Africa: Politics and Societies South of the Sahara

South Africa: Companies Will Go on Trial for their Support of Apartheid

Posted in African Politics, Global Africa, South Africa by ruben eberlein on April 14, 2009

Last week a court in New York gave the green light for class actions against US and German corporations who dealt with South Africa’s apartheid regime in defiance of UN sanctions. The case could help to expose some of the international backers of white minority rule before 1994.

It took the initiators of the lawsuit seven years to finally get the go-ahead for their action against companies like Ford, General Motors, IBM, Daimler and Rheinmetall. In the case of a conviction, these corporations could be ordered to pay millions of dollars in compensation to the victims of apartheid. Several thousand of them signed the suit, claiming that these international businesses supported the violent and racist politics of the white minority regime in South Africa in the 70s and 80s.

Human rights campaigners welcomed the decision of judge Shira Scheindlin who allowed the case to continue against Daimler, Ford and GM ‘for aiding and abetting torture … extrajudicial killing, and apartheid’. Some of the supporters of the lawsuit in addition demand a review and cancellation of the international debt in Southern Africa originating from the racial suppression under the National Party. ‘Even 15 years after the end of the regime, the burden of debt imperils the democratic reconstruction in South Africa and the whole region’, says Anne Jung of medico international, a human rights and aid NGO based in Frankfurt (Main).

You can find the statement of Khulumani, a South African lobby organisation of the survivors and families of victims of apartheid, in response to the judgement here.

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