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4th World Chambers Congress

World Chamber Congress"Leadership, Ubuntu, Prosperity" are the themes of this congress ending today in Durban. In his address to the congress yesterday, President Thabo Mbeki urged the 800 international business delegates to issue a common message to the leaders of the G8 meeting next month requesting them to act decisively to "erase the ugly scar of poverty and underdevelopment" from Africa.

Khulumani Support Group hopes that these international business delegates will take President Mbeki's message seriously, and will have the courage and stamina to ensure that the issues of Africa's poverty and underdevelopment remain on the agenda, and in the consciousness of the leaders of the G8 meeting.

"Leadership, Ubuntu, Prosperity" are the themes of this congress ending today in Durban. In his address to the congress yesterday, President Thabo Mbeki urged the 800 international business delegates to issue a common message to the leaders of the G8 meeting next month requesting them to act decisively to "erase the ugly scar of poverty and underdevelopment" from Africa.

Khulumani Support Group hopes that these international business delegates will take President Mbeki's message seriously, and will have the courage and stamina to ensure that the issues of Africa's poverty and underdevelopment remain on the agenda, and in the consciousness of the leaders of the G8 meeting.

At the same time Khulumani would like to bring back into the consciousness of South Africans the "ugly scar" of gross human rights abuses and violations suffered by Khulumani members through international business having aided and abetted the apartheid regime. These members of Khulumani are still dealing with their own poverty and underdevelopment. It is time that decisive action was taken to redress the wrongs suffered by these victims and survivors who, since the ending of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission have rapidly been forgotten and marginalised. In much the same way as Africa has been marginalised by international business.

One of the guest speakers at the 4th World Congress of Chambers was Paul Solomon, the Chairman of Rio Tinto. Rio Tinto Group is one of the world's largest exploration, research and technology corporations. Rio Tinto bought BP's South African mining interests in 1989. Rio Tinto is one of the companies being charged with aiding and abetting the apartheid regime in carrying out human rights abuses. (Khulumani et al vs Barclays et al) This lawsuit is presently being appealed in New York.

Simply put -- the court case alleges that Rio Tinto amongst others profited from assisting the apartheid regime in carrying out acts of torture, rape, extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detention and indiscriminate shootings. These businesses did not use the opportunity of the TRC to confess their crimes. No justice has been meted out for the victims and survivors of these apartheid crimes. Companies such as Rio Tinto have thus far got off scot free.

Khulumani urges all business communities internationally and locally who benefited from aiding and abetting the apartheid regime to put things right for the victims and survivors of apartheid gross human rights abuses and violations. This is not for the sake of charity but for justice; this is not about "bleeding hearts" but about paying a long overdue debt; this is not about doing business as usual, but about repairing damage done with the assistance of business, to these particular people.

It is time for leadership and ubuntu to be demonstrated in addressing this injustice, so that these victims and survivors may also experience prosperity. South Africa cannot pretend that the "past is past", that business can carry on with "business as usual", or that we can develop a moral society, without first ensuring that justice has been done and has been seen to be done for the victims and survivors of apartheid gross human rights abuses and violations.

It is now time for VEE -- "victims' economic empowerment". It is now time for redress.

Issued by: Marjorie Jobson, Chairperson of the Board, Khulumani Support Group

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