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Absa, Khulumani deny plans to meet

Absa bank did not invite the Khulumani Support Group to discuss the multibillion-rand deal between the bank and Barclays, Khulumani said on Monday. "Contrary to news reports, the [Khulumani] group has not been directly contacted by any member of the Absa staff, and nor has its lawyer, Mr Michael Hausfeld of Cohen, Milstein, Hausfeld and Toll," said Marjorie Jobson, chairperson of Khulumani, which campaigns for the cancellation of apartheid-era state debt.

On Monday morning, Absa spokesperson Errol Smith also denied the meeting, allegedly taking place at the Johannesburg International airport, saying "there is absolutely no truth to it".

"We are disappointed that Jubilee South Africa distributed this information," Smith said. "There is no meting on the cards any time soon."

Jubilee, however, maintained that it had received notice of the meeting via a letter, and confirmed it with Absa's Cape Town branch.

At the end of last week, Jubilee sang, danced and chanted anti-Barclays slogans in Johannesburg against the bank's takeover of Absa. It wants an apology from Barclays for supporting the apartheid regime.

Barclays left South Africa in 1986, under pressure from anti-apartheid activists.

It returned 10 years later by opening a small investment-banking branch. It announced its return to retail banking earlier in May, with a bid for a 60% stake in Absa for $5,5-billion.

The Khulumani group is the first-named plaintiff in the Khulumani international lawsuit (Khulumani vs Barclays) at present being appealed in New York City. Khulumani Support Group represents an estimated 44 000 victims and survivors of apartheid human rights abuses and their dependants.

"At this point, the Khulumani international lawsuit against 23 corporations who aided and abetted the apartheid regime is proceeding," Jobson said.

"These corporations [of whom Barclays Bank is the first-named alphabetically] are accused of collaborating in the carrying-out of apartheid gross human rights abuses and violations against approximately 100 named victims and survivors." -- Sapa

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