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Note: This document is from the archive of the Africa Policy E-Journal, published by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC) from 1995 to 2001 and by Africa Action from 2001 to 2003. APIC was merged into Africa Action in 2001. Please note that many outdated links in this archived document may not work.

South Africa: Apartheid Reparations Update

Africa Policy E-Journal
February 24, 2003 (030224)

South Africa: Apartheid Reparations Update
(Reposted from sources cited below)

This posting contains a media statement and additional background from the Apartheid Debt and Reparations Campaign of Jubilee 2000 South Africa, on a new suit filed in New York Eastern District Court against international corporations and banks for reparations for their complicity in aiding and abetting apartheid. This builds on the original suit filed last November, with the same defendants but adding additional plaintiffs.

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Reparations lawsuits against U.S. companies for complicity in slavery and the slave trade are also advancing in U.S. courts. The suit filed in March 2002 in New York against Aetna, CSX Corporation, and Fleet-Boston Financial Corporation has now been consolidated with other suits in New Jersey, Virginia, North and South Carolina, Mississippi, Louisana, and Texas. The first hearing is scheduled in Chicago on Wednesday this week, February 26. (For more information see the article by Dr. Conrad Worrill on the website, plus references at

The reparations issue is also being raised in Kenya, with attention intensifying with last week's anniversary of the February 18, 1957 execution of Mau Mau leader Dedan Kimathi. New historical research and a BBC news special have raised questions of British liability for torture, summary executions, and other human rights abuses during the conflict, A multi-billion dollar suit may be filed against the British government. (For more information see the series of articles in the East African Standard for February 16 and 17, 2003, available on The articles include "The Battle for Reparations and Justice for All," "A Case of Freedom Fighters Who Are Forgotten Heroes," "Crucial Documents that Reconstruct the Past," "Yes, Gavaghan Was the Chief Torturer," all on Feb. 16, and "Was Kenya Built on a Foundation of Evil" (Feb. 17).

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Apartheid Debt and Reparations Campaign

Media Statement

Friday, 21 February 2003

Backing for International Apartheid Reparations Grows

Jubilee South Africa welcomes the filing of a further major apartheid reparations complaint against international corporations and banks that aided and abetted the apartheid state, in the New York Eastern District Court today.

Despite growing international popular opinion that the multinational banks and businesses that propped up and profited from apartheid abuses should acknowledge their complicity and take measures to repair the damage their actions made possible, the corporations have refused to take responsibility for their actions.

The campaign is now being backed up by concerned and highly respected members of the legal fraternity. Finkelstein, Thompson and Lougrhan, the American legal firm filing today's complaint, have a long and distinguished history in class action litigation.

The complaint names seven banks, and thirteen international corporations from Germany, Switzerland, Britain, the United States, the Netherlands and France.

Instead of threatening undue economic and political pressure on South Africa to stop the call for apartheid reparations, the corporations and the governments of their home countries should respect the right of citizens to legal recourse, as has the South African government.

The relevant European and American governments should support the South African government in its position regarding the lawsuits, acknowledging that the rule of international human rights law must be upheld.

We have always indicated that several legal suits would be filed by various groups of victims and lawyers.

In today's complaint and those that preceded it, South Africans express their commitment to the future of apartheid's victims, to the protection of human rights, and to the rule of law.


For comment please contact:

South Africa:
Neville Gabriel, Spokesperson: Apartheid Debt & Reparations Campaign, cell. +27 83 449 3934; Charles Abrahams, Lawyer: Jubilee SA, cell. +27 82 560 7152

Theo Kniefel, German Campaign for Apartheid-Caused Debt Cancellation & Reparations, tel. +49 (6221) 785545; Gottfried Wellmer +49 (228) 694792; Anne Jung +49 69 944 3827

Mascha Madoerin, Swiss Camapign for Apartheid-Caused Debt Cancellation & Reparations, tel. +41 61 693 1700 ; Joe Elsener, Swiss Campaign for Apartheid-Caused Debt Cancellation & Reparations, tel. +41 41 375 7223

Bill Fletcher, Director: TransAfrica, tel. +1 202 223 1960

American Lawyers:
Douglas Thompson, Jr., Finkelstein, Thompson, Loughran, tel. +1 202 337-8000; Michael Hausfeld, Cohen, Milstein, Hausfeld & Toll PLLC, tel. +1 202 408 4600

Summary of Plaintiffs

  1. Ms. Thitha Natalia Makhetha was a student in 1976 and member of the Soweto Student Representative Council, involved in the Soweto uprising. She was detained several times during 1976 and 1977, once for four months at the Sebokeng Police station, where she was tortured, and couldn't complete her school education. After the Student Representative Councils (SRC's) were banned, Thitha and the other members of the Soweto SRC executive were detained on March 6

    Every morning they were taken to the Protea Police station for interrogation where they were severely beaten and tortured. In April 1979 while she was still detained, her father passed away and she was not allowed to attend his funeral. She was continuously reminded of this in an effort to torture her psychologically. She was released on 11 July 1980.

  2. Ms. Violet Mapholohe Molekwa participated in the Soweto uprising in 1976. The police opened fire on them, also using teargas, just after they've shot Hector Peterson. Police dogs were used and Violet was one of those bitten by the dogs and then arrested by the police. She was taken to the John Vorster Square Police station. Her parents weren't informed of her whereabouts for two weeks. She was tortured in that time. After her release she joined the Student Representative Council of Orlando West High school but was later arrested among others when they held a meeting. She was taken together with the leaders to John Vorster Square Police station for questioning. There they were tortured and she ws detained for three months without trial. After her release she went into hiding, since a certain policeman called Hlubi, who was well known for killing students, was looking for her. She was on the run for four months and then tried to skip the country, but was caught by the Swaziland police and deported back to South Africa, where she was forced to stay in hiding.

  3. Mr. William Bhekumuzi Malaza is the brother of Sipho Bonaventure Malaza who detained at the Krugersdorp prison in 1977, because of his involvement in the Black Consciousness Movement of Azania (BCMA). Sipho was tortured and died in custody. He was found hanged with his waist belt in his cell. The state inquest found he committed suicide, yet no belts were allowed in prison. During the post-mortem, physical injuries indicated that Sipho was tortured and assaulted. The police involved (names are listed) never applied for amnesty at the Truth and Reconciliation Committee (TRC). A fellow detainee at that time, R.L. Maseko, is currently Member of Parliament and was a witness of these events.

  4. Ms. Makopi Beatrice Mogera was at work when riots took place in 1977. Her brother was an activist at the time and police searched their home many times when looking for him. When they couldn't find him, she was beaten and asked about his whereabouts. In 1978 Makopi was detained while pregnant. The police used to strip her of her clothes to parade naked before male police officers as a joke about her huge tummy. If she refused, she was simply beaten and forced. This continued until the baby was born. After her release she developed speech problems, suffered severe headaches, as well as loss of memory. She currently still receives medical treatment for the above-mentioned problems, and her divorce was a result of the severe effects the torture had on her.

  5. Ms. Onica Diutlwileng's son David was a high profile activist in COSAS, MK and the Black Consciousness Movement of Azania (BCMA) and detained and tortured many times between 1984 - 1990 (Krugersdorp, Grootvlei and Johannesburg prisons). David was shot in the leg in 1990 and Onica's house burned down by the Kabasa gang - a gang organised by the Police security branch to terrorise political activists during the 1980's. The Police for years issued Onica with house arrests banning her from attending public gatherings even after 1994. On 9 February 1994 David was killed by the Kabasa gang at home.

  6. Ms. Mbuyi Mhlauli wife of Scelo Stannely Mhlauli. Scelo Stannely along with Mathew Goniwe, Fort Calata, Sparrow Mkhonto was killed by the Police in what is now known as the "Cradock Four". Scelo like the others played an important leadership role in the United Democratic Front (UDF) at Cradock and other structures. Scelo himself was stabbed 27 times and his body along with the other three burned by Police.

International Apartheid Debt and Reparations Campaign: Declaration

January 2003

South Africans living under Apartheid were subject to racially discriminatory laws governing every facet of their existence. These laws restricted where black South Africans were allowed to live and work and the types of jobs they could hold. Apartheid resulted in mass arrests, forced relocation, the loss of homes, farms and businesses, a lack of educational opportunity, poor housing and living conditions, unrelenting misery for many, and overwhelming injustices. Hundreds of thousands of black South Africans and others who chose to stand against injustice were victims of extra-judicial killings, torture, arbitrary detention and other state sponsored violence. In the words of Nelson Mandela, "we remain without homes, without food, without education we only know that our people continue to die in violence on the trains, in massacres, and by assassination."

Apartheid was directed not just at the majority of people in South Africa but also at people in the neighbouring Africa countries. These countries were attacked militarily, and destabilised politically, economically and socially.

Beginning in 1950, the world community identified and condemned apartheid as a crime against humanity - an extreme violation of international law - and instituted a variety of sanctions against the Apartheid regime in South Africa, including embargoes on armaments, oil, and technology. However, a number of multinational corporations ignored these pleas, evaded the embargoes, and consciously continued to help the apartheid regime maintain its system of oppression.

Recently, the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission found that "Business was central to the economy that sustained the South African state during the apartheid years," and that certain businesses helped design and implement apartheid, while others benefited from cooperation with the security structures of the former state.

Apartheid ended in 1994 with the election of Nelson Mandela as President of the Republic of South Africa, but its consequences live on in a legacy of loss and inequality, ranging across the social and economic spectrum from job and educational opportunities to housing and health care.

After four years of failed attempts to get multinational banks and businesses that propped up the apartheid state to account for their odious profiteering, the Apartheid Debt & Reparations Campaign initiated the filing of legal complaints for reparations in New York on behalf of victims of apartheid..

The corporations aided and abetted a crime against humanity. The resulting social damage requires urgent repair. They made massive profits while the suffering of the victims of apartheid intensified. However, the banks and businesses consistently ignored attempts to engage with them in discussion about their role in supporting broad social programmes for the reconstruction and development of affected communities and in compensating specific individuals for the damage that they made possible.

Legal action was the only route left open to ensure that the truth is known about the extent of corporate complicity in apartheid abuses and that justice is delivered to those who suffered. The victims cannot be left to pay for their own suffering. Multinational corporations must be put on notice that complicity in crimes against humanity does not pay.

We therefore call on the social movements and all organizations of civil society to sustain and advance the call for:

  • Reparation for apartheid victims of human rights violations as a universally-accepted right, including cancellation of the odious apartheid debt and apartheid caused debts;
  • International law to protect and enhance the rights of poor and marginalised individuals and communities;
  • The right of civil society to file legal claims to ensure the enforcement of their legitimate rights:
  • Respect of all human rights and the dignity of all human beings;

We call on foreign governments to:

  • Acknowledge that their corporations and banks aided, abetted, and profited from apartheid;
  • Respect the right of citizens to legal recourse and not to bring undue pressure to bear on the South African government and other stakeholders to stop the demand for reparation;
  • Support the South African government in its position of respecting and upholding the right of citizens to legal recourse;
  • Acknowledge that the rule of international human rights law must be upheld;
  • Recognise that the peoples of South and Southern Africa for that matter are entitled reparations;

We call on the multinational corporations that were complicit in implementing and sustaining the system of apartheid to:

  • Acknowledge that profiting from apartheid was a crime against humanity and was wrong;
  • Respect the right of citizens to legal recourse and not to use their economic and political power to unduly influence the positions of public representatives and decision-makers to stop the call for reparations;
  • Acknowledge that the rule of international human rights law must be upheld; and to
  • Immediately provide reparations to the people of South Africa without having to wait for the lawsuit to take its course;

In endorsing this declaration we act for Justice and in agreement with the International Apartheid Debt and Reparations Campaign:

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Date distributed (ymd): 030224
Region: Southern Africa
Issue Areas: +political/rights+

The Africa Action E-Journal is a free information service provided by Africa Action, including both original commentary and reposted documents. Africa Action provides this information and analysis in order to promote U.S. and international policies toward Africa that advance economic, political and social justice and the full spectrum of human rights.

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