Tag Archives: oil companies

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.

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.

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