S.Africa backs GM,IBM, Apartheid lawsuit

The relevance of this development to the Palestinian struggle for justice and civil rights is clear. It could establish a legal precedent which in the future may be used by Palestinians to target those

corporations who are profiting from the illegal Israeli occupation.   

South Africa Backs GM, Ford, IBM Apartheid Lawsuit (Update1)

Share | Email | Print | A A A

By David Glovin and Mike Cohen

Sept. 3 (Bloomberg) — The South African government told a judge it now supports a U.S. lawsuit accusing General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co., IBM Corp. and Daimler AG of aiding South Africa’s former apartheid regime, according to lawyers.

Jeff Radebe, South Africa’s justice minister, said in a letter to a judge that the government reversed its position and believes the case should go forward, according to lawyers at Hausfeld LLP, one of the firms representing plaintiffs in the suit. U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin in Manhattan in April narrowed the case while allowing it to proceed.

“The government of the Republic of South Africa, having considered carefully the judgment of the United States District Court, Southern District of New York, is now of the view that this court is an appropriate forum to hear the remaining claims,” Radebe wrote to Scheindlin this week, according to a copy of the letter provided by the Hausfeld firm.

The plaintiffs in the case, including people who were tortured or relatives of those killed, invoked the U.S. Alien Tort Claims Act, a 200-year-old law that lets federal courts hear suits by non-citizens claiming violations of international law. They say the companies knowingly helped the former South African regime by selling it weapons, providing it financing and otherwise doing business there.

South Africa’s government initially opposed the lawsuit, saying it would deter investment, a position that was reviewed after Jacob Zuma was elected president in May.

‘Good News’

The government’s decision to withdraw its opposition “is extremely good news for us,” said Marjorie Jobson, a director of Khulumani Support Group, which supports apartheid victims. “They feel they can no longer protect” the companies.

Tlali Tlali, Radebe’s spokesman, didn’t answer several calls to his mobile phone. South African government spokesman Themba Maseko said he hadn’t been briefed on the case.

Daimler’s South African unit said it was confident of winning the case. Daimler, based in Stuttgart, Germany, is the world’s second-largest maker of luxury cars.

“We regard these class actions as unsubstantiated,” the company said in an e-mailed response to questions. “Daimler AG has at no time cooperated with the South African security forces for the perpetuation of apartheid.”

All of the other defendants either denied wrongdoing or refused to comment when Scheindlin ruled the case could proceed.

The case is In re South African Apartheid Litigation, 02- md-1499, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

To contact the reporters on this story: David Glovin in U.S. District Court in Manhattan at 2587 or dglovin@bloomberg.net; Mike Cohen in Cape Town at mcohen21@bloomberg.net

Last Updated: September 3, 2009 10:58 EDT

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.