Tag Archives: General Motors

General Motors change of guard

20 Aug

Khulumani congratulates Daniel F. Akerson who is to become the Chief Executive of General Motors (GM) on 1st September 2010, and will become Chairman of the Board in 2011. The idea is “to have a smooth, seamless transition” according to the present Chief Executive and Chairman, Mr Edward E. Whitacre Jr.

Mr Daniel F. Akerson (Photo: GM)

Khulumani sincerely hopes that Mr Whitacre will not forget, in the seamless transition to inform Mr Akerson of the South African Apartheid Litigation (formerly Khulumani et al vs Barclays et al).

Mr Edward E Whitacre Jr. (Photo - Jeff Kowalsky/Bloomberg News)

Please do not forget to tell Mr Akerson of the charge that GM must answer to: that of knowingly aiding and abetting the security forces of the apartheid government in oppressing civilian South Africans by providing vehicles such as Bedford trucks for the security forces to use.

Please do not forget to tell Mr Akerson about some of the victims and survivors of gross human rights violations perpetrated by the security forces of the apartheid regime whose lives are now worse off than before.

We are delighted to hear that GM has made a $1.3 billion profit over the last 6 months – and that GM is no longer bankrupt. We therefore respectfully request that you withdraw from the bankruptcy hearing scheduled for 24 September, 2010.

We would also invite you to consider directly contacting Khulumani’s lawyers, Hausfeld LLP, to discuss the case.

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.

The Two Faces of General Motors: Forever Bankrupt or Thriving?

30 Jun

Today, news organisations around the world have picked up General Motors’ big announcement that it is set to overcome its bankruptcy and public bailout, and to thrive as a company moving forward. As Reuters reports:

“Chief Financial Officer Chris Liddell said…’When you add break even at the bottom and a huge global opportunity for growth, you have this massive economic opportunity that we believe is incredibly exciting.’ “

This confident proclamation by the CEO and CFO of General Motors comes as a huge surprise to Khulumani and the survivors of the abuses GM knowingly aided and abetted the South African security forces in committing. Khulumani’s lawyers are due to appear in court on July 14 to oppose General Motors attempt to be struck off the list of defendants in the South African apartheid litigation because of its bankrupt financial position. So on the one hand GM stands before the world declaring that it has the potential to thrive financially; on the other it intends standing before the courts declaring it is too poor to be held accountable for knowingly aiding and abetting the security forces of the illegitimate apartheid regime.

We demand that if GM is able to pay out profits and dividends to investors and shareholders, (and possibly also a bonus to its CEO?) as it has boldly proclaimed it is set to do, it can also use its ‘massive economic opportunity’ to pay reparations to the very people whose lives it knowingly helped destroy when it did business with the apartheid security forces. We cannot be silent, but must speak out (khulumani) when this corporation makes two-faced proclamations designed to avoid all accountability.

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.

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.

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

Victims Red Carded for too long…

8 Jun

Victims and survivors of apartheid era gross human rights abuses were red carded by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and by the South African government — especially former President Thabo Mbeki, former Minister of Justice Penuell Maduna, and the officials in the TRC unit in the Department of Justice.

The promise made to victims and survivors was, that by testifying at the TRC and thereby participating in the process which led to the perpetrators receiving amnesty, they would receive reparations. These promises were only partly kept. The TRC’s recommendations for reparations were not accepted by the South African government — in fact only about a sixth of the amount recommended was finally (after five years) granted to those victims who testified at the TRC. But many perpetrators received amnesty and continued to receive it after the TRC officially closed its books.

Victims of apartheid crimes who did not make it to the TRC are to this day not recognised but simply ignored. The South Africa we live in today owes an enormous amount to the victims and survivors of the struggle. Some of these were heroes who have ended up in plush and cushy government jobs — but most have literally been red carded from society and stay out of sight and out of the mind of the South African peoples. Even their comrades have forgotten them.

The victims and survivors were directly and indirectly damaged by the actions of companies supporting the security forces and policies of the apartheid government — such as Daimler, Ford, General Motors, IBM, Rheinmetall and others: including banks and oil companies.

But who should continue to be red carded? The victims? Or the businesses who profitted (hugely) from apartheid?

Unfinished business of business

8 Jun

The South African Apartheid Litigation, which includes the Khulumani lawsuit has been dragging on for over eight years now.

It charges that businesses which assisted the apartheid regime to survive way beyond it’s expiry date, to account to victims for the atrocities they suffered. And just like items that have expired, the extension of the apartheid regime stank.

It is often said that the business of business is business. But in this case it is the unfinished business of business that is the business of these businesses.

Come on Daimler, Ford, General Motors, IBM and Rheinmetall — when are you going to complete your unfinished business of apartheid? Why does it have to take a legal process for you guys to do the right thing?– the right business? Real human beings are involved — human beings whose lives have forever been adversely affected by your business with the apartheid security forces. We can introduce you to them.

It’s time to own up and acknowledge that what you did was wrong. And it’s time to talk to the victims and survivors of what you did. Talk to Khulumani. Perhaps you will even be able to get rid of the stink that’s associated with your names.

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