Cosatu backs major lawsuit

COSATU will this morning announce its backing of a marathon lawsuit against American corporations that allegedly aided and abetted the apartheid regime.

The union federation last week filed papers joining the legal battle against the Daimler, Ford, General Motors, Rheinmetall AG and International Business Machines corporations in the New York court, which they will release today.

The case was lodged in 2002 by the Khulumani Support Group, a lobby group for financial reparations for victims of apartheid, and Lungisile Ntsebeza, brother of leading lawyer Dumisa Ntsebeza.

The corporations produced parts of vehicles that were shipped to SA and used in the townships to carry out assassinations of activists and random shootings.

The corporations are all opposing the bid to extract reparations from them.

The case, which has the backing of the Zuma administration, will be heard in the US court of appeals on January 6.

Cosatu's legal papers point out that multinational corporations did not participate in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and have not "fully accounted" for their conduct during apartheid.

"No legitimate corporation will be deterred from investing in SA today for fear of legal accountability for unlawful conduct," the papers state.

There are only 26 South African plaintiffs left in the case, including Ntsebeza, poet Dennis Brutus and politician Thozamile Botha.

But if the case succeeds it will "ensure that any person ... who is violated by a government or a multinational business would have access to redress," the Khulumani Support Group said.