOPICS:  Civil Society

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