Apartheid victims reject compensation fund

South African groups fighting on behalf of victims of apartheid are angry at the prospect of multinational companies setting up a solidarity fund in an apparent attempt to assist communities ravaged by the racist system.

SA President Thabo Mbeki and his cabinet oppose lawsuits
SA President Thabo Mbeki and his cabinet oppose lawsuits

The groups say the fund is part of efforts to put a stop to multi-billion rand legal cases brought against mostly US and Swiss conglomerates who either funded or benefited directly from apartheid.

The legal cases were filed in a New York court and a judge there is expected to rule soon on whether they may go ahead.

“We will have nothing to do with such a fund,” says Mallet Pumelel Giyose, national chairperson of Jubilee South Africa, a movement fighting for apartheid-debt relief and reparations.

Speaking to Aljazeera.net, Giyose has stressed that what the groups are interested in, is a reparations fund. “The word is well-chosen,” he explains. “It (reparations) indicates the impetus behind the fund”.
“But they (the multinationals) don’t want ever to be forced into reparations for the oppressed in this country”, stated Giyose.

“They don’t ever want to be found guilty or held accountable for acts of the past”.

Khulumani South Africa, a support group for hundreds of victims of apartheid who are also campaigning for reparations, concurs.

The solidarity fund, said spokesperson Shirley Gunn, was likely to be a cheap and a quick way to stop the litigation.

“It does seem to be another way to undermine our lawsuits”, she told Aljazeera.net. The victims, she added, “should know about these moves”.

Swiss and American banks

Legal cases were filed last year against Swiss and American banks that propped up the apartheid state.

Giyose said Jubilee South Africa had warned for two years that such action would be taken as a last resort by victim groups if the matter was not dealt with through a decisive process of dialogue and negotiation.

“However, they rejected our calls with contempt”, he says.

“But they (the multinationals) don’t want ever to be forced into reparations for the oppressed in this country”

MP Giyose
Chairperson, Jubilee South Africa 

Giyose also told Aljazeera.net that new legal cases will be filed against several other companies, including those in the military and medical field that had some relation with the apartheid state. He would not divulge the names of these companies.

Giyose was also critical of the South African government who had condemned the legal action. 

“We are calling on the government to come round and support the citizens of this country”, he said. “They need to be honest with the people on this issue”.

The South African government, he says, is comprised of people who know the issues of struggle quite well. “And therefore, they must work side by side with us in developing a reparations fund and process for this country”.


Jubilee South Africa and other groups have lashed out at the government for the 30,000 Rand ($4300), which the cabinet decided to pay out to apartheid victims as compensation for their suffering.

The award was announced by South African President Thabo Mbeki at a special debate in April on the Truth & Reconciliation Commission (TRC) final report.

The total amount of R571.5-million to be paid to 19,000 victims identified by the TRC is far below the commission’s recommended three billion rands.

The TRC was set up nearly seven years ago to probe apartheid human rights violations.

Source: Al Jazeera

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