Wednesday, June 11, 2003

Mbeki speaks out on apartheid suits

The government does not support compensation lawsuits by apartheid victims against businesses, President Thabo Mbeki reiterated on Tuesday.

Many of the companies named in such lawsuits are today helping with South Africa's development, Mbeki said at the end of a meeting with his Swiss counterpart Pascal Couchepin.

In May, a group called the Apartheid Claims Task Force announced plans to file a lawsuit worth billions of dollars in New York against South African gold mining company Gold Fields for making blacks work under "sub-human" conditions during the apartheid regime.

One of the lawyers involved in the lawsuit is US attorney Ed Fagan, who already spearheaded a successful claim against Swiss banks on behalf of Holocaust victims.

Fagan has also filed or announced plans to file other suits against Swiss and US banks, pharmaceutical conglomerates, car manufacturers, food giant Nestle, and mining companies De Beers and Anglo American, among others, on the grounds that they benefited under the apartheid regime.

Mbeki has said on previous occassions that the South African government found the suits unacceptable.

"We consider it completely unacceptable that matters that are central to the future of our country should be adjudicated in foreign courts which bear no responsibility for the well-being of our country and the observance of the perspective contained in our constitution of the promotion of national reconciliation," he said in Cape Town on April 15.

AFP, 11 Jun 2003