Tag Archives: Daimler

Broken laws, broken promises, broken lives

1 Aug

The iniquity of the companies that knowingly aided and abetted the security forces of the illegitimate apartheid regime is that not only did they break international sanctions imposed by the United Nations, but their actions have directly and indirectly resulted in a number of people’s lives being almost irreparably damaged. These companies include IBM, Daimler, General Motors, Ford Motor Company and Rheinmetall. Many others were involved – banks, oil companies, mining companies, arms and ammunitions companies, construction companies. Indeed any local or international corporation that allowed itself to be co-opted in one or other way not only in sustaining and maintaining apartheid’s illegitimate legislation, but also those companies that assisted the security forces to oppress the people of South Africa. Some of this oppression was through following the immoral and illegitimate laws of the land at that time. For example: did Daimler pay its workers in South Africa (through Mercedes Benz SA) the equivalent rate that its workers in Germany received? Or was it the opportunity to exploit cheap labour that made SA so attractive to Daimler (and many other companies)?

Many victims and survivors of the myriad deliberately harming and destructive actions of the corporations are today worse off than before liberation. The promise of a ‘better life for all’ has become a ‘better life for all – except for those who had a better life before, and except for those who are not connected’ . . . to elites in the ruling party. The tragedy is that many of the victims and survivors who have been transformed into elites themselves do not care about their comrades who have seen no justice or whose lives are worse off than before: dispossessed, as Prof Ariel Dorfman says, of their futures.

Victims testified at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission under the impression that, because they had voluntarily given up the right to sue their perpetrators in pursuance of the truth of the past, they would be appropriately recompensed for their suffering and losses. Government broke that promise despite the TRC itself recommending that reparations be paid annually to the victims and survivors for six years. This must have partly been to try and ensure that none of the victims and survivors were worse off afterwards than they were during apartheid. A once-off reparations grant of R30,000 was provided by President Thabo Mbeki and his government.

One of the mothers of a disappeared son bought a second hand car with the money and named the car after her son. But the possibility of a son who may have gone on to study or work and to help support his mother in her old age could never be compensated for by the minimum payment made by government, or the purchase of a car.  The worst broken promise — a betrayal of trust — comes from those in positions of power or wealth who have turned their backs on their comrades.

Broken laws require that the perpetrators are found guilty in a court of law and suitably punished. This includes that those guilty of apartheid crimes, and apartheid was a crime against humanity that cannot prescribe or be allowed to prescribe through glib legal arguments.

Broken promises require that the promise-breakers should make amends for their defaulting. This means that our government must come to the table with the victims and survivors and ensure that the resources made available by donors and foreign governments to the President’s Fund eventually reach those people they were meant for. It is a disgrace that the President, the TRC Unit and the officer in charge of the President’s Fund have not yet published the required regulations for distributing the money in this fund to those it was created for, thirteen years after the first donations were made by the Swiss Government and the Kingdom of Denmark! The Swiss Government stipulated that the funds be distributed as mandated by the TRC. The Danish money was to be spent “solely in accordance with the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Commitee on Reparation and Rehabilitation”. This has clearly not been done.

Broken lives require that the resources for redress of material, emotional, social and community reparations are provided. It requires that every one of us living in South Africa, but especially the elites and the new elites, do what we can to make sure that the forgotten heroes of the struggle who suffered for justice and freedom in our land are enabled to carry on with their lives not worse off than when they joined the struggle.

Fair Play – does it all depend on the referees?

11 Jul

The documentary, Fair Play, one in the seven-part series called Have You Heard From Johannesburg?, directed by Connie Field of Clarity Films, Berkeley, California, was screened at the Peoples’ Justice Fan Centre in Jabavu, Soweto on Friday 9 July, 2010 in a focus on Sport, Memory and Apartheid. The film highlights the central role that Dennis Brutus played as an anti-apartheid activist in the sports arena.

As we have seen in the FIFA Soccer World Cup 2010, fair play does not necessarily take place — especially when referees and linesmen (and they were all men) make mistakes.

Fair play was not the name of the game during apartheid either. The main referee at that time, the apartheid cabinet and government as a whole, made the rules and applied them through the security forces. But they applied the “rules” unfairly and allowed them to be applied unfairly — including letting multinational corporations such as Daimler, General Motors, Ford, IBM and Rheinmetall do business under apartheid laws. This meant these companies (and many others) would have had segregated toilets; differential pay packages based on skin colour, and “job reservation” — ensuring that only white people were given managerial posts. Unions were banned for much of the time of apartheid for fear of strikes disrupting the economy.

Dennis Brutus in full voice

Dennis Brutus clearly saw the injustice of all this,  made his voice heard, and was targetted by the apartheid regime. He was shot  in the back in 1963 while attempting to escape police custody, and nearly bled to death on the sidewalk while waiting for an ambulance. The ambulances were also segregated and only ambulances reserved for whites were immediately available. He had to wait for a “blacks only” ambulance. Fair play? No.

Brutus’s being shot is the reason he was listed as a plaintiff in the Khulumani Lawsuit. Unfortunately he died in his sleep in December last year and will not see the outcome. His son Tony is representing him.

Even after a democratic government came to power in South Africa, Dennis Brutus recognised that there was still no level playing field for many, if not most, of the people of South Africa. He got stuck in and started to make his voice heard again — this time about different kinds of injustices.

Khulumani Support Group recognises and salutes Dennis Brutus for the role he actively played in attempting to ensure fair play in a democratic South Africa. Winning the South Africa Apartheid Litigation would be a major tribute to him — particularly as it would set a precedent that multinational companies are obliged to “play fair” when working with foreign governments.

Farewell Germany…But what about Daimler?

8 Jul

In the semi-final match, and in line with Paul the Octopus’ eerily correct predictions, the on-form German side crashed out of the World Cup against a formidable Spanish team. With one match to go to determine the third and fourth places in the tournament, the German team will be facing Uruguay before packing their bags and leaving the country.

Daimler AG generously sponsored the German team in its quest to win the Soccer World Cup on South African soil, while ignoring calls to acknowledge and pay reparations for its “sponsorship” of apartheid atrocities. As we’ve documented elsewhere on this blog, and assert in the lawsuit against Daimler and others, the South African apartheid security forces could not have carried out the crimes against humanity (of torture, forced disappearances, indiscriminate shooting, arbitrary detention etc.) without access to the products provided by Daimler and others — which they knew would be used in carrying out these crimes. Daimler may currently be paying for the transport and equipment of the German soccer team, but 30 years ago and beyond they were paid to provide transport for armed security forces in terrorising ‘non-white’ people across South Africa.

During the World Cup Daimler benefited from a contract to provide luxury buses for transporting teams and tourists.

As South Africa begins its dialogue about and evaluation of the legacy of the World Cup, maybe we should be asking Daimler whether it’s going to ignore its horrific apartheid-assisting legacy by jumping on a plane and leaving with the German team. Or will it face its past and commit to a legacy that compensates apartheid victims and survivors such as those represented by Khulumani? Will it build up those South African lives its vehicles were used to damage? And will it withdraw its threats to pull out of its manufacturing plants in the Eastern Cape?

Can the blood-stained “star of apartheid” begin to be cleansed and Daimler’s  reputation revived? Not without facing up to repairing the damage they helped create.

International Day in Support of Victims / Survivors of Torture

29 Jun

On Saturday 26 June 2010, fifty-eight Khulumani members came together at Freedom Square in Kliptown, Soweto, to declare that they will never be silent, but will continue to speak out (khulumani) about torture and its devastating consequences on their lives. The members came from Mamelodi in Pretoria/Tshwane; Katlehong and Vosloorus in Ekurhuleni; Sharpeville and Sebokeng in Sedibeng; and from Soweto to remember the anniversary of the June 26, 1987 United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. (UNCAT).

The common thread running through the Khulumani members’ narratives was their experiences of torture. This is not surprising given that torture was condoned by all levels of the apartheid police and security apparatus in South Africa, not only to intimidate but to extract information from anti-apartheid activists.

For most survivors of torture, the major persistent consequence is a destruction of their capacity to establish and sustain meaningful and trusting interpersonal relationships. As torture survivor Peter Pitso Moletsane from Klerksdorp had explained in his testimony to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC): torture was designed to render its victims ‘unfit for life’.

When survivors of torture come together to collectively speak out about the abomination of torture, they are making a stand for life, rather than for death. A declaration by victims of torture that they are committed to working together for a world free of torture, is a powerful reclamation of survivors’ agency.

Despite worldwide condemnation of torture and the existence of treaty provisions that forbid torture and that criminalise perpetrators of torture, torture still occurs in two thirds of the world’s nations, including those that promote themselves as ‘civilised nations’. In South Africa, there is evidence that torture is still practiced by our security forces today in situations of involuntary detention. For Khulumani, it remains a responsibility to continue to SPEAK OUT in the struggle to ‘wipe the scourge of torture from the face of the earth so that torture may finally be consigned to the darkest spaces of history’. (Kofi Annan, June 26, 1998)

The June 26 Khulumani Commemoration programme to remember our history; to honour those who lived this history; and to speak out to stop the use of torture in South Africa, demonstrates that what happens in small places out of the public gaze will increasingly be exposed and those who commit the crime of torture will be held accountable.

Torture is one of the crimes which the defendant companies in the South African apartheid litigation, Daimler, General Motors, Ford Motor Company, IBM and Rheinmetall, are accused of knowingly aiding and abetting – through their deliberate business dealings with the security forces of the apartheid regime.

The Khulumani Commemoration ended with the launch of the book, ‘All That Was Lost’ by Professor Cath Byrne. The book is dedicated to the memory of Khulumani founder member, the late Mr Duma Kumalo.

Duma Kumalo performing at a Khulumani Support Group event

Duma was sentenced to death based on a fellow Sharpeville resident’s false testimony which was extracted under torture. Although Duma was released from jail hours before he was due to be executed, justice has not been served. His name has still not been cleared, despite his testimony to the TRC and three applications to the Department of Justice for the expunging of his criminal record. Unfortunately Duma died unexpectedly on 3 February 2006 at the age of 48. Khulumani Support Group and Duma’s family believe that a posthumous order by the Minister of Justice or the President of South Africa to expunge his criminal record would be in order, and call on the Minister and the President to expedite this request.

The Corporations On Trial – IBM, Ford, GM, Daimler and Rheinmettal

21 Jun

The Khulumani Apartheid litigation currently targets 5 multinational corporations using unique legislation in the USA. As part of the Red Card campaign, today’s major focus will be exploring who these companies are and why they’re on the list of alleged aiders and abettors of apartheid crimes. All these companies are being charged not because they were simply in South Africa at the time and selling to everyday civilians (“just doing business”) – these companies are charged because they specifically did business with the apartheid security forces who were perpetrating one of the clearly identified crimes against humanity of the 20th century. The following summary does not include the full details of the complaint, but some key points of what actions these corporations undertook.

International Business Machines (IBM)

Global Headquarters: New York, USA

Profits (2009): $12.334 Billion

Total CEO compensation (2005): $14.394 Million

International Business Machines (IBM) is the only technology company still listed in the Khulumani case. As many people may remember, IBM faced similar charges for aiding and abetting the commission of the Holocaust through its subsidiaries providing the technology for the Nazi regime to process millions of Jews in concentration camps (a little known fact is that the number tattoos branded onto Jews in these camps, were actually identity numbers for use in IBM machines). The case for IBM’s involvement with the Nazi regime was propounded in the book: IBM and the Holocaust by Edwin Black.

The allegations against IBM in the Khulumani lawsuit are similar. In the complaint, Khulumani argues that IBM provided the equipment to facilitate the apartheid government’s system of pass laws that disenfrachised, tracked, and violated the rights of non-white South Africans on a daily basis, and was the cornerstone of apartheid.In 1952 IBM-SA received its first order for an ‘electronic tabulator’ which was the first step in its automation and expansion of the population control programme. IBM leased the equipment to the South African government (and thus could have easily withdrawn support) and carried out maintenance on the machines even after it was clear that they were being used to uphold a crime against humanity.

Ford Motor Company:

Global Headquarters: Michigan, USA

Profit (2009): $2.7 Billion

Total CEO Compensation: $17.9 Million

The Khulumani litigation alleges that transport and motor companies such as Ford Motor Company aided and abetted the commission of apartheid crimes by providing the military forces with military-style vehicles and parts. Ford’s vehicles were used to patrol townships, and to arrest, detain and assault their inhabitants. Ford sold at least 1,582 F-series US-origin trucks to the police. Ford argued in 1986 that it could not refuse to sell vehicles to the security forces, because that would then cause them to lose their contracts with the broader apartheid government which would affect profitability.

General Motors Corporation:

Global Headquarters: Michigan, USA

Revenue (2009): $148,979 Billion

Total CEO Compensation: $9 Million

General Motors, alongside the other transport companies, is alleged to have sold parts and vehicles to the apartheid security forces that enabled them to carry out crimes against humanity. In 1978, GM reported that it annually sold 1,500 vehicles to the South African Police and military. For at least 15 years GMSA provided Bedford trucks directly to the SA military. In addition to selling these vehicles to the apartheid government, General Motors also assisted with the repair and maintenance of vehicles.

Daimler AG:

Global Headquarters: Stuttgart, Germany

Profit (Q1 2010): $817 Million

Total CEO Compensation: €5 Million

Daimler AG is charged with having sold military vehicles such as Unimogs, Casspirs, Hippos, and other vehicles that were used by security forces to track, arrest, detain and assault people across South Africa. When it came to the 6,000 Unimogs shipped to South Africa, their military purpose was clear in that they had mountings for arms—such as the “Valkiri,” a 127mm rocket launcher—gloss paint to avoid infrared detection, a 24-volt battery, and bulletproof tires. These Unimogs were shipped despite a UN Security Council mandatory arms embargo against South Africa. Components of Unimogs also formed the basis of the commonly used Casspirs and Hippos which wreaked havoc on townships, and from which police indiscriminately shot and killed Black, Indian and Coloured South Africans.

Rheinmettal AG:

Global Headquarters: Dusseldorf, Germany

Profit (2009): $15 million

Total CEO Compensation: €1.16 Million

Rheinmettal AG was a top producer of armaments including the MK 20RH 202 (a component of the armored personnel carrier), the MG3 machine gun, and various weapons systems for battle tanks, exported significant quantities of armaments and related equipment and expertise to South Africa, for use by the security forces. In the 1970s, Rheinmetall, under fraudulent export declarations, exported a complete ammunition factory to apartheid South Africa to manufacture the 155mm extended range projectiles needed by the South African security forces. The plant was erected in Pretoria and began operations in 1979. The plant made ammunition at the rate of 80 to 100 rounds per hour. In addition to the munitions plant, Rheinmetall aided the South African security forces in other ways, such as training members of the SADF in the use of certain artillery systems on its Unterlüss test range. Even after a criminal investigation was launched against Rheinmetall in 1980, Rheinmetall continued these trainings.

For more information about the lawsuit and the specific complaints against these corporations, please visit the lawsuit documents section of the Khulumani website.

Who is Mbuyiso Makhubu and why can’t we find him?

16 Jun

Sam Nzima’s iconic picture of Hector Pieterson’s shot body being carried away from the terror of apartheid security forces bullets on June 16 1976 is recognizable all over the world. But what of the young man carrying 13 year old Hector’s body?

His name is Mbuyiso Nkita Makhubu. He supposedly left South Africa in 1978 and a few years after that all trace of him has been lost. It’s said he died in exile. But no-one knows for sure. He’s joined the ranks of the disappeared of South Africa.

Mbuyiso is a reminder of all the other children who were part of the June 16 1976 protests. Many of those children would now be in their 50s. Hector’s step-sister Antoinette Musi (now Sithole), seen in the famous picture would be 51 this year.

How is it possible that a 13 year old child could have been so cold- bloodedly killed? The post-mortem showed that he was killed by a shot fired directly at him – and not by a bullet ‘ricocheting off the ground’ as the police claimed.

Who made the bullet that killed Hector Pieterson? What vehicles transported the police into Soweto to confront the marching children? Who pulled the trigger? Was it a terrified policeman? Was there an order to shoot?

So much is known about Hector Pieterson – why don’t we know about Mbuyiso Makhubu? Surely he really acted heroically that day. He would be in his early fifties today. Why hasn’t our government done more to find out what happened to him? Why haven’t they awarded him one of South Africa’s awards?

Today — National Youth Day — we remember that Hector Pieterson was brutally murdered 34 years ago. But we also remember Mbuyiso Makhubu who tried to save him, and wonder what has happened to this hero of the struggle.

And let us not forget that the apartheid government needed the assistance of companies like Daimler, General Motors and Ford to transport the police and military. Let us not forget the assistance of companies like Rheinmetall in manufacturing bullets and armaments. Let us not forget the assistance of companies like IBM that helped computerise the racial categories of human beings the apartheid government created to oppress the majority. Let us also not forget that the apartheid government needed the assistance of the oil companies and the banks of that time.

All of these companies can be considered guilty of having common purpose in the crime of murdering Hector Pieterson, and perhaps also, as a result, the disappearance of Mbuyiso Makhubu.

Surviving Indiscriminate Shooting – Reason for Reparations

15 Jun

Today the Uitenhage Survivors group will gather as usual at their weekly meeting at KwaNobuhle Community Hall in Uitenhage in the Eastern Cape. In March this year, this group commemorated the 36 people shot dead, and countless others injured, by Apartheid police shooting from armoured vehicles during the Langa Massacre in 1985.

Reverend Mpumelelo John Ntshikivana remembers the day as follows: “On the anniversary of the Sharpeville Massacre, a large group of residents of Langa township began to march to KwaNobuhle to attend a funeral that had been banned. We had to pass along the outskirts of the white town. We were confronted by 2 large police vehicles and many police officers who ordered us to disperse. We started the march in Maduna road. It was a peaceful march. Then opposite the Methodist church, the South Africa Defence Force and the South African Police Force tried to stop us. We did not want to stop because we were going to the funeral of our fellow comrades at Kwanobuhle. (We were staying at Langa location.) I saw one of the soldiers raise a red flag. That is when the shooting started. We fled and ran but the shooting did not stop. About thirty-six people were shot dead.”

The kind of permanent damage caused by this indiscriminate shooting can be seen in the life of Ms. Elsie Gishi – one of the named plaintiffs in the case – who was repeatedly fired on from a Casspir armoured vehicle during a township protest in December 1976. Multiple bullets entered Ms. Gishi’s back, and some remained lodged in her chest and arms. One bullet is lodged in her throat. Another is lodged inside the bone in her left arm and, as a result, she can no longer lift her arm and the entire left side of her body is lame. The three remaining bullets cause respiratory dysfunction and kidney problems. Ms. Gishi is permanently disabled and continues to suffer daily from that shooting in 1976. For survivors of this kind of violation ‘history’ is not in the past, it is a daily lived reality – and the least that they deserve is an acknowledgement and reparations from the companies that made this kind of gross human rights violation possible.

Today, a German film crew will be meeting the survivors in Uitenhage whose lives were irrevocably changed when police opened fire from armoured vehicles supplied by companies such as the German Daimler AG. These days, Uitenhage is the site of another of the companies that supplied vehicles and parts to the military – General Motors – plants in South Africa. Neither General Motors nor Daimler have acknowledged the harm they helped to cause for these members of the very community in which they now manufacture cars. Cars that are unlikely to ever be affordable for survivors who still suffer daily from injuries and traumas inflicted on them by indiscriminate shootings from their vehicles.

Daimler and the Apartheid Lawsuit (updated)

15 Jun

Updated: In April 2010 Mr. Mpho Masemola a Khulumani member and one of the named plaintiffs in the case against Daimler, GM, IBM, Ford and Rheinmettal went to Germany to address the 5,000-strong annual Daimler AG shareholders meeting. There Mpho pointed out the complicity of Daimler with the apartheid government, and called for their engagement and dialogue with victims and survivors to ensure acknowledgement and reparations. The Daimler CEO Mr. Dieter Zetsche responded that they would never speak to victims and has nothing to answer for. Responses like this from these corporations is what lies behind the Red Card Campaign to expose corporate lies and demand accountability. Mpho’s appearance at the Daimler AGM ignited interest across Germany and in part led to the article linked to below.

——

We’ve just had an update from our German campaign partners that the article in the major German newspaper Der Spiegel that was published last week has now been re-published in english. The article focuses on Daimler’s current sponsoring of the German football team, their previous involvement with the apartheid government, and Khulumani’s campaign to hold them accountable through public pressure and the courts.

Here’s one snippet of the article:

When it comes to Daimler, says Jobson, who is exhausted after the long, tedious search for evidence, the case is relatively clear. The United Nations classified apartheid as a crime against humanity as long ago as 1965. Nevertheless, Daimler continued to do business with South Africa, and even after the 1977 UN weapons embargo, the company supplied the regime with at least 2,500 Unimogs. Because these Unimogs were used to strengthen the police and security forces, Jobson says that Daimler aided and abetted serious human rights violations.

If companies truly have a moral responsibility, says Jobson, shouldn’t at least a portion of the profits they earned in South Africa at the time be turned over to those who suffered the most from apartheid?

In the complaint, Hausfeld [Khulumani’s lawyer] attempted to demonstrate that Daimler, for example, had deliberately circumvented the arms embargo. Its vehicles were used by the government in its efforts to control the black homelands and townships and, according to the complaint, Daimler supplied spare parts and equipped the South African police and military with models like its Minibus and Unimog. Using the Unimog and other Mercedes parts, South Africa built its armored personnel carriers, the Buffel, Casspir and Hippo.

The complaint cites an article from the German magazine Wehrtechnik (Military Technology), which describes the Unimog as a small military transporter and quotes a Daimler employee who, after visiting the Mercedes-Benz subsidiary in South Africa in 1988, said at a shareholders’ meeting that he had seen warehouses during his visit where parts for the Buffel were kept in storage. The Buffel, the employee added, was used by the South African government in its war against Angola, as well as in the occupation and control of urban black neighborhoods.

Daimler — the best or nothing

13 Jun

Germany meets Australia in the Soccer World Cup tonight. The German team is sponsored by Daimler AG. Daimler’s new international brand campaign was launched on 11 June 2010 — the same day the FIFA World Soccer Cup commenced in South Africa! The new slogan for Daimler is “THE BEST OR NOTHING”.

When it came to aiding and abetting the apartheid government, most South Africans who suffered gross human rights abuses would have preferred that it was “NOTHING”. Daimler provided the apartheid military with vehicles. Over 6,000 Daimler Unimogs were widely used in the oppressive military and security forces. Spare parts for Casspirs, Hippos and Buffels were provided. These armoured vehicles were used to patrol and control black urban settlements, to disperse civilian assemblies and to raid communities in search of dissidents, all the while keeping safe the armed men and their guns, hidden inside the vehicles.

Daimler continued to provide and maintain this equipment in defiance of international sanctions and embargoes imposed over many years by the United Nations. In 1979, the UN Special Committee Against Apartheid in South Africa warned that transnational companies have to bear a “major share of responsibility for the maintenance of the system of apartheid, for strengthening the repressive and military power of the racist regime and for undermining of international action to promote freedom and human dignity in South Africa.”

The South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) confirmed that the international businesses involved in helping the apartheid military and other security forces, did not take responsibility for their actions and … for their involvement in the military and security forces.”  Daimler AG as a key supplier of military equipment to the apartheid government, is one of these international businesses.

Daimler AG was repeatedly warned about how the equipment it was supplying, was being used. Reverend Beyers Naude addressed a Daimler AG Shareholders’ AGM in the following words: “I can assure you, Mr. Reuter (a former CEO), that these vehicles for which Daimler-Benz supplies the engines, are being used for aggressive purposes”. Daimler ignored these and many other warnings.

Khulumani plaintiff, Mr Mpho Masemola, addressed Daimler’s AGM in April this year, to extend an invitation to Daimler to begin a dialogue with victims of apartheid violations in South Africa. Daimler CEO, Dr Zetsche responded by stating that Daimler denies any responsibility for human rights violations in South Africa and that the company has no case to answer as the company conducted its business in South Africa according to German law and with the support of German politicians. Khulumani is concerned at this attempt by Daimler’s CEO to justify its conduct by claiming that it has always acted in accordance with German law and the will of German politicians, given its history of compliance with the orders of the Third Reich.

Khulumani notes that Daimler may have become more aware of that fact that “those that do business in countries with no respect for human rights do so at their peril” (Ntsebeza and Bell) and that Daimler has apparently recently withdrawn its trucks from Iran on the basis of its concern for the human rights practices of Iran. The record remains, however, that Daimler refused to withdraw its equipment from South Africa at the height of the political struggle in apartheid South Africa, at a time when the whole world knew what was happening in South Africa and when the United Nations had passed many resolutions about the crime of apartheid.

Khulumani also notes Dr Zetsche’s assertion at the AGM that Daimler AG has “nothing” to hide; that it informed the South African TRC that its archive was open and that this is still the case. Khulumani thanks Dr Zetsche for this and appreciates Daimler’s invitation to Khulumani to research the archives. Khulumani graciously accepts this invitation and will shortly be formally requesting a date and time in which acknowledged academic researchers will be granted access to Daimler’s archives.

Khulumani believes that a company that wishes to promote responsible business dealings in South Africa, should be willing to take responsibility for its past actions and should agree to meet with victims of these actions, especially when that company played so central a role in apartheid.

Khulumani notes that Dr Zetsche recently responded to the finding of the culpability of Daimler and certain of its affiliates and subsidiaries, charged for bribery in securing government contracts in 22 countries around the world, by saying, “We have learned a lot from past experience. Today, we are a better and stronger company, and we will continue to do everything we can to maintain the highest compliance standards.” The investigation of those cases, that were tried in the United States, revealed that Daimler had improperly paid some $56 million in bribes, that in turn awarded the company some $1.9 billion in revenue and at least $91.4 million in illegal profits.

Khulumani will not give up its call to Daimler to address its complicity with the apartheid government and to compensate victims for the harm that they were caused through Daimler’s involvement in the oppression of the majority of South Africans during the apartheid era.

So far, Daimler has given nothing to the indirect victims of its complicity with the illegitimate apartheid regime. It’s time to change this. It’s time for Daimler to become “the best” example of acknowledging its mistakes of the past; it’s time for Daimler to become “the best” at listening to and responding to the needs of the South African victims and survivors; it’s time for Daimler to consider making “the best” offer to settle the South African apartheid litigation. Because NOTHING is not acceptable — and nothing will make the victims and survivors stop highlighting Daimler’s irresponsible, cold-blooded and cold hearted behaviour in apartheid South Africa. In fact “nothing” but your “best” offer can begin to make things right.

Not Nigeria vs Netherlands – the Ogoni vs Royal Dutch Shell!

12 Jun

Writer, poet and environmentalist, Ken Saro-Wiwa was executed in Nigeria on November 10, 1995. He was the leader of a non-violent movement of about 50,000 Ogoni people fighting for the protection of the Niger Delta that was being desecrated by the operations of major oil companies, including Royal Dutch Shell that has the largest operation in Nigeria. Shell Oil commenced its operations in the Niger Delta in 1958.

Mr Saro-Wiwa’s campaign advocated for protection from oil spills, from the destruction of mangroves to make way for oil pipelines, and from pollution of the environment by the by-products of continuous gas flaring operations. They also complained that they had no share in the wealth being generated from oil extracted from their own land. Shell was eventually forced to quit Ogoniland in 1993. The outrage generated by the Abacha military government’s charade trial and execution of Saro-Wiwa and eight others (the MOSOP Nine) contributed to the fall of that government.

Ten plaintiffs including Saro-Wiwa’s brother and son used the Alien Tort Claims Act in a New York court to charge Royal Dutch Shell with complicity in torture, wrongful killings and human rights abuses. Just over a year ago, on 8 June 2009, a settlement was reached with Shell after a thirteen year long legal battle and three weeks of mediation. The outcome was that Shell paid out US$15,5 million to establish a Trust Fund to compensate families of the executed for their loss and to assist in providing resources for education, social services and small business enterprise support to the Ogoni People in the region. The settlement represents only about four hours or about 0,5% of Shell’s record $31.4 billion profit in 2008.

The Alien Tort Claims Act is the same legislation being used by Khulumani Support Group in its lawsuit against multinational companies — which originally also included Royal Dutch Shell for supporting the apartheid regime by supplying it with oil in defiance of the United Nations oil embargo against the apartheid government.

Last year the lawyers for the Saro-Wiwa plaintiffs said “This settlement confirms that multinational corporations can no longer act with the impunity they once enjoyed.”

If the South Africa Apartheid Litigation is won in court, the impunity of multinational corporations such as Shell, Daimler, Ford, General Motors, IBM and Rheinmettal will be further curbed.

Acknowledgment:

Remember Saro-Wiwa
c/o PLATFORM
7 Horselydown Lane
Tower Bridge
London SE1 2LN
+44 (0)207 357 0055

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