Apartheid victims target IBM, banks

Apartheid victims will launch lawsuits demanding billions of dollars of compensation from US computer giant IBM and three German banks accused of profiteering in white-ruled South Africa, their lawyers said on Monday.

This follows lawsuits announced against Swiss banks UBS and Credit Suisse and US bank Citibank on June 17 for profiteering from the victims’ “blood and misery”.

Gugulethu Madlanga, a Johannesburg-based lawyer acting for the victims, on Monday told AFP: “They will also file claims against IBM and also Deutsche Bank, Dresdner Bank and Commerz Bank.”

His colleague John Ngcebetsha said the latest claims were being prepared. “As early as 1952 United States computer companies began to supply apartheid South Africa with computer technology and systems, that better enabled the system of institutionalised racial discrimination and repression to function,” the claim against IBM says.

The claim states that IBM — and other US and European computer companies yet to be named — knew their technology facilitated “the violation of human rights and the commission of atrocities”.

US attorney Ed Fagan, working with a team of South African and US lawyers, is spearheading the class action lawsuits.

The four initial plaintiffs will highlight gross human rights violations such as torture or murder in their claims, which are modelled on successful compensation claims by Holocaust survivors. The number of plaintiffs is expected to rise to thousands.

“We want reparations from those international companies and banks that profited from the blood and misery of our fathers and mothers, our brothers and sisters,” said Lulu Petersen, the sister of apartheid’s best known victim Hector Petersen.

Police shot dead the 13-year-old Petersen in Soweto on June 16 1976, triggering an uprising against apartheid rule.

The plaintiffs are Lulu Petersen, Sigqibo Mpendulo (whose young twin sons were killed in a massacre), Lungisile Ntsebeza (detained, tortured and banished) and Themba Makubela (banished). – Sapa

Mail & Guardian (Johannesburg), July 1, 2002

Categories: Africa, Odious Debts, South Africa

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