Old Mutual faces human rights complaint

old_mutual_South African refugee rights group, PASSOP, has laid an official complaint against insurance giant Old Mutual, saying the group needs to show its support for the human rights of Zimbabweans by severing certain business ties in the country.

The financial corporation has come under increasing pressure to withdraw its interests in Zimpapers, which publishes the states mouthpiece Herald newspaper, as well as a South African firm that has started mining at the Chiadzwa diamond fields. Old Mutuals involvement in the mining fields angered human rights groups, who last week had already started campaigning for the financial and insurance corporation to cut its ties with the vehicle of Robert Mugabes propaganda and hate speech.

PASSOPs Braam Hanekom explained on Tuesday that an official complaint against the company has been laid with the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC). He explained that Old Mutual needs to show support for the rights of Zimbabweans, by withdrawing its business interests in the two companies on moral grounds.

The financial group is a part owner of the South African company that has secured a mining deal at the diamond fields. The company, Reclamation, was exposed last month by a South African documentary on the diamond crisis, as having an estimated 50% share in Grandwell Holdings, which in turn has partnered with the Marange unit of the state, owned by the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation.

Grandwell Holdings, which is therefore effectively part owned by Old Mutual, has already started mining at the fields, where rampant human rights atrocities are still being committed. Zimbabwe earlier this month managed to escape a ban from international trade, after the regulatory body responsible for ending trade in conflict stones, the Kimberley Process, gave the government more time to comply with international standards. The decision taken at the bodys annual meeting in Namibia has shocked human rights groups, who were campaigning for a full ban as a result of the widespread abuse at the fields.

Old Mutual meanwhile has made no official comment in its defence. Harare Mayor, and Old Mutual Zimbabwe chairman Muchadeyi Masunda, last week said the insurance giant is an institutional investor and does not influence the running of companies that the group has invested in. At the same time an Old Mutual spokesperson has reportedly denied that the company did not respect human rights, saying: Our interests are absolutely aligned with those people campaigning for human rights. We absolutely believe that a stable country and a free society

in Zimbabwe is in our interests as Old Mutual, said company spokesperson Crispin Sonn.

Post published in: Politics

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