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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.

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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.

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.

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.

To the G8. For the Freedom Charter. From Torture Survivors.

26 Jun

Today, the 26th of June, is a significant one: in Toronto the leaders of the most economically powerful nations in the world meet to decide on their joint policies and practices going forward; here in South Africa we commemorate the 55th anniversary of the signing of the Freedom Charter; and worldwide the day is observed as one to acknowledge the victims of torture — past and ongoing.

These events are all tied together by one common theme: the interaction of the most powerful with those most marginalised. The G8 talks supposedly focus on development and aid for the poorest on the globe – and will probably produce yet another faux commitment which could soon be  forgotten. The Freedom Charter was a brave attempt by oppressed South Africans to imagine the unimaginable 55 years ago — a framework for a just post-apartheid era. Most famously the Freedom Charter proclaims joint ownership of the country by “all those who live in it”. And the International Day focusing on victims of torture – particularly relevant in South Africa with our brutal history – is a small token of recognition by the world of those who have suffered some of the worst practices human beings have inflicted on each other, and in some instances, still do.

What will probably have been missed in the hours of reporting, commemorations and recognitions that take place worldwide today is the place of multinational corporations in these relations between the powerful and the marginalised.

The G8 comprises the largest country economies of the world; yet we rarely recognise that of the 100 largest economies in the world, over half are individual multinational corporations. The vast majority of these economically powerful corporations are housed within G8 countries – their fates are intricately and inextricably linked (as we saw in the bank and auto industry bailouts to save the US economy); what is good for corporations is usually good for the G8, and what this often means is that principles, accountability and regulation is sacrificed on the altar of profit maximisation.While the G8 focuses on the developing world, we call on it to also reflect on the way in which its corporations operate, often exploiting people and countries for their own profit. As with the companies willing to sell equipment to the apartheid security forces.

The Freedom Charter identifies  a number of different areas in which South Africans need(ed) to seek and achieve freedom. One important principle is clearly articulated in the section on the country’s wealth: “All…industry and trade shall be controlled to assist the wellbeing of the people.” Today, as we commemorate the Freedom Charter, we call for this particular phrase to be acknowledged and implemented as one of the most equitable and just ways for business to function. Indeed all companies – domestic and multinational – must acknowledge that the local citizenship wherever business operations are based, are as important as the shareholders. These citizens are stakeholders – which is in and of itself a form of shareholding. This requires a shift from a simplistic ‘because we pay taxes, we have met our obligations’. For  the ‘wellbeing of the people’ to be addressed, corporations would have to know who the people directly involved and affected are. This would mean a hands on and face to face, humanisation of the corporations’ personae.

Finally on 26 June 2010, Khulumani recognises and acknowledges all its members who have survived torture. We remember that brave activists were handed over to the apartheid security forces through equipment used to track them down which was provided by companies like IBM. We remember that the military vehicles that picked them up, and transported them to detention to be tortured, were sold to the security forces by companies like Ford, Daimler and General Motors. And that the ammunition that was shot at crowds and individuals was provided by companies like Rheinmettal.

So today, on this G8-Freedom Charter-Torture Survivors day, we call on the world to recognise the damage corporations have wreaked in South Africa and globally; and to hold them accountable. It is time to secure what our people called for when they wrote in the Freedom Charter that: “All…industry and trade shall be controlled to assist the wellbeing of the people.”

Report on East Rand Reparations Workshop

24 Jun

 

The members of Khulumani-Indwe 'Speak Out' on Reparations!

Last week a group of 100 Khulumani members from the rural Eastern Cape village of Indwe travelled across the country to join the Khulumani East Rand Group in a march to highlight the issue of reparations, and to participate in a workshop to flesh out the issues around reparations.

Members of Khulumani-Indwe wear the Red Card Campaign t-shirts on their march.

As Khulumani national contact centre member Freedom Ngubonde writes: “On 12 June 2010 Khulumani-Indwe and Khulumani-East Rand marched along the infamous Khumalo Street in a symbolic re-appropriation of the street where many people were killed and maimed during the violence of the early 1990s. The march proceeded to a nearby stadium where members of Khulumani handed a memorandum to a representative of government. In the memorandum, amongst other things, members called for the boycotting and red-carding of companies that aided and abetted the apartheid regime; they demanded reparations and highlighted the fact that the TRC Unit has completely failed in its mandate of assisting victims and resolving the unfinished business of the TRC.”

Members share ideas for Khulumani's reparations policy.

These two groups went on to convene a “Speak Out” on Reparations which created the space for members to share their ongoing pain and trauma, what kind of reparations would make a positive impact in their lives, and how they can take action themselves to seek out solutions. The next day members of the Khulumani National Contact Centre travelled to Thokoza to meet with these groups and receive a mandate that will inform Khulumani’s evolving reparations policy proposal.

Some of these recommendations included:

– Pressuring government to set up a scheme which will enable victims to access proper health care, especially related to injuries and ongoing trauma from apartheid related abuses.

– Government must build proper houses for victims and survivors, especially where people’s houses were burned down/destroyed during apartheid.

– Commemorations and monuments should be built in places where victims’ live and not only in city centres/urban areas.

– In light of 16 years having passed since the end of apartheid, exhumations processes carried out by the NPA’s Missing Task Team should be speeded up and should be carried out in a respectful manner that respect’s victims’ rights and cultures.

– Reparations should include individual redress, community rehabilitation and funding aimed at supporting livelihood projects.

These critical reparations demands are only some of the broader aims and requests of Khulumani members, and the organisation at-large. Funds from the South African Government’s President’s Fund and/or any funds received from the lawsuit against multinational corporations should be put towards the rehabilitation of survivors lives in full recognition of the extraordinary damage caused by the gross human rights violations of the apartheid regime.

On Aung San Suu Kyi’s Birthday – Remember the Victories of Doe v. Unocal

22 Jun

On Saturday 19 June, the Burmese human rights icon Aung San Suu Kyi ‘celebrated’ her 65th birthday, while still under house arrest. The Burmese military junta is easily identifiable as one of the continuing regimes perpetrating extreme human rights abuses, and exercising total control over the people of Burma.

What we hear less about, however, is the role corporations have played within the Burmese repressive state. In March 2005, Unocal a California-based oil company settled out of court with a group of Burmese plaintiffs in a case that sued Unocal for complicity in forced labour, rape and murder. According to the claim (filed in the US under the Alien Tort Statute – the same law being used to pursue the Khulumani litigation) Unocal knowingly hired the Burmese army units that used forced relocations, forced labour, rape, torture and murder to secure the route of an oil pipeline through Burma for the American oil company.

In 1997 the Doe v. Unocal case set a critical precedent for all future cases of corporate accountability when a US Federal District Court concluded that Unocal executives could be held legally responsible for violation of international human rights norms in countries outside the US, and that the US court system has the authority to adjudicate such claims.

According to EarthRights International: “After three years of discovery, the plaintiffs presented evidence demonstrating that, in the Court’s words, “Unocal knew that the military had a record of committing human rights abuses; that the Project hired the military to provide security for the Project, a military that forced villagers to work and entire villages to relocate for the benefit of the Project; that the military, while forcing villagers to work and relocate, committed numerous acts of violence; and that Unocal knew or should have known that the military did commit, was committing and would continue to commit these tortious acts.” The Court also concluded that “the evidence does suggest that Unocal knew that forced labor was being utilized and that [Unocal and Total, a co-venturer in the Yadana project] benefited from the practice” and that “The violence perpetrated against Plaintiffs is well documented in the deposition testimony filed under seal with the Court.”

The case was settled 2 months before the final trial date of June 2005, but the critical victories for corporate accountability had already been won. The Doe v. Unocal case secured, for groups such as Khulumani, that corporations could be held accountable through the US courts for violations that were once considered only the purview of individuals and states. This major victory must be acknowledged in the continuing struggle to establish clear, and strict precedents on what kind of business practices the international community continues to allow; or chooses to put a stop to.

When we think of 65-year-old Aung San Suu Kyi, and the repressive Burmese junta, let us not forget the corporations that associated with the regime, disregarding human beings for their profit bottom line. Let us ask who now provide the weapons and tanks? Who equips the junta to keep one of the world’s great human rights leaders imprisoned? And if we consider holding the leaders of the junta accountable, shouldn’t we also hold their suppliers accountable?

Thank you to the Doe v. Unocal case for breaking ground in the struggle for corporate accountability…Aluta Continua!

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.

The Waving Flag and Freedom

19 Jun

K’naan’s evocative lyrics for Waving Flag start with the phrase: “When I get older, I will be stronger/They’ll call me freedom just like a waving flag.”

Many Khulumani members are much older now, but they’re not stronger –many are quite frail – and they’re not experiencing a waving flag of freedom, but ongoing poverty.

Unlike the sanitised  Coca-Cola/World Cup version of the song, the original lyrics to K’Naan’s song, which is a reflection on his own childhood in war-torn Somalia, go on: “so many wars settling scores/bringing us promises, leaving us poor/i heard them say love is the way/love is the answer that’s what they say/but look how they treat us/make us believers make we/fight their battles then they deceive us . . .”

K’maan’s reflection on the broken promises made to his generation could well be sung about the promises made to Khulumani members – they or their families were part of the freedom struggle against apartheid. Promises were made about reparations and that perpetrators who had not received amnesty would be prosecuted. The reparations were not adequate and not what the TRC recommended. Government broke that promise. Government has taken so long to start prosecutions against the perpetrators, that many of these crimes have now “expired”. Only murder does not expire as a crime. Another broken promise of Government. The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) should have initiated these prosecutions in consultation with the victims of the crimes immediately after the closure of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). They did not, and now they may have delayed too long.

When K’naan sings that “i heard them say love is the way/love is the answer that’s what they say”, in South Africa what they said was “the TRC is the answer”. But many people couldn’t access the TRC, and those that did, have been profoundly let down – not in the least by it’s inability to ensure government followed up and secured adequate justice, tangible reparations and corporate accountability.

For most Khulumani members, those who went to the TRC and those who didn’t, the waving flag of freedom hasn’t “opened happiness” (as Coca Cola may have you believe) but has been only a small victory in the ongoing, everyday struggles for justice. Aluta continua!