Tag Archives: Khulumani lawsuit

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.

As the final whistle blows…Aluta Continua!

12 Jul

On Sunday night (11 July 2010) in a spectacular closing ceremony, and somewhat less spectacular final game, the World Cup drew to a close. The event, which took over South Africa’s every waking moment, showed that despite all the doubts and pessimism that dominated public discourse worldwide about our abilities we made this an unforgettable World Cup.

Unsurprisingly, as the end approached many South Africans were left chewing over the question of what comes after the World Cup, and how we can learn lessons from the last month to take us forward as a nation. Here at the Red Card Campaign headquarters we’re also taking stock of the past month and what it’s meant: while we’ve kept things updated on this blog, the real success of the campaign has been its reach from rural and urban communities across South Africa, to protest marches in Germany, to intense dialogue between different sectors of society. In five weeks we’ve had 4,000 blog hits, 900 ‘listens’ to the Officially Offside album online, exceptional panels, films and exhibitions at the People’s Justice Fan Centre, media coverage ranging from Der Spiegel to the Mail and Guardian to Al Jazeera, not to mention a reparations workshop and a march by the groups from Indwe and the East Rand.

As we contemplate the future for South Africa post-World Cup fever, we’re also exploring the various avenues the Red Card Campaign can take after our intensive launch period. What we will definitely be doing is keeping this blog up-to-date with the latest news about the South Africa apartheid litigation; ongoing struggles for reparations and redress for the Khulumani victims and survivors; and the broader global struggle for justice and corporate accountability. We’ll also be promoting the Officially Offside CD, and holding events around the country to keep the momentum going!

So long World Cup…Aluta Continua Red Card Campaign!

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.

DRC — a human rights morass

2 Jul

30 June 2010 marked the 50th anniversary of the Independence of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). An all-day seminar organised by  Congo for Peace was held at the University of the Witwatersrand’s Great Hall. Khulumani Support Group was invited as a representative of victims and survivors of the apartheid government-multinational corporates collusion.

The seminar was attended by some 500 members of the Congolese Diaspora including Congolese students studying at nine South African universities, human rights defenders from the DRC, and the Ambassadors of the DRC and of Belgium.

The struggle of the Congo for independence from a particularly brutal period of colonisation by Belgium was reviewed. During this time more than 10 million Congolese people were killed due to a combination of famine, forced labour and systematic violence. This must surely count as a holocaust — but it has not generally received recognition as such, compared to other holocausts.

The day commenced with a commemoration of the role played by Patrice Lumumba as president of the Mouvement National Congolais (MNC) in the negotiations, and his subsequent election as the state’s first President. Lumumba survived only six months in office before being ‘eliminated’ by a firing squad organised by Belgian officers on January 17, 1961. An arms company surely knowingly aided and abetted this assassination.

Patrice Lumumba

Lumumba’s thwarted dream of a peaceful nation in which the needs of the people would be prioritised, was remembered. The seemingly unending conflicts driven by ambition for control of the DRC’s extraordinary mineral wealth undermined this hope and ideal.

The invasion of the country by the armies of Uganda and Rwanda in 1997 to overthrow the dictator Mobutu Sese Seko, and the subsequent invasion the following year to overthrow Laurent Kabila were seemingly motivated by this desire to access the DRC’s resources. The DRC’s neighbours, Zimbabwe, Angola, and Namibia sent their armies in to defend Kabila. By the time all these armed forces had withdrawn in late 2002, the country was left in shambles, corruption was rife and the illicit trade in conflict minerals was thriving.

Armed rebel groups, supported primarily by Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi, exploited this chaotic situation. Another approximately 5,4 million people are said to have been killed. The lucrative illicit trade in ‘blood minerals’ includes coltan (columbite-tantalite) used in cell phone technology, diamonds, gold, cassiterite and wolframite. The minerals continue to haemorrhage out of the country — eventually reaching the pockets of multinationals mainly in the UK, the USA and possibly South Africa as well.

While rebel groups exploit the illicit trade in the eastern DRC, multinational corporations are apparently colluding with Congolese political elites to profit from extensive copper, uranium and other minerals’ mining operations in areas such as Katanga Province. Multinationals have even established and equipped their own private armies to provide security for their operations and these paramilitary groups have been involved in perpetuating the violence in the country.

The multinational companies are accused by the people of knowingly committing human rights violations with the support of political elites. Could they one day face similar litigation as the South African apartheid litigation (Khulumani international lawsuit)? Will the global movement for justice and corporate accountability facilitated by changes in international human rights law become strong enough to challenge these essentially criminal activities?

The people of the DRC are increasing their civic presence inside and outside the country. They are demanding that democratic institutions become increasingly responsive to the citizenship’s needs. They are also demanding a military and police force that provides real protection to the people.

The experiences and support of Khulumani, which is taking the struggle for justice for victims forward in the law courts of New York City will hopefully set precedents for multinational corporates’ accountability and liability — for knowingly aiding and abetting gross human rights violations.

Khulumani alongside Congolese civil society is outraged by the murder of respected human rights defender, Mr Floribert Chebeya Bahizire on June 2, 2010. Mr Bahizire was apparently invited to a meeting with the Chief of Police. Some hours later his body was found in his car with the body of his dead driver at another site. Mr Bahizire was director of Voice of the Voiceless, an organisation similar to Khulumani.

Victims everywhere draw strength from the memories of those who have given their lives for a vision of a society that benefits all. We commit to struggling in solidarity to end the impunity of individuals and companies that have violated international human rights norms, and to secure reparations for the damage and destruction they have caused.

This is surely a situation where an initiative of strategic importance requires urgent action involving the international community, local governments and civil society including human rights organisations. A large scale resumption of armed conflict in the African Great Lakes region threatens the stability of the entire sub-region.

World premiere of Shame on the Game song

23 Jun

The phenomenal opening song of the Khulumani Red Card Campaign CD – Shame on the Game – by Creamy Ewok Baggends was premiered at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown on Sunday 20 June.

The word-crunching, mind-stretching, shadow image, video-concertina’d eye-conic Ewok-iain show finished off with a final kick at corporate exploitation with his Shame on the Game composition.

Together Ewok, Khulumani and the other international artists featured on the album are ready to take on the corporates – calling for justice and accountability.

Khulumani Support Group thanks Ewok and all the other cool artists who have worked towards publicising the SA Apartheid (Khulumani) Litigation.

Catch the rest of Ewok’s shows in Grahamstown at the St. Andrew’s school hall at the following times:

Wed 23 June @ 20:00; Thurs 24 June @ 12:00; Fri 25 June @ 22:00; Sun 27 June @21:30 and Mon 28 June @18:00.

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.

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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