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Monday, 25 November, 2002, 12:53 GMT
South Africa opposes apartheid case
The Sharpeville massacre
The companies stand accused of profiting from cruelty
The South African government is reportedly opposed to a lawsuit against European and American firms which stand accused of encouraging human rights abuses by trading under the apartheid regime.

"South Africa does not need this suit," Finance Minister Trevor Manuel told the Business Day newspaper in South Africa

"We are not supporting the claims for individual reparations," Justice Minister Penuell Maduna told Business Day.

The government appeared to be concerned that the lawsuit - which has been filed in a New York court against 21 multinational corporations - could make it less attractive to do business in South Africa.

"We are talking to those very same companies named in the lawsuits about investing in post-apartheid South Africa," Mr Maduna told the paper.

Human rights

The lawsuit was filed "on behalf of victims of state-sanctioned torture, murder, rape, arbitrary detention and inhumane treatment", by the Khulumani support group and Jubilee South Africa.

The banks listed in the suit include the Swiss banks Credit Suisse and UBS as well as Deutsche Bank and Dresdner Bank of Germany, Barclays Bank of the UK, and Citigroup and JP Morgan Chase of the US.

The oil firms Exxon Mobil, Shell, Total, Caltex and BP have also been named by the suit, as have the car makers DaimlerChrysler, Ford and General Motors, the computer giant IBM, the electronics firms ICL and Fujitsu, and the mining group Rio Tinto.

"These firms knowingly propped up the apartheid state and made huge profits by doing so," Jubilee South Africa spokesman Neville Gabriel told Business Day.

No damages have been specified.

Crippling litigation

The government's open opposition to the court case was expressed soon after the last president under apartheid, Frederik de Klerk, insisted that litigation would make it impossible for the banks and companies to operate in Africa.

Litigation would "make companies and international banks even more reluctant to do business with any country with less than a pristine human rights record," Mr de Klerk said.

This case is the second of its kind.

In August, US lawyer Ed Fagan sued another group of firms - including many of the same companies - which he said helped finance the apartheid regime.

That case, which was asking for reparations of some $100bn (63bn), is not yet settled.

See also:

12 Nov 02 | Business
09 Aug 02 | Business
09 Aug 02 | Americas
19 Jun 02 | Africa
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