SA does about-turn on US apartheid case

The South African government has overturned a decision made under ex-president Thabo Mbeki not to support class action for apartheid reparations from eight United States-based companies, Business Report said on Thursday.

Justice Minister Jeff Radebe has written a letter to the presiding judge of the US District Court of the southern district of New York to announce that President Jacob Zuma’s government would support the lawsuit brought by Khulumani Support Group.

This was in contrast to a letter written by his predecessor, Penuell Maduna, to the court in July 2003, which said the state would oppose Khulumani’s action because it would “discourage much-needed foreign investment”.

Radebe said the government would like to resolve the matter outside the courts.

The companies being sued by Khulumani and 13 individuals are Barclays, Daimler, Ford, Fujitsu, General Motors, IBM, Rheinmetall and UBS.

These conglomerates stand accused of aiding and abetting apartheid acts by doing business with the apartheid government.

Khulumani welcomed the government’s new decision.

“This represents a very significant shift from the government’s 2003 position that [it] is not and will not be party to litigation against companies that did business with and in South Africa during the apartheid period,” Khulumani said.—Sapa


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