Source: Statement, Bloomberg (2015-05-01)
German campaigners facilitated Bishop Jo Seoka, the Chair of South African NGO Bench Marks Foundation, to speak at the BASF annual general meeting on their links to Lonmin, and 2012’s tragic Marikana massacre.
BASF challenged to share responsibility for the Marikana Massacre
Bishop Jo Seoka welcomed by both BASF and shareholders at their Jubilee celebration in Mannheim, Germany, 30 April 2015
Dachverband Kritische Actionaire Press release
1 May 2015
Mannheim, Germany/Pretoria, South Africa – The address of South African Bishop Jo Seoka at the BASF Shareholder’s meeting in Mannheim, Germany, was well received by the shareholders. In the address he demanded reparation payments for the families of the killed miners from 16th August 2012 in Marikana. Some shareholders were surprised at the news that BASF is the main customer of Lonmin, and supported the demands of the Bishop.
Before the start of the shareholder’s annual general meeting the chairmen of the supervisory board of BASF, Jürgen Hambrecht welcomed Bishop Seoka and the filmmaker Maren Grimm, who was co-organizing the South African visit in Germany, together with Markus Dufner, chairperson of the Association of the Ethical Shareholder. There was much applause from the shareholders after Seoka’s impressive and challenging address about the Marikana Massacre, the living conditions of the workers and the responsibility of BASF as the main customer of Lonmin. (Read the whole speech of Bishop Seoka here:
Several shareholders spontaneously referred in their own later statements to the facts Seoka presented. One shareholder noted, “it is a disgrace to know that the majority of the people who dig out the world’s most precious metal, which BASF is processing to catalysts, work and live under inhuman conditions in the 21st Century. It’s a disgrace that BASF, which bought for 450 million Euros platinum group metals from Lonmin in 2014, did nothing to share responsibility up to date.”
In his reply, the CEO of BASF, Kurt Bock, said, that “the BASF board is also disturbed at what happened in South Africa, but it’s hard for them to judge from this distance. Therefore they cannot pay anything for the demanded fund of 3,4 million Euro towards the families of the deceased.
Bishop Seoka noted “I think that BASF listened carefully, and appreciated the fact that I came a long way to present the facts to the shareholders. Notably the shareholders seemed to have been uninformed about BASF’s relationship with Lonmin in South Africa. The BASF management said they knew about the situation but because of ‘distance’ they could not judge the matter clearly.”
One of the shareholders disagreed with this notion and challenged BASF to work on its public relations to improve its image. Another shareholder found it ironic that the CEO claims that the company is globally linked, yet on the same breath says that they could not do anything because of the ‘distance’. This does not make any sense in a world of technology which makes communication simple and fast, especially for the world’s biggest chemical company.
The CEO also said they could not do anything because the report of the Marikana Commission of Inquiry is not yet made public. An Ethical Shareholders Germany spokesperson said “we will have to wait patiently with interest to see what BASF will do after the report has been released. We are also keen to know what BASF will do if the report won´t be released.”
Bishop Seoka, chairperson of the Bench Marks Foundation, extended an invitation to BASF and its shareholders to visit and experience first hand Lonmin’s operations. The compny can then engage Lonmin factually and constructively on the way forward.
For further information and requests
John Capel: +27 11 832-1743/2 and +27 82 870 8861
Maren Grimm: +49 (0) 177 655 10 53,
Jakob Krameritsch: +43 (0) 699 1967 51 31,
Markus Dufner, Ethical Shareholders Germany: +49 (0) 174 – 403 88 06, +49 (0) 221 599 56 47
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Shareholders grill BASF over links to Marikana killings
Sheenagh Matthews
4 May 2015
BASF faced questions about its sourcing of platinum from a South African mine where strikers were shot dead by police, highlighting the challenge of controlling suppliers while promoting humanitarian credentials.
Chief executive Kurt Bock rejected calls at the company’s annual shareholders’ meeting last week to pay into a fund to support the families of Lonmin miners who were killed during a strike at the Marikana mine in August 2012.
He answered questions posed by Johannes Seoka, a South African Anglican bishop, read out in German by Markus Dufner of the Association of Ethical Shareholders Germany.
The world’s biggest chemical company should “take responsibility as Lonmin’s principal customer” and make reparation payments to the families of the miners, Seoka said through Dufner. Ludwigshafen, Germany-based BASF should also look into the housing and working conditions around Lonmin’s mines, where many workers live without running water or electricity.
Lonmin, the world’s third-biggest platinum producer by volume, saw strikes over pay in 2012 that culminated in the killing of 34 protesters by police in a single day. Seoka said that Lonmin beared some of the responsibility for the deaths.
The issue stresses the difficulties companies have with controlling how they source components for their products.
IPhone maker Apple hired a watchdog to inspect working conditions at factories after suicides at its Chinese partner Foxconn Technology in 2010.
Making judgments
“You can be sure that we know how platinum is obtained and what the conditions in the mines in South Africa are,” Bock said. “But it’s really difficult for us to make judgments here from a distance.”
Bock is a board member of the UN Global Compact, an initiative for businesses committed to aligning their operations in areas of human rights, labour and environment.
“I can’t imagine that BASF can approve, or tolerate, such conduct by one of its suppliers,” Dufner said in Seoka’s translated speech. “As the main customer, why haven’t you given a response to the massacre and given your condolences? We’re asking you to do this here and now.”
What happened at Marikana is etched in Lonmin’s memory and “we’re doing everything we can” for the families, Sue Vey, a spokeswoman for the mining firm, said.
The company would wait for the findings of an inquiry into the deaths and the subsequent recommendations, she said.
A report on the Marikana killings was presented to President Jacob Zuma on March 31. The government is not obliged to publish its findings.
BASF uses platinum, palladium and rhodium in its catalytic converters used in cars. The company bought e450 million (R6 billion) worth of precious metals from Lonmin in 2014 and has had a close relationship for about 30 years, Bock said. – Bloomberg