help for apartheid victims

PRESIDENT Jacob Zuma has won praise from people tortured by the apartheid state security forces.

This was after the news this week that he would support their bid to sue eight American companies for reparations.

General Motors Corporation, Barclays Bank, Fujitsu, UBS, Ford Motor Company, IBM, Rheinmetall Group AG, and Daimler AG are facing charges in New York's US Southern district court of aiding and abetting the apartheid regime in committing human rights violations.

Among other things the companies produced parts for vehicles that were used in the townships to carry out the assassination of liberation movement activists and random shootings against blacks.

There are 26 plaintiffs left in the case, which was lodged in 2002 by the Khulumani Support Group and Lungisile Ntsebeza, brother of leading lawyer Dumisa Ntsebeza.

The Thabo Mbeki-led administration opposed the case, saying it was bad news for foreign direct investment.

The administration even applied in 2006 to be a friend of the court - on the side of the US firms and against the South African victims.

But this week Justice Minister Jeff Radebe sent the court a letter announcing that Zuma supported the lawsuit.

One of the plaintiffs in the case, Mpho Masemola, 44, was in matric in 1985 when he was arrested and charged under Section 29 of the notorious Internal Security Act.

"I was tortured and sentenced to 5 years on Robben Island. I have shrapnel and a bullet in my skull. Those companies must pay for the interruption of my education because had I not been arrested I would have been a doctor by now," Masemola told Sowetan.

John Ngcebetsha, an attorney for Ntsebeza, welcomed the government's move. He said he expected to "unearth significant evidence of corporate complicity in apartheid".