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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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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.)


Introducing Michael Hausfeld – Litigator and Human Rights Defender

5 Jul

The Khulumani Red Card Campaign has two major components: advocacy and campaigning in South Africa and across the world (as carried out on this blog, for example); and the actual legal battles in the New York courtroom. While we head things up here, we thought it would be a good idea to introduce you to our ‘man on the ground’ in New York, the exceptional lawyer Michael Hausfeld, and his firm Hausfeld LLP.

Hausfeld has a long history of work in the field of human rights – on a domestic US-level as well as internationally. He tried the first case that established the principle that sexual harassment was a form of discrimination prohibited under the US Title VII laws. In 1989 he represented the Native Alaskans who were horrifically affected by the Exxon Valdez oil spill, where he negotiated a $176-million settlement from Texaco Inc. He later successfully represented a class of Holocaust victims whose assets were retained by private Swiss banks during and after WWII; and separately represented the Republics of Poland, Czech Republic, Belarus, Ukraine and the Russian Federation on issues of slave and forced labour for both Jewish and non-Jewish victims of Nazi persecution.

His firm, Hausfeld LLP, describes its work as follows: “Hausfeld LLP is a global claimants firm founded on a very simple yet largely unmet premise: global wrongs must be accountable to global rights. With unique global resources, unlimited creativity and steadfast integrity, we seek to achieve unprecedented results on behalf of citizens and corporations involved in large and complex disputes that touch every corner of the globe and impact every industry and population.”

Hausfeld and his incredible international team have been an excellent example of a legal team that are dedicated to standing for justice, accountability and most importantly making a tangible positive difference to the lives of the people on whose behalf they work. As Hausfeld writes:

“The U.S. law under which the [Khulumani] case is proceeding—the Alien Tort Claims Act—provides a place for foreign nationals to bring cases against U.S. citizens or other foreign nationals for violations of customary international law, including gross human rights abuses.

The Defendants in the case…have opposed being held to account for their conduct in the U.S. court. When, however, they were given the opportunity in South Africa to tell the truth about their participation in Apartheid and their relationship with its enforcement through terrorist type behavior, they failed to do so. Now they do not want to be held accountable in a court of law in a country in which most of them are citizens or in which they routinely do business. What they are really saying is that they should not be responsible to anyone, for anything, at anytime, anywhere.

Human rights abusers should not dictate where, when, and to whom they are accountable.  They cannot silence their victims or camouflage their misconduct by disappearing, shutting down or foreclosing all legitimate avenues of inquiry. Those who have been wronged have rights.  Those who have done wrong have responsibilities.”

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

30 Jun

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

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

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

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

International Day in Support of Victims / Survivors of Torture

29 Jun

On Saturday 26 June 2010, fifty-eight Khulumani members came together at Freedom Square in Kliptown, Soweto, to declare that they will never be silent, but will continue to speak out (khulumani) about torture and its devastating consequences on their lives. The members came from Mamelodi in Pretoria/Tshwane; Katlehong and Vosloorus in Ekurhuleni; Sharpeville and Sebokeng in Sedibeng; and from Soweto to remember the anniversary of the June 26, 1987 United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. (UNCAT).

The common thread running through the Khulumani members’ narratives was their experiences of torture. This is not surprising given that torture was condoned by all levels of the apartheid police and security apparatus in South Africa, not only to intimidate but to extract information from anti-apartheid activists.

For most survivors of torture, the major persistent consequence is a destruction of their capacity to establish and sustain meaningful and trusting interpersonal relationships. As torture survivor Peter Pitso Moletsane from Klerksdorp had explained in his testimony to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC): torture was designed to render its victims ‘unfit for life’.

When survivors of torture come together to collectively speak out about the abomination of torture, they are making a stand for life, rather than for death. A declaration by victims of torture that they are committed to working together for a world free of torture, is a powerful reclamation of survivors’ agency.

Despite worldwide condemnation of torture and the existence of treaty provisions that forbid torture and that criminalise perpetrators of torture, torture still occurs in two thirds of the world’s nations, including those that promote themselves as ‘civilised nations’. In South Africa, there is evidence that torture is still practiced by our security forces today in situations of involuntary detention. For Khulumani, it remains a responsibility to continue to SPEAK OUT in the struggle to ‘wipe the scourge of torture from the face of the earth so that torture may finally be consigned to the darkest spaces of history’. (Kofi Annan, June 26, 1998)

The June 26 Khulumani Commemoration programme to remember our history; to honour those who lived this history; and to speak out to stop the use of torture in South Africa, demonstrates that what happens in small places out of the public gaze will increasingly be exposed and those who commit the crime of torture will be held accountable.

Torture is one of the crimes which the defendant companies in the South African apartheid litigation, Daimler, General Motors, Ford Motor Company, IBM and Rheinmetall, are accused of knowingly aiding and abetting – through their deliberate business dealings with the security forces of the apartheid regime.

The Khulumani Commemoration ended with the launch of the book, ‘All That Was Lost’ by Professor Cath Byrne. The book is dedicated to the memory of Khulumani founder member, the late Mr Duma Kumalo.

Duma Kumalo performing at a Khulumani Support Group event

Duma was sentenced to death based on a fellow Sharpeville resident’s false testimony which was extracted under torture. Although Duma was released from jail hours before he was due to be executed, justice has not been served. His name has still not been cleared, despite his testimony to the TRC and three applications to the Department of Justice for the expunging of his criminal record. Unfortunately Duma died unexpectedly on 3 February 2006 at the age of 48. Khulumani Support Group and Duma’s family believe that a posthumous order by the Minister of Justice or the President of South Africa to expunge his criminal record would be in order, and call on the Minister and the President to expedite this request.

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.

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.

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!