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Businesses heed calls to cut G4S contracts

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Over 20 South African businesses have terminated their contracts with G4S Security over its involvement in Israeli prisons and human rights abuses, according to the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement in South Africa (BDS South Africa).  Since an aggressive campaign launched by BDS South Africa and the KZN Palestine Solidarity Forum last year,  contracts totalling more than R7 million per year have been terminated. BDS South Africa made this announcement on international Palestine Prisoner’s day marked on Friday 17 April.

In 2007 G4S was contracted to provide and maintain Israeli prisons, torture centres and detention facilities. In 2010 Palestinian prisoners and prisoner support organziations called for a boycott of G4S as part of the larger international boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel campaign.

“Last year the Methodist Church together with Amnesty International and the European Union were among some of the organisations that terminated their contracts with G4S. In June 2014, Bill Gates withdrew his R1.9 billion stake from G4S after being called on by BDS South Africa and the larger BDS movement,” explained BDS South Africa spokesperson Kwara Kekana.

“Locally in South Africa, the Trauma Centre in Cape Town ended its relations with G4S in 2013. This was followed by South Africa’s ruling party, the ANC, in November 2014 resolving that G4S  be excluded from doing business with the South African government.”

The over R7 million worth of cancelled G4S Security contracts include contracts for more than 140 sites across the country ranging from restaurants, factories, supermarkets and other stores.

One businessman, Moosa Sabir, the general manager of a chain of hardware stores said, they were contacted by customers and the general public who saw G4S vehicles at their store. They complained that G4S was complicit in Israel’s torture and illegal detention of Palestinian children.

“When we investigated the matter we found that G4S was guilty and we could not continue the business relationship in good faith. All and any businesses complicit with Israeli Apartheid should be shunned by peace and justice loving people. We hope more businesses follow our lead,” he said.

Piet Modiba, representing a nationwide manufacturing company said on the cancelling of their G4S contracts: “We come from a very dark and painful past, part of the pain was inflicted by companies that insisted on aiding the apartheid regime. G4S today is doing the same by maintaining relations with the Israeli Government.”

Aziz Ismail, owner of a Limpopo hardware store in Polokwane said he felt encouraged by the “strategic and focused boycott” of Apartheid South Africa.

“Palestine needs us now more than ever, we must intensify the non-violent boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign. If we are being called by the BDS movement to boycott Woolworths, we should. If we are being called to end relations with G4S we should. This contributed to our liberation, we can do the same now in the BDS boycott of Israel.”

Currently, there are over 6000 Palestinians imprisoned by Israel; 454 of them are being held under Israel’s “administrative detention” and 163 of them are children. In the last 11 years alone, more than 7500 Palestinian children have been detained in Israeli prisons and detention facilities (including being held in solitary confinement) with Muhammad Daoud Dirbas, at the age of six, being the youngest Palestinian child to have been detained by Israeli soldiers.

Last year Ahmed Kathrada together with Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Novelist Alice Walker; Linguist, philosopher and author Noam Chomsky; Author and Activist Angela Davis; Poet, painter and former South African political prisoner Breyten Breytenbach; Actor Miriam Margolyes; Author John Berger; and various others wrote an open letter to the Management of G4S calling on the company to end its Israeli contracts including those contracts with Israeli prisons holding Palestinian political prisoners. VOC

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