Newsletter 11/09

Judge Goldstone brings his experience to the cause of peace and reconciliation

The Inquiry Commission regarding public violence which marked the last years of the Apartheid in South Africa from 1991 to 1994, headed by Judge Goldstone, was one of the starting points for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission set up in 1995 and chaired by Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

An approach similar to that adopted some fifteen years ago in South Africa underpins the report drawn up by Judge Goldstone on violations of the rights of civilian populations in times of armed conflict, committed during the Gaza conflict (December 2008 - February 2009). The report was adopted on 16 October 2009 by the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council.

South Africa will be ready for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, says the World Cup Organising Committee

Work on all the FIFA World Cup sites was disrupted last July by a strike called in response to a court decision allowing an unlimited strike by workers demanding higher wages.

The strike call affected the 10 stadiums under construction and renovation as well as the building site of Gautrain, the high-speed rail system linking Johannesburg to King Shaka international airport.

The World Cup Organising Committee again confirmed that South Africa will be ready to host this global event despite the strike, which should not affect the progress of work.

South African banks relatively unscathed by the international financial crisis

The South African banking sector has largely benefited in recent years from a massive upsurge in take-up of banking services by a significant proportion of the population previously denied access to banking, boosting sector revenues. Lending, too, has seen considerable growth. As a result, the banking sector now derives most of its revenue from its intermediation business.

In addition, because of restrictive legislation on overseas and foreign currency exposure, South African banks were left relatively unscathed from the sub-primes crisis.

It should be added that regulation of the banking sector appears to be comprehensive and fairly strict. The South African Reserve bank acts as the central bank and oversight body for privately-owned banks. Banking is governed by the Bank Act introduced in 1990. National legislation incorporates the entire body of international recommendations and rules. The Basel II rules were thus effectively implemented on 1 January 2008, following a gradual introduction from 2001 onwards.

The National Credit Act, which came into full force in June 2007, is designed to protect the consumer against abusive credit practices and against overindebtedness. It has acted as a curb on credit growth and the accompanying risks. Since late 2007, however, observers have noted a constant increase in counterparty risk on South African banks' loan portfolios, due to the economic slowdown. Therefore, they have registered substantially higher loan loss provisions.

Aids Vaccine Conference 2009 in Paris

For the first time, encouraging results have emerged in the search for a vaccine to combat HIV.

The global AIDS Vaccine Conference organised in Paris in October heard reports of a trial carried out in Thailand on 16,000 volunteers, which showed that the trial vaccine provides partial protection against HIV infection.

Further work on the vaccine will require massive economic support, particularly on the part of the European Union.