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From Boipatong to Bafana: Commemorating Victims and Survivors of the Boipatong Massacre

17 Jun

On this day, some eighteen years ago, armed men from a single-sex hostel that housed migrant workers from rural KwaZulu Natal, Kwa Madala Hostel, rampaged through the nearby township of Boipatong in the night, slaughtering 49 local residents.

The armed men arrived in vans, carrying guns, knives and clubs and started killing everyone they could find on the streets. In hearings into what happened that night, some people testified that the men had been transported in Casspirs, sparking allegations that the South African Police had been involved in facilitating the attack.

Aaron Mokoena, Bafana Captain, was 11 years old at the time of the attack and survived because his mother dragged him and his siblings from house to house to avoid the attacks. As rumours emerged that the armed men were planning to return the following day to kill all the young men in the township, Mokoena’s mother dressed her sons in their sisters’ clothes to disguise them.

Local residents of Boipatong have fond memories of Mokoena from his school days at Lebohang High School where he earned a reputation for his tackles. He was spotted by Jomo Sono and became the youngest person ever to play for Bafana Bafana and is presently the most capped member of the squad.

The full truth about the Boipatong Massacre remains unclear. Were the apartheid security complicit in stoking this attack in the familiar pattern of “black-on-black violence” between rival political organisations – ANC and IFP. Who supplied the weapons and the ammunition?

The massacre brought the country to the edge of a precipice, causing the ANC to abandon the negotiations to end apartheid. It took more than a year and another terrible massacre at Bhisho in the Eastern Cape, to force the role players back to the negotiation table.

Boipatong is today hosting a commemorative football tournament, which Mokoena will attend, as his Foundation provides soccer coaching and education to children in his hometown.

Khulumani victims join Aaron Mokoena is stating that they will “Never forget”. Nor will we give up the struggle for reparations, including from those companies that helped to make this massacre happen, to assist them to achieve a more hopeful future.

Surviving Indiscriminate Shooting – Reason for Reparations

15 Jun

Today the Uitenhage Survivors group will gather as usual at their weekly meeting at KwaNobuhle Community Hall in Uitenhage in the Eastern Cape. In March this year, this group commemorated the 36 people shot dead, and countless others injured, by Apartheid police shooting from armoured vehicles during the Langa Massacre in 1985.

Reverend Mpumelelo John Ntshikivana remembers the day as follows: “On the anniversary of the Sharpeville Massacre, a large group of residents of Langa township began to march to KwaNobuhle to attend a funeral that had been banned. We had to pass along the outskirts of the white town. We were confronted by 2 large police vehicles and many police officers who ordered us to disperse. We started the march in Maduna road. It was a peaceful march. Then opposite the Methodist church, the South Africa Defence Force and the South African Police Force tried to stop us. We did not want to stop because we were going to the funeral of our fellow comrades at Kwanobuhle. (We were staying at Langa location.) I saw one of the soldiers raise a red flag. That is when the shooting started. We fled and ran but the shooting did not stop. About thirty-six people were shot dead.”

The kind of permanent damage caused by this indiscriminate shooting can be seen in the life of Ms. Elsie Gishi – one of the named plaintiffs in the case – who was repeatedly fired on from a Casspir armoured vehicle during a township protest in December 1976. Multiple bullets entered Ms. Gishi’s back, and some remained lodged in her chest and arms. One bullet is lodged in her throat. Another is lodged inside the bone in her left arm and, as a result, she can no longer lift her arm and the entire left side of her body is lame. The three remaining bullets cause respiratory dysfunction and kidney problems. Ms. Gishi is permanently disabled and continues to suffer daily from that shooting in 1976. For survivors of this kind of violation ‘history’ is not in the past, it is a daily lived reality – and the least that they deserve is an acknowledgement and reparations from the companies that made this kind of gross human rights violation possible.

Today, a German film crew will be meeting the survivors in Uitenhage whose lives were irrevocably changed when police opened fire from armoured vehicles supplied by companies such as the German Daimler AG. These days, Uitenhage is the site of another of the companies that supplied vehicles and parts to the military – General Motors – plants in South Africa. Neither General Motors nor Daimler have acknowledged the harm they helped to cause for these members of the very community in which they now manufacture cars. Cars that are unlikely to ever be affordable for survivors who still suffer daily from injuries and traumas inflicted on them by indiscriminate shootings from their vehicles.

Update about People’s Justice Programme

13 Jun

The Reparations Workshops taking place this week as part of the Red Card Campaign and People’s Justice Centre will be held on the East Rand – not at the centre in Soweto – and will be hosted by the East Rand Group. For more information about the workshops this week please contact Nomarussia Bonase on 082-751-9903.

Please contact the following people for details on these additional parts of the programme:

– Film Screenings: Freedom Ngubonde on 072-224-3086

– Cultural Programme: Simphiwe Shabalala on 078-884-0610

– Social History Tours: Pamela Whitman on 079-103-6607

If you would like to attend any of these events, or find out more information please contact these Khulumani members and staff.

Daimler — the best or nothing

13 Jun

Germany meets Australia in the Soccer World Cup tonight. The German team is sponsored by Daimler AG. Daimler’s new international brand campaign was launched on 11 June 2010 — the same day the FIFA World Soccer Cup commenced in South Africa! The new slogan for Daimler is “THE BEST OR NOTHING”.

When it came to aiding and abetting the apartheid government, most South Africans who suffered gross human rights abuses would have preferred that it was “NOTHING”. Daimler provided the apartheid military with vehicles. Over 6,000 Daimler Unimogs were widely used in the oppressive military and security forces. Spare parts for Casspirs, Hippos and Buffels were provided. These armoured vehicles were used to patrol and control black urban settlements, to disperse civilian assemblies and to raid communities in search of dissidents, all the while keeping safe the armed men and their guns, hidden inside the vehicles.

Daimler continued to provide and maintain this equipment in defiance of international sanctions and embargoes imposed over many years by the United Nations. In 1979, the UN Special Committee Against Apartheid in South Africa warned that transnational companies have to bear a “major share of responsibility for the maintenance of the system of apartheid, for strengthening the repressive and military power of the racist regime and for undermining of international action to promote freedom and human dignity in South Africa.”

The South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) confirmed that the international businesses involved in helping the apartheid military and other security forces, did not take responsibility for their actions and … for their involvement in the military and security forces.”  Daimler AG as a key supplier of military equipment to the apartheid government, is one of these international businesses.

Daimler AG was repeatedly warned about how the equipment it was supplying, was being used. Reverend Beyers Naude addressed a Daimler AG Shareholders’ AGM in the following words: “I can assure you, Mr. Reuter (a former CEO), that these vehicles for which Daimler-Benz supplies the engines, are being used for aggressive purposes”. Daimler ignored these and many other warnings.

Khulumani plaintiff, Mr Mpho Masemola, addressed Daimler’s AGM in April this year, to extend an invitation to Daimler to begin a dialogue with victims of apartheid violations in South Africa. Daimler CEO, Dr Zetsche responded by stating that Daimler denies any responsibility for human rights violations in South Africa and that the company has no case to answer as the company conducted its business in South Africa according to German law and with the support of German politicians. Khulumani is concerned at this attempt by Daimler’s CEO to justify its conduct by claiming that it has always acted in accordance with German law and the will of German politicians, given its history of compliance with the orders of the Third Reich.

Khulumani notes that Daimler may have become more aware of that fact that “those that do business in countries with no respect for human rights do so at their peril” (Ntsebeza and Bell) and that Daimler has apparently recently withdrawn its trucks from Iran on the basis of its concern for the human rights practices of Iran. The record remains, however, that Daimler refused to withdraw its equipment from South Africa at the height of the political struggle in apartheid South Africa, at a time when the whole world knew what was happening in South Africa and when the United Nations had passed many resolutions about the crime of apartheid.

Khulumani also notes Dr Zetsche’s assertion at the AGM that Daimler AG has “nothing” to hide; that it informed the South African TRC that its archive was open and that this is still the case. Khulumani thanks Dr Zetsche for this and appreciates Daimler’s invitation to Khulumani to research the archives. Khulumani graciously accepts this invitation and will shortly be formally requesting a date and time in which acknowledged academic researchers will be granted access to Daimler’s archives.

Khulumani believes that a company that wishes to promote responsible business dealings in South Africa, should be willing to take responsibility for its past actions and should agree to meet with victims of these actions, especially when that company played so central a role in apartheid.

Khulumani notes that Dr Zetsche recently responded to the finding of the culpability of Daimler and certain of its affiliates and subsidiaries, charged for bribery in securing government contracts in 22 countries around the world, by saying, “We have learned a lot from past experience. Today, we are a better and stronger company, and we will continue to do everything we can to maintain the highest compliance standards.” The investigation of those cases, that were tried in the United States, revealed that Daimler had improperly paid some $56 million in bribes, that in turn awarded the company some $1.9 billion in revenue and at least $91.4 million in illegal profits.

Khulumani will not give up its call to Daimler to address its complicity with the apartheid government and to compensate victims for the harm that they were caused through Daimler’s involvement in the oppression of the majority of South Africans during the apartheid era.

So far, Daimler has given nothing to the indirect victims of its complicity with the illegitimate apartheid regime. It’s time to change this. It’s time for Daimler to become “the best” example of acknowledging its mistakes of the past; it’s time for Daimler to become “the best” at listening to and responding to the needs of the South African victims and survivors; it’s time for Daimler to consider making “the best” offer to settle the South African apartheid litigation. Because NOTHING is not acceptable — and nothing will make the victims and survivors stop highlighting Daimler’s irresponsible, cold-blooded and cold hearted behaviour in apartheid South Africa. In fact “nothing” but your “best” offer can begin to make things right.

Not Nigeria vs Netherlands – the Ogoni vs Royal Dutch Shell!

12 Jun

Writer, poet and environmentalist, Ken Saro-Wiwa was executed in Nigeria on November 10, 1995. He was the leader of a non-violent movement of about 50,000 Ogoni people fighting for the protection of the Niger Delta that was being desecrated by the operations of major oil companies, including Royal Dutch Shell that has the largest operation in Nigeria. Shell Oil commenced its operations in the Niger Delta in 1958.

Mr Saro-Wiwa’s campaign advocated for protection from oil spills, from the destruction of mangroves to make way for oil pipelines, and from pollution of the environment by the by-products of continuous gas flaring operations. They also complained that they had no share in the wealth being generated from oil extracted from their own land. Shell was eventually forced to quit Ogoniland in 1993. The outrage generated by the Abacha military government’s charade trial and execution of Saro-Wiwa and eight others (the MOSOP Nine) contributed to the fall of that government.

Ten plaintiffs including Saro-Wiwa’s brother and son used the Alien Tort Claims Act in a New York court to charge Royal Dutch Shell with complicity in torture, wrongful killings and human rights abuses. Just over a year ago, on 8 June 2009, a settlement was reached with Shell after a thirteen year long legal battle and three weeks of mediation. The outcome was that Shell paid out US$15,5 million to establish a Trust Fund to compensate families of the executed for their loss and to assist in providing resources for education, social services and small business enterprise support to the Ogoni People in the region. The settlement represents only about four hours or about 0,5% of Shell’s record $31.4 billion profit in 2008.

The Alien Tort Claims Act is the same legislation being used by Khulumani Support Group in its lawsuit against multinational companies — which originally also included Royal Dutch Shell for supporting the apartheid regime by supplying it with oil in defiance of the United Nations oil embargo against the apartheid government.

Last year the lawyers for the Saro-Wiwa plaintiffs said “This settlement confirms that multinational corporations can no longer act with the impunity they once enjoyed.”

If the South Africa Apartheid Litigation is won in court, the impunity of multinational corporations such as Shell, Daimler, Ford, General Motors, IBM and Rheinmettal will be further curbed.


Remember Saro-Wiwa
7 Horselydown Lane
Tower Bridge
London SE1 2LN
+44 (0)207 357 0055

Victims Red Carded for too long…

8 Jun

Victims and survivors of apartheid era gross human rights abuses were red carded by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and by the South African government — especially former President Thabo Mbeki, former Minister of Justice Penuell Maduna, and the officials in the TRC unit in the Department of Justice.

The promise made to victims and survivors was, that by testifying at the TRC and thereby participating in the process which led to the perpetrators receiving amnesty, they would receive reparations. These promises were only partly kept. The TRC’s recommendations for reparations were not accepted by the South African government — in fact only about a sixth of the amount recommended was finally (after five years) granted to those victims who testified at the TRC. But many perpetrators received amnesty and continued to receive it after the TRC officially closed its books.

Victims of apartheid crimes who did not make it to the TRC are to this day not recognised but simply ignored. The South Africa we live in today owes an enormous amount to the victims and survivors of the struggle. Some of these were heroes who have ended up in plush and cushy government jobs — but most have literally been red carded from society and stay out of sight and out of the mind of the South African peoples. Even their comrades have forgotten them.

The victims and survivors were directly and indirectly damaged by the actions of companies supporting the security forces and policies of the apartheid government — such as Daimler, Ford, General Motors, IBM, Rheinmetall and others: including banks and oil companies.

But who should continue to be red carded? The victims? Or the businesses who profitted (hugely) from apartheid?