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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Jubilee South Africa Indaba, Port Alfred December 2003

Discussion paper Jubilee Port Alfred Indaba

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  • Berend Schuitema
    Dec 11, 2003
    Organization: structure and approach

    This year has been one of considerable reflection on strategy, tactics and
    programme of action at national as well as at provincial levels.

    Momentum was carried in the process by having a number of national
    level meetings where all provinces were together, including two national
    councils, two strategic planning conferences and two reparations

    At the very least we have found a basic consensus about working in a
    multi-tier structure, with a National Executive Committee replicating itself
    with Provincial Executives and finally regional and local committees. An
    adjusted constitution has been agreed upon that will need to be ratified at
    the next National Conference.

    Given the stalls and needed consultations to by trial and error get to
    an even keel after rolling into some turbulence regarding the National
    Executive Committee's going nearly defunct with withering away of members,
    staff problems as well as coalition problems, the current NEC will have run
    a year beyond its mandated term of office by the time of the planned
    National Conference in March next year.

    From the viewpoint of the Eastern Cape, reflected in our submissions at
    National Councils, sticking rigidly to constitutional mandates and allowing
    for flexibility for the existing leadership to make interventions which
    formally speaking could be questionable, was not in the interests of
    allowing space and time for bringing the overall organization and programme
    of action to where we are.

    Indeed from the Eastern Cape we have argued for common sense and
    flexible organization to prevail over inflexible and a rigid style of
    organization. After all, a number of very basic issues arose during the year
    concerning type of organization, organizational methodology and approach to
    programme of action that emphasizes "from below" local realities. Besides
    the need to make interventions with the strategic planning and reparations
    conferences causing cash flow problems, what above all time flow was more of
    the essence. We needed time and space that actually went beyond the budget
    and term of office mandate as stipulated from the last National Conference.

    Developments in the Eastern Cape

    Having established eight regional branches coinciding more or less with
    the demarcations in the province by our partner organizations, the ECPCC and
    the ECNGOC, structured as a Provincial Executive that flowed from the
    regional committees was found to be unworkable. The province is large, and
    depending on the piggy-back networking approach among our main two partners,
    lost its original momentum. What we have found is that placing branches with
    members who were mostly not dedicated to the anti debt and reparations
    campaign as one's of primary interest, found that the hierarchical structure
    of a provincial executive committee being representative in leadership of
    the regional and local structures degenerated as only the few eventually
    remained who did consider themselves fully committed to Jubilee.

    Ofcourse resource and technical problems of maintaining communications
    and an even push in a uniform programme of action played a role as well.
    Also where committed members remained they tended to be in close touch with
    one another and able to get at least the flag flying when needed in small
    rallies, and provincial indabas.

    Thus the best practice approach developed an own path in which quality
    of time commitment of activists became more important than setting up
    branches of members that were not sustainable in any uniform way. Jubilee
    members then concentrated in building networks among progressive
    organizations in their own localities. These then were conceived as "Jubilee
    clusters. At the same time, to add another dimension in organization,
    alongside these local clusters we focused on developing theme groups along
    the lines established at our national indabas as provincial priorities.

    Local network clusters

    We thus have Jubilee clusters operating in East London (with core
    membership in the Quigney), Mdantsane (Thabang's domain), Newlands and
    Amalinda Forest (Ntombentsha), and Duncan Village (Wonga Manga). These three
    clusters are in close proximity and there is regular communication between
    the cluster coordinators. The cluster that was existing in Umtata withered
    out of the picture mainly because of communication problems. Port Elizabeth
    is Sikhumbuzo's terrain and a steady group of members are involved that
    still functions as a branch. Grahamstown has fallen below the radar.

    The theme groups received less attention with the emphasis on building
    local network clusters. A roster for monthly meetings facilitated by a local
    Jubilee coordinator did not pan out that well. These meetings were irregular
    and little gearing effected in getting local issues drawn in and mobilized
    around the common theme of debt and reparations.

    Also what we find is that these local networks tend to become
    overwhelmed by local issues with splits and other organizations befuddling
    the picture. A breakdown and brief story for each shows some of the positive
    as well as negative achievements.

    In the Quigney there is a strong network of comrades who have many caps
    and meet one another at least twice but mostly more times per week in other
    structures where they rub shoulders. The positive spin of this that for
    events the cluster makes a strong showing, like for example our sizable
    numbers that participated in the pickets against the Bush visit. Most are
    connected with one another on the internet. The cluster functions as it
    should be infusing and influence the work in a range of other structures
    such as local SACP and ANC branches, good chain of communications with
    COSATU members, and also a strong convergence in community policing work.

    The membership of Jubilee is implicit and taken for granted as a strong
    core functioning in related organizations with good catalyst impact overall.
    Because of the many hats worn it is not easy to develop a distinct Jubilee
    group as such, nor is this really going to be constructive. Where the real
    advantage lies is indeed in theming our work and streaming this through the
    other organizations. The merits of the theming aspect will be discussed
    later. Apart from each member being active in at least two organizations,
    the time has added constraint as most hold down jobs and have to prioritize
    their efforts.

    Newlands has the same networking dynamics with a strong pull to
    meetings and workshops banking on a strong network of community marshals.
    The active participation of the Ward Councilor who often makes his Ward
    Committee accessible for Jubilee inputs and in fact his constituency
    mobilized for Jubilee workshops.

    The newest cluster formed by Ntombentsha's moving to Amalinda Forest
    has shown up another weakness of a cluster being drowned out to a large
    extent because of a volatile local political situation that one finds in new
    informal settlements. Access to water and land for housing are driving
    issues with lots of direction and momentum fed by the Jubilee theme.
    Meetings are packed and attract a bigger crowd than the local councilor can,
    which in turn sparked off rubs between the councilor and SANCO people. What
    we find, however, is raised expectations that Jubilee can deliver on its
    message which becomes very problematic. Bringing AGS into the picture
    immediately results in a swarm of demands for funding and other resources.

    In Mdantsane the clustering of network activity went well initially,
    but the conflation between it and Youth For Work seems to have drowned and
    downed the visibility and mobilizing effort of Jubilee itself.

    Duncan Village has a very strong potential pull as one of the main
    bases of the community volunteers. Recently Wonga Monga, a veteran of the
    old Unemployed Workers Union (UNEWU), has come into the picture.

    Umtata: group focused on land for jobs project.

    Port Elizabeth: good cadre, Sikhumbuzo is well connected among
    unionists. Uitenhage coming into the picture with a strong group organized
    as Uitenhage Victims Support Group".
    Theme groups / Task Teams
    The cluster model builds on two dimensions, one being the local
    network clusters, the other being the theme groups in which ideally meet
    regularly with volunteers coming from all the local groups and bolstered by
    experienced activists in the specific field.

    Over the past year we have too much focus on the one, and not enough on
    the other - the clusters at local level are functioning but not as they
    should, or could. The model we put forward at a previous National Council
    detailed both the local clusters and the various theme task teams.


    The model, which basically concentrates on horizontal relationships
    rather than vertical, thus basically a social movement model, ideally should
    at some point kick in and spin out with a strengthening overall mass
    mobilizing potential. Now that we have tried the model successful at least
    in that it is enthusiastically supported and understood, we need to look at
    how we can develop densification, direction and momentum in the effort.

    The EC model bears with the following:

    Coordinators of local clusters should be in regular communication with one
    another. This means that they should meet not necessarily formally, but
    regularly. The internet is ideal, but seemingly most comrades are either shy
    to write and express themselves, or else have difficulty in accessing

    Anti-globalization part of Jubilee, or Jubilee part of anti-globalization?
    This distinction is important to understand. Some perceive Jubilee as a sort
    of umbrella, coat hanger if you will, for activists addressing various
    issues. The other view is that Jubilee essentially is a catalyst group
    active within networks that spawns social movements that focus on own
    issues, such as AIDS activism, land for jobs, water rights etceteras.
    Debating this should lead to much more clarity about what type of
    organization Jubilee should be from a mass mobilization point of view.

    The nature of the province: we have three distinct components in the Eastern
    Cape - the previous Border Region, the previous Transkei, and the previous
    East Cape. The Border region "axis" runs from East London through Queenstown
    to Aliwal North and includes Grahamstown. The East Cape "axis" is Port
    Elizabeth, Uitenhage, Cradock and Graff Reinett. The Transkei center of
    gravity probably should be Umtata. This leaves big chunks of the previous
    Ciskei out on a limb, including the Middledrift and Whittlesea and
    Keiskammahoek. Sterkspruit is also a huge rural area that used to fall in
    with the old Transkei. For effective networking and optimizing the catalyst
    role of Jubilee each of these areas should be grouped. It may well be that
    each needs a different approach for organizing. Rationalizing the areas
    means that similarities between various centers in these areas encourages

    Network environment: Each of the proposed demarcated areas have their own
    environments. For example, the Border Region is heavy ANC territory, with a
    lot of old SANCO influence as well. And in as far as it is ANC, the
    perception also is that it's a "left" leaning area. The perception is
    illusive in this sense that the mass-base is not always pliable to "top
    down" pressures. This has more to do with the nature of branches that are
    formally functional but actually near dead. The last round list nominations
    process saw only 22 branches out of a total of 360 that had mandates to
    nominate candidates for the 2004 elections because branch nomination
    meetings did not quorate. When branches address critical issues, such the
    debt, life kicks back into them. Notable is that at a provincial general
    council held in 2001 resolutions were passed for the province to take
    Jubilee on board. This as a result of our first mobilization of Jubilee in
    the province prior to our launch in November 2000. In our experience we find
    that in the Quigney there are vibrant ANC and SACP sub-branches purely
    because of the vibrancy around addressing the globalization issue and
    participation in Jubilee. In Newlands we have a virtual alliance with the
    local councilor. In Mdantsane ANC members have turned out to overwhelm and
    challenge Jubilee. In Amalinda Forest Jubilee's bringing out large numbers
    sprawled into a SANCO vs. ANC dogfight. In Umtata the same happens but the
    contention comes from the UDM and ACDP who vie for a share of the cake and
    speaking opportunities at Jubilee meetings. These factors mean that we need
    to determine a posture for Jubilee suited to the environment. Our posture
    defined as a social movement rather than a contesting political party is an
    important element to consider. If we set formal branches we land in trouble
    with structures that themselves become contested from within. Working
    informally as a network among networks, including political parties, such
    contest is avoided.

    Setting up theme groups: Most of the more important social movement
    formations in the Eastern Cape, such as the LPM and TAC, have very weak
    structures. Some issues, like fighting water cutoffs, is a terrain that is
    captured and at the same time smothered by SANCO. (Repressive tolerance!).
    The ideal would be to utilize the catalyst role of Jubilee and spawn social
    movement formations. A more effective approach is to set up the theme groups
    more at the research and academic level and work the message through the
    media as Jubilee. If we have partner organizations participating theme
    workshops have to make accommodations. For example, our intended addressing
    of the "Theology of Jubilee" in a seminar should be done not as Jubilee per
    se, but also through the structures of the participating structure. Same
    with the privatization matter which should be networked through COSATU
    structures. There is quite a spin on our AIDS work but we are finding that
    this does not remain under the Jubilee umbrella, let alone a sub-structure
    of Jubilee, but these groups go their own way.

    One area of our thinking in Jubilee about "taking the message to the
    masses" implies a comprehensive worldview with socialism as destination of
    human society, or, given its theological nature, its equivalent of the final
    outcome of the Christian era namely the coming of God's Reign. The idea
    that by taking Jubilee to the masses as a single issue campaign model is
    another view hanging in there, but clearly the "product" in itself is not as
    simple as that. There are of course a few sweetly simple lines that speaks
    to a populist audience like "why do we have to pay for apartheid twice".
    With such lines we assume that ordinary people will be able to expand their
    knowledge about their own social situations, dependent upon their following
    and developing the rational analysis of the debt issue, neo-liberalism
    The reality is that we need another context within which this approach
    can be carried, like for example that class conscious workers understand
    more about capitalism in the context of labour/capitalist relations. Or that
    people who understand the bible follow the Jubilee principle as one implying
    social transformation towards a social system of justice and equality.
    It is our experience in the Eastern Cape that building branches on par
    with other social movements such as the trade union movement or political
    parties requires more than simply a Single issue campaign approach. We may
    assume that unpacking the a b c's of the debt in related issues is enough by
    itself but this rarely works. On the one hand we get the Amalinda Forest
    syndrome where an infusion of the Jubilee message brings hope and at the
    same time unrealizable expectations. Because this has no clear ideological
    or theological message to contain the message in a campaign trajectory it
    explodes as it were and the enthusiasm hijacked by local political
    characters or sometimes buffoons who will then see in Jubilee a good place
    to posture for power and influence.

    The long and short of the experience is that we need either an ideology
    or a theology if we are to speak of Jubilee being a social movement in its
    own right and more than simply a single issue campaign requiring the masses
    to muster for pickets, rallies or marches.

    In summary: Jubilee is about debt slavery. But while it may appear to
    have the potential of a mass movement, the question of national debt withers
    as quick as it gathers around facts and figures about national budgets and
    all that. People with AIDS know what the immediate need is - ARV and this
    sticks firmly and provides a campaigning model that snowballs into a mass
    movement. Or the land issue where the same is achieved, things of course
    where we can hitch our wagon as well. But the question always remains about
    placing the wagon before the horse, namely whether we are the horse of the
    wagon or just a group of activists chauvinistically imposing on issues that
    are better addressed by other movements.

    Two routes to follow to give a comprehensive jacket and dressing up of
    our campaign model are developing the theology of Jubilee and mobilizing the
    message by building community policing structures.

    Theology of Jubilee

    Unpacking the theology of Jubilee on ethical lines of social justice
    and equality is straight forward and could fill the present day void left by
    the demise of liberation theology. Taking the Old Testament idea of their
    being a once per generation scrapping of debt, restoration of land and
    nature carries through the spirit of the resultant social revolution to the
    New Testament understanding of the teachings of Jesus Christ. This is
    teaching of the social gospel with the proof being the early Christian
    society that Marx and Rosa Luxemburg regarded as a form of communism. Social
    redemption was attractive to slaves, but the ethical redemption that came
    with the reification of God ofcourse saw the building of new hierarchies,
    land accumulation in religious establishment, in any case the social gospel
    manifesting in a human society was only of a few centuries duration.

    For some reason interesting to understand the concept of the social
    gospel on the Jubilee principle did not tick along with the expedient use of
    the term to justify a one-off eradication of poor world debt with the
    opening of the new millennium. However if we look back in history we see the
    principle carrying waves of social transformation, for example in the
    peasant revolts of the fifteenth century. The social turmoil at the time saw
    the rise of a counter revolution which quelled the Hessian idea of land
    restoration with the Luther Reformation which some see as a pretext for
    capitalist ideology. In the nineteenth century the idea of Jubilee related
    to land restoration again was raised by Georgism in which land was central
    in a social transformation approach based on taxes on land negating any idea
    that it was in the domain of public ownership. But this drift did not carry
    through although there is a Henry George Institute continuing the
    proselytizing of this idea today.

    In the modern context it seems that the theology of liberation is
    softball playing in the arena of religious fundamentalism. It appears that
    the "born again" movement is comprehensive and attractive even to George W
    Bush. Everything in the Bible has to be taken at literal value excepting,
    funnily enough, the Jubilee principle. This is "tough theology" that has no
    place for social concern other than the immanent coming of Christ and the
    rapture of all believers, leaving the earth to be fought over by
    apocalyptical forces. Social redemption is redemption of the soul fit for
    another realm, and land restoration is achieved in a millennium of peace
    that either comes before or after the apocalypse.

    The rightwing alignment of the fundamentalist movements does deal with
    land but in a rather ironic twist that Christian Zionism has imposed. The
    Jews must get their land back first as precondition for the apocalypse. The
    city of Armageddon is seen as the place where this big apocalyptical battle
    ensues, and all the right things are apparently happening with the war in
    the Middle East in fulfillment of the literalist interpretation of the word
    of God.

    In order to get away from the softball liberation theology we also need
    to go hardball. Eschatology seems to be the dominant hermeneutic and raises
    more global, fundamental issues. Neo-liberalism has celebrated itself after
    the fall of the Berlin Wall as the "end of history" - there are no longer
    any other alternatives. It opens the way to looking at pre-history, a phase
    what Marx called "primitive communism" as the beginning of the human saga,
    and the communist society as the end product of history. Alienation starts
    with history, ends when history ends.

    The issue of alienation is central to the new social movement
    discourse. In this sense the idea that alienation of labour is the backbone
    with all other forms of alienation the ribs is being challenged. Is the
    working class the one and only agency of struggle? Are social movements
    autonomous areas of liberation that are agencies of revolutionary
    development, does the concept of the multitudes replace the concept of the
    working class as single and central thrust in the overthrow of capitalism?
    These are the sorts of questions we need to answer as new social movement
    activists and militants.

    Community Policing

    The focus on Community Policing as a distinct theme in Jubilee work in
    the Border region has had some replication in other provinces, the NW and
    NC. Others feel that organizing community policing forums is too
    formalistic and more in the terrain of preservation of class rule from a
    maintenance of law and order. Others point out a contradiction in that more
    often than not we hit police road blocks when social movement activity gets
    out of hand, like with the experiences of the Anti Eviction Campaigns, the
    beating up of APF members by POPCRU members, or police action in
    Johannesburg during the W$$D march. Human rights are progressively at stake,
    especially the right to protest and the police are seen to be on the other
    side of the fence. Which is all true, of course.

    Policing in post-Apartheid South Africa is by any account one of the
    main arenas of transformation. We should regard this as contested terrain,
    given the liberation movement background. Most national liberation movements
    found themselves in situations where social control mechanisms had to be set
    up. South Africa has this in abundance. First is the whole idea of
    traditional policing which is still the order of the day in the rural,
    former Bantustan areas. It largely operates outside of the legal framework
    and mostly has a positive, conciliatory nature when and where it is applied
    nowadays. The point is the necessity for this as the rural areas are mostly
    poorly policed and little access to the criminal justice system. This is
    another aspect of the neo-liberal agenda where state resources for policing
    are minimized and dependence shifted to private security to those who can
    afford it. Clearly then we have a contested terrain and a primary social
    issue. Safety and security is one of the fundamental human rights.

    If one looks at the liberation movement experience community policing
    was not simply a preferred thing to do, but vital. Policing of the black
    townships spread from vigilante groups spawned by bantustan authorities not
    only tolerated, but fuelled by the Apartheid police. Without policing and
    law there is no way any social system can work - policing is central to any
    social reconstruction whether good or bad.

    Likewise the UDF found itself also forming an counter structure for
    social defence and also control as an embryonic form of what policing which
    eventually be in a liberated South Africa. The rise of the civic
    organizations, especially in the East Cape (In PE, PEPCO etc) and the Border
    region therefore saw the development of social structures build on block,
    area and street committees.

    Like with other things that did not pan out as intended along the lines
    of the Freedom Charter, a totally transformed community-based policing did
    not reflect in the ANC's neo-liberal drifting. But that does not mean that
    we should regard this as a gone forever project - a transformed community
    policing is still a vital component of the revolutionary agenda. If police
    and law enforcement is the most fundamental fact of life in a liberal
    democracy, then that does not mean that a post capitalist society has not
    policing needs. It continues to be a fundamental need that should be
    addressed as part and parcel of the new social movement transformation of
    governance from below.

    What we can say is that working on the community policing front is also
    embryonic, a fundamental building block in a social movement strategy. In
    our experience in the border region the very reason why it is so important
    is that community policing allows intervention not only to develop the
    ideology of community policing with the progressive elements of POPCRU as
    main partner, but also to start mapping out activities that link in all
    other aspects of social movement activity as well.

    Globalization and community policing

    The issue of public security is one of the most under researched and
    least visible aspects of struggle in the complexity of the new social
    movements. In the case of Brazil, for example, no real thought was given to
    transforming policing after the fall of the dictatorship. Police remains to
    this day military-style with no social movement counter backup. On the other
    hand policing does remain a vital concern in any society and authoritarian
    policing systems under attack in developed liberal democracies.

    There are a whole range of interconnects between policing challenges in
    the context of globalization. First we have privatization schemes to replace
    state policing. Second, like with education and public health, state
    spending on policing is constrained. The combined effect of this as we
    experience it in South Africa is class privilege for policing in the rich
    areas able to back up with private security, and lack of state criminal
    justice systems in the poor, townships and especially the rural area.

    Evidently then a major area of social concern and ideological struggle.
    Unlike in the situation of Brazil, the philosophy of community policing
    adopted in South Africa does make some connection with informal policing
    systems developed on the ground by communities fighting Apartheid. In the
    Border region the broadest and most solid network of activists that came
    into Jubilee still have their hands full with continuing this area of

    Furthermore, how important the issue is can also be looked at from the
    point of view of a "negative disconnect" between the struggle period and
    now. The rise of dangerous vigilante movements experienced during the height
    of the struggle years have taken on a new form and operate today as well.
    Mostly this is about people both with reactionary and also good backgrounds
    who found themselves unemployed and thrown away after 1994. The
    proliferation of these groups is well illustrated by the rise of a group
    calling itself the "Peninsula Anti Crime Agency" (PEACA) made up of ex
    "combatants" who do "crime prevention" by extorting and embezzling recovered
    goods and fees. In the East London we found a similar organization that had
    to be crushed by community mobilization through the progressive Quigney
    Policing Forum.

    Crime, punishment and community policing is a revolutionary concept
    that needs to counter reactionary ideology and practices on a consistent
    basis. Crime can be categorized as 1) property related crime; 2) crime
    against the state; and 3) crime against persons. The first two are what most
    crime and retributive punishment is all about to maintain the capitalist
    system. If one removes these two probably 90% of crime is done away. In
    other words, if we base society on socialism, democracy and freedom the 10%
    crime against persons dwindles-but there will always be the need for the
    most basic of community organization for resolving fights and disputes.


    I have a lot of thinking going on related to the work I am doing with
    Jubilee as well as with community policing. The practical involvement with
    both did not fall from the sky, or a matter of expedience or accident or
    even bad luck outcome of decades of struggle. The community policing
    involvement started during the transition period as a dedicated member of
    the erstwhile liberation movement, the ANC.

    I was privileged to have been given the assignment by the ANC leaders
    immediately after the democratic elections of 1994 to take forward the
    marshals structure in the Border Region as the central organized thrust of
    community volunteers who would drive a popular RDP. This came to naught as
    the RDP withered and the neo-liberal era took root. Discovering Jubilee in
    1998 was a discovery of reason for why things had gone otherwise and dashing
    hope and expectation of thousands of community volunteers with whom I was

    Based on my three years of experience I find the need for an
    ideological basis to push forward with the anti debt and reparations
    campaign. It makes sense to me especially as I am also on the TRC
    reparations list alongside some of my comrades, let alone the many comrades
    who offered themselves, their education and came out of the struggle
    basically cast aside. Probably the reparations theme is more potent than the
    debt theme, the former being broader than the latter. Which at the same time
    gives the basis for lots of ideological discourse related to the future
    struggle for a just and equitable society globally, and South Africa within
    that context.

    In my view alienation is central and its practical liberating side is
    simply the building of human solidarity. This in itself is an ethical
    project that needs to be thought out and presented as a unifying ideology
    underpinning the new social movements.


Saturday, October 4, 2014

Reparations case filed in U.S. Courts against apartheid profiteers

Professor Patrick Bond, Jubilee South 

                                                               Patrick Bond

"Jubilee SA's Berend Schuitema reported that Maduna made an
extraordinary confession: "The reason why he had made the objection was
that he was asked for an opinion on the lawsuit by Colin Powell. He gave
Powell his written response, whereupon Powell said that he should lodge
this submission to the judge of the New York Court. Howls from the floor."

  • July 08, 2008 Edition 1

    Patrick Bond

    Today, the fascinating case of $400 billion (R3 trillion) in claims by
    black South Africans against multinational corporations once again comes
    to Judge John Sprizzo's New York Southern District Court.

    At the scene will be former Robben Islander and honorary UKZN professor
    Dennis Brutus, a leading plaintiff, but just one among many thousands of
    compatriots now rebelling against their government's disapproval of this
    Alien Tort Claims Act lawsuit.

    Only in the past two decades has the law become widely known. More than
    100 cases were filed in US courts, beginning with a Paraguayan torture

    Encouraged by Burmese villagers fighting the US oil firm Unocal, a case
    which in 2003 withstood challenge by the Bush administration, activists
    like Brutus, Cape Town academic Lungisile Ntsebeza, the Khulumani
    Support Group and Jubilee SA used the Act to sue dozens of multinational
    corporations operating in SA during apartheid.

    The South African government was asked by the Bush administration to
    oppose the cases, and in part because Pretoria complied, Judge Sprizzo
    initially decided the case on behalf of corporate defendants in late
    2004. He reasoned that the Act conflicted with US foreign policy and
    South African domestic economic policy.

    But last October, litigants won an appeal on the grounds that Sprizzo's
    logic was faulty. In May, the US Supreme Court was expected to finally
    kill the lawsuit on behalf of the corporations, but four of the justices
    discovered conflicts of interest in their own investment portfolios, as
    they owned shares in the target firms. The case went back to Sprizzo, in
    what the plaintiffs' Cape Town-based lawyer, Charles Abrahams, argued
    was "a massive victory for the international human rights movement as a

    According to Nicole Fritz, director of the Southern African Litigation
    Centre in Johannesburg: "Companies that were not perpetrators of human
    rights violations but were complicit in such violations through their
    dealings with oppressive governments are now potentially liable in law
    for their actions."


    Disincentivising future profit-taking from dictatorships such as Burma
    or Zimbabwe is a central objective.

    Last month, just as Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF paramilitaries committed
    sufficient murder and torture to ensure his "re-election", thanks in
    part to President Thabo Mbeki's perpetual connivance, AngloPlats
    announced a $400 million (R3 billion) investment in lucrative Zimbabwean
    platinum mines.

    Abrahams argues: "The substantive basis of the suit is that foreign
    multinational corporations aided and abetted the apartheid government by
    providing arms and ammunition, military technology, transportation and
    fuel with which the government and its armed forces were able to commit
    the most heinous crimes against the majority of the people of South Africa."

    Corporations being sued include the Reinmetall Group, for providing arms
    and ammunition to the apartheid government; British Petroleum (BP),
    Shell, Chevron Texaco, Exxon Mobil, Fluor Corporation and Total
    Fina-Elf, for providing fuel to the armed forces; Ford, Daimler-Chrysler
    and General Motors, for providing transport to the armed forces; and
    Fujitsu and IBM for providing the government with much needed military

    Banks financing apartheid included Barclays, Citibank, Commerzbank,
    Credit Suisse, Deutsche, Dresdner, J P Morgan Chase and UBS.

    As a leading exiled foreign representative of the African National
    Congress before 1994, Mbeki supported the demand that multinational
    corporations disinvest from SA.

    But in 2001, at the UN World Conference Against Racism in Durban, he
    opposed a clause that the "US should take responsibility and pay
    reparations for the trans-atlantic slave trade", which was supported by
    Nigeria and other African states.

    In April 2003, Mbeki announced that it was "completely unacceptable that
    matters that are central to the future of our country should be
    adjudicated in foreign courts".

    Public enterprises minister Alec Erwin insisted that Pretoria was
    "opposed to, and contemptuous of the litigation". Any findings against
    apartheid-tainted companies "would not be honoured" within SA, he blustered.

    In July 2003, then-justice minister Penuell Maduna told the US courts
    that "the litigation could have a destabilising effect on the SA economy".

    But as a friend of the court on behalf of the claimants (alongside
    Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu), Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz
    replied that such analysis had "no basis," because "those who helped
    support that system, and who contributed to human rights abuses should
    be held accountable".

    Maduna's letter to the US court requested that the lawsuits be
    dismissed, "in deference to the sovereign rights of foreign countries to
    legislate, and adjudicate domestic issues without outside interference".

    But in August 2003, at the opening plenary of a major Reparations
    Conference, Jubilee SA's Berend Schuitema reported that Maduna made an
    extraordinary confession: "The reason why he had made the objection was
    that he was asked for an opinion on the lawsuit by Colin Powell. He gave
    Powell his written response, whereupon Powell said that he should lodge
    this submission to the judge of the New York Court. Howls from the
    floor. Jubilee SA chairman M P Giyose pointed out the bankruptcy of the
    sovereignty argument."


    To be sure, conflict between plaintiffs makes it harder to win the
    hearts and minds of the broader public. The first set of cases was filed
    by a discredited New York lawyer who was active in a previous Alien Tort
    Claims Act lawsuit that generated $8 billion (R61.7 billion) in
    Holocaust-related out-of-court settlements. But that lawyer soon fell
    out with Ntsebeza.

    Between the Khulumani Support Group and Jubilee, tensions arose over
    claims to ownership of the case and over direction of strategy. And
    between Jubilee's former Johannesburg staff, on the one hand, and on the
    other, board members and several provincial chapters, a dispute erupted
    that temporarily paralysed the organisation.

    Still, Brutus believes the plaintiffs can leapfrog Mbeki to appeal to a
    much richer strand of African nationalism than the appeal to sovereignty.

    The Organisation of African Unity made a case for reparations in 1993 in
    the Abuja Proclamation against slavery, colonialism, and
    neo-colonialism. That damage is "not a thing of the past, but is
    painfully manifest in the damaged lives of contemporary Africans from
    Harlem to Harare, in the damaged economies of the black world from
    Guinea to Guyana, from Somalia to Surinam".

    A "moral debt is owed to the African peoples", the Abuja Proclamation
    declares, requiring "full monetary payment and debt cancellation".

    If the activists lose, in the event that Sprizzo develops a more
    coherent defence of apartheid profits, the challenge for civil society
    will not only be to turn up the street heat. Perhaps SA needs its own
    Alien Tort Claims Act to hold corporations responsible for damage.

    And a new government in 2009 will perhaps embrace the activists'
    reparations demands, so as to remind us of African economic liberation,
    instead of Mbeki's legacy: crony capitalism, capital flight, corporate
    tax cuts, corrupt arms deals, cheap electricity to influence-peddling
    minerals firms, and other forms of class apartheid.

    # Patrick Bond directs the Centre for Civil Society at the UKZN.