For the sixth time since 2015, our campaign “Plough Back the Fruits” has submitted a countermotion to the Annual Meeting of Shareholders, arguing not to approve the actions of the Board of Executive Directors of BASF. The campaign is committed to compensating the survivors, injured and unjustly arrested people from Marikana, upholding the human rights of South African mine workers and their families.
As a reminder: in Marikana in the South African platinum mining area, 34 miners were murdered by the South African police on August 16, 2012. They went on strike for wage increases, better working conditions and decent living conditions in the informal settlements around the mines.
Lonmin, BASF’s long-standing business partner and main platinum supplier, was bought by Sibanye-Stillwater in 2019. As usual, Lonmin’s value and profitability were downplayed before the sale and the acquisition by Sibanye Stillwater was presented as an act of mercy for a bankrupt company.
Barely seven months after the sale, Sibanye-Stillwater is considered a rising star in the international platinum market and the Marikana mines are at the heart of the portfolio.
Otherwise, Sibanye Stillwater has so far been best known for a sad record of industrial accidents at its South African gold mines.
Before the 2012 strike, permanent miners earned 5800 rand, the equivalent of around 600 euros at the time.
The strikers’ demand was for a living wage of 12,500 rand, a salary they could live on.
Since then, the salaries for some workers have almost doubled, but measured against the hard and dangerous work underground and the rising cost of living, inflation and currency decline in South Africa, a miner today earns basically the same or as little as back then: 12500 rand is 660 euros today.
BASF has been directly linked to the platinum mining region in South Africa through its platinum supply chain for at least 35 years and knows the conditions there very well.
It is implausible for BASF to refer to the completely non-binding UN Global Compact, which explains on paper what ethically responsible conduct by companies along their global supply chains could look like.
Four audits in five years, under criteria co-developed by BASF, have not led to significant improvements in the situation of local people.
It is implausible for BASF to claim that it has no influence on what its business partners and political decision-makers in South Africa do or do not do.
And it is not only because of the political inexperience or inability of South African actors that the transformation to an equal community in South Africa has got stuck in its infancy.
After six years and just as many visits to BASF shareholders’ meetings with delegations from South Africa, it is clear to us that BASF is trying to appease, delay and keep the concerns from South Africa at a distance.
Kurt Bock, the former CEO, who is now returning as Chairman of the Supervisory Board, had made it clear several times through his choice of words that his entrepreneurial logic is still characterized by colonial continuity.
The new Chairman of the Board of Executive Directors, Martin Brudermüller, may well give the impression of being more subtle than Bock and speaks of BASF’s interest in “dialogue”.
However, BASF is not really interested in constructive exchange, but to give the impression of a responsible company.
If South Africa, 25 years after the so-called democratic turnaround, is still the country with the world’s largest, and still growing, coefficient of inequality, then systemically and structurally something is going wrong.
BASF has long benefited from these persistently unequal conditions in South Africa.
We expect BASF to actually be prepared to live up to its corporate guidelines:
They say: “We combine economic success with environmental protection and social responsibility.
We say: Yes! Get started tomorrow!
Any company that increases the dividend for shareholders in times of a global corona pandemic – as it does every year – sends a fatal signal.
Until further notice, we are against granting discharge to the Board of Executive Directors and the Supervisory Board of BASF.
We are strongly in favor of a binding and transparent supply chain law that would oblige companies like BASF to meet their responsibilities!