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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.

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The Global Struggle for Post-Apartheid Justice in Context

7 Jul

A lot of the events being held at the People’s Justice Fan Centre are aimed at putting the Khulumani Apartheid litigation into the context of post-Apartheid South Africa, global struggles for corporate accountability and the importance of reparations for survivors of gross human rights violations. This week we’ve used films and panels to explore the broader context of sport and global involvement in the movement against apartheid.

Today, we screened the excellent film Have You Heard from Johannesburg: The Bottom Line at the People’s Justice Fan Centre. This film is part of a seven-film series of documentaries about key issues in the anti-apartheid struggle. The films were directed by Connie Field and produced by her production company Clarity Films. The Bottom Line takes an in-depth look into the efficacy of economic sanctions, and as the TimeOut London says: “offers a clear and rousing study of how economic sanctions, initated by grassroots protests, can have a significant political effect – especially when the boards of corporations find themselves in a forced position of embarrassment.” The Have You Heard from Johannesburg series more broadly tries to capture what Prof. Rob Nixon described as follows: “No other post-WW II struggle for decolonization has been so fully globalized; no other has magnetized so many people across such various national divides, or imbued them with such a resilient sense of common cause as did the struggle for democracy in South Africa.” Following the screening Khulumani community organiser Reginald Mafu and national director Marje Jobson went to the Apartheid Museum where they were involved in an interview with Al-Jazeera News Network that went out live across the world. Some pre-recorded interviews with Khulumani victims have also been made available.

Staying with the global themes raised in the film screened today, the Peoples Justice Fan Centre in Jabavu, Soweto, has a stellar line-up for Friday. The day starts at 09:30am with the screening of another part of the Have You Heard From Johannesburg series: Fair Play, which focusses on the role of sport and specifically the sport boycotts in the struggle against apartheid. The screening will be followed by a roundtable discussion which will include contributions from Smiley Moosa (a football player who had to hide his race to play); Nkosi Molala (a Pretoria Callies footballer and Black Consciousness activist who was imprisoned on Robben Island and lost an eye during an altercation with apartheid police); John Soske (an academic studying the contribution of Dr. Abu Asvat to non-racial sport); Teery Jeevanantham (a former football player and active writer on football issues); Haroun Mohammed (football player who was expelled from the Teachers’ Training College for his political activities); and Ms. Tapuwa Moore (a gender activist and coach for the Forum for the Empowerment of Women football team).

The panel’s focus will be “Football, Sport, Memory and Apartheid” and will be moderated by Desiree Ellis (former Banyana Banyana – South African national women’s football team) and Hassen Lorgat.

These films and panel reinforce the importance of global movement for justice, something we at the Red Card Campaign hope to further by creating a global movement for justice and corporate accountability.

People’s Justice Fan Centre

Friday, 09 July

Film Screening @ 9:30am

Roundtable discussion @ 10:15am


Ms Desiree Ellis and Mr Hassen Lorgat will moderate the forum. (Desiree Ellis is a former Banyana Banyana player.)


Nigerian Oil Spill Accountability Success

7 Jul

Here’s an update from a corporate accountability success-story in Nigeria where a court just found in favour of plaintiffs – the Ejama-Ebubu community in Tai Eleme Local Government Area of Rivers State – and against Shell Oil for an oil spill that occurred in 1970.

The full story can be found here.

We salute this victory for communities fighting to protect themselves, and their environment in the Niger Delta, and call for all oil companies to implement the most stringent and safe procedures at all times – even where doing so may harm their profits. As we have seen in the ongoing saga of the BP spill, when full measures aren’t taken because costs need to be cut, the ultimate cost is borne by plants, animals and local communities.

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.

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.”

The Broader Corporate Struggle: Mining Companies and CSR

24 Jun

Khulumani recognises that its lawsuit against the particular named corporations is one fight amongst many to secure justice for individuals and communities across the globe, and ultimately bring about a shift in the way corporations behave worldwide.

One of the sectors of industry that has constantly proven to have a despicable track record in human and environmental rights worldwide is that of mining. South Africans will recognise the extent to which the large mining houses used the apartheid system to pay exploitatively low wages, and how migrant labour systems have scarred our society in deep and troubling ways.

Tomorrow, 25 June, the People’s Justice Fan Centre will host a seminar presentation by the Benchmarks Foundation which works on issues around the impact of mining on communities and the role of Corporate Social Responsibility in these areas.

The seminar seeks to lay out a broad understanding of mining’s impact on communities and particularly their corporate social responsibility. We hope to use the space as a time to share information and experiences of communities that have experienced the effects of mining. As the South African government and people found the resources and political will to organise the World Cup, we ask whether we can mobilise the same energy to address the impacts that mining companies have had on communities; health, land rights and the environment.

Organisations such as the Vaal Environmental Justice Alliance, ACER and Benchmarks will all be involved in the discussion. All interested parties are encouraged to attend!

Date: 25 June 2010

Time: 10:30am-12:00pm

Venue: The People’s Justice Fan Centre, Central Methodist Mission, Mphuthi Street, Jabavu, Soweto.

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.

Clean out Corporations from Government!

21 Jun

On Friday, Democrat Senator from Rhode Island Sheldon Whitehouse made a rallying call to the American Senate, and people, to clear out corporations from government. In the wake of the disastrous Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill which continues to spew thousands of barrels of oil into the ocean ecosystem of the area everyday, this call is powerful in its simplicity, truth and passion.

Check it out here: http://videocafe.crooksandliars.com/karoli/sheldon-whitehouse

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.