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Victims of apartheid to sue justice minister

Apartheid victims are to take legal steps against justice minister Penuell Maduna in a last-ditch effort to get access to the state's draft reparations policy.

Apartheid victims are to take legal steps against justice minister Penuell Maduna in a last-ditch effort to get access to the state's draft reparations policy.

Shirley Gunn, chairperson of the Khulumani Victims Support Group's Western Cape branch said the action was decided on after several attempts to see the draft legislation, and to become involved in discussions on reparations, failed.

The papers would be served on Maduna on August 26, International Anti-Torture Day, Gunn said on Sunday after the group took part in a worldwide protest under the banner "No Amnesty without Reparations".

In terms of the Access to Information Act, Maduna would have to give reasons through the court why the victims are not being consulted on reparations.

"They cannot come up with a reparations policy in isolation of the community that needs the support," Gunn said.

Khulumani's decision coincides with the first international legal action for compensation against companies and governments which propped up the apartheid state.

Eighty victims identified through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission process will lodge the claim on Monday in the United States for $80-million (about R800-million) through an American attorney and assisted by Khulumani and Jubilee 2000.

Nyameka Goniwe, the widow of Matthew Goniwe, who with three others was murdered in 1985 by security police, are among the first claimants, along with Sigqibo Mpendulo, the father of 12-year-old twins who were murdered in Umtata in a 1993 defence force raid.

Last month an intention to launch a class action suit on behalf of victims against governments and companies that defied the United Nations arms embargo against apartheid South Africa was announced by Economists Allied for Arms Reduction (Ecaar). Both cases would be assisted by lawyers who successfully represented holocaust victims against Swiss banks.

The first lawsuit would be aimed particularly against Credit Swiss and Union Bank Swiss. German banks and the United States are expected to face similar lawsuits soon, while it is understood that another action is in the pipeline against apartheid oil sanctions busters and more steps against arms companies are also being considered.
In August last year Khulumani Western Cape served papers on the Justice Ministry, requesting access to the draft policy. Gunn said the ministry had acknowledged the papers, but the requisite 90 days for a response lapsed without an answer.

"In December we took the next step, but we did not even get an acknowledgement," she said.

In February the ministry promised to meet with representatives of the victims, but according to Gunn the minister did not adhere to the promise.

"They have furnished no reason so far and we have decided to take the next step, which is legal action," she said.

Maduna has stressed a number of times that he is under no obligation to discuss the draft policy. He said it could only be finalised once the TRC's final report had been handed to President Thabo Mbeki.

On Sunday Jubilee South Africa and Khulumani held protests to highlight the "need to ensure reparations for apartheid's victims before giving amnesty to perpetrators of human rights violations".

Solidarity movements in Switzerland and Germany held similar protests. The outcry followed reports that the government was considering a post-TRC amnesty for groups that did not participate, such as apartheid generals and some "right-wing", "third force" and liberation forces.

The acting national chair of Khulumani, Piers Pigou, said the government was wrong to be discussing another extension of the amnesty process while ignoring the victims.
Maduna said in his budget vote debate the issue would not be discussed further before the handing over of the TRC report, now understood to have been postponed until next month.

Some victims have received interim reparations, but have been waiting for final reparations five years longer than originally anticipated, largely due to several extensions to the TRC amnesty process.

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