Oral argument starts on Tuesday in a New York appeal court, when lawyers for victims of apartheid human rights abuses plead their case for reparations from multinational companies. The case of Khulumani et al vs Barclays et al pits 87 South African victims against 23 foreign corporations, who are charged with aiding and abetting the apartheid regime.
"This case is quite important to the reconciliation of this country. We need the corporations that supported apartheid to come clean on their past, to apologise and then to pay reparations to the people who suffered," said Tristen Taylor of Jubilee South Africa, one of a number of local parties who are signed on as amici curiae to the case.
In a statement posted on the Jubilee South Africa website, activists campaigning for reparations say the charge of aiding and abetting was equivalent to actual perpetration under international law.
"In what has become a grievous turn of events, the South African government has decided to file a new amicus curiae brief on behalf of the corporations. This may have grave concerns for international law and human rights if the court decides in favour of the corporations," the statement read.
Jubilee called on Justice Minister Brigitte Mabandla to repeal the affidavit, with a protest planned in Pretoria on Tuesday to highlight their stance.
The Khulumani vs Barclays lawsuit was based on common law principles of liability and on the Alien Tort Claims Act, which grants US courts jurisdiction over certain violations of international law, regardless of where they occur.
This complaint seeks to hold those businesses that aided and abetted the apartheid regime responsible for the wrongs they made possible.
For example, IBM and ICL provided the computers that enabled South Africa to run the hated pass system, while car manufacturers provided the armoured vehicles that were used to patrol the townships.
"Arms manufacturers violated the embargoes on sales to South Africa as did the oil companies. The banks provided the funding that enabled South Africa to expand its police and security apparatus," read the statement. - Sapa