Firms stay mum on apartheid lawsuit –

Firms stay mum on apartheid lawsuit
While the 24 multinational corporations facing litigation over their apartheid-era business activities in the country remain poker-faced, the South African government?s intervention on their behalf is appearing, increasingly, as the joker in the pack.

Three weeks ago the United States Second Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a 2004 New York district court dismissal of the action brought by the Khulumani Support Group against companies such as Rheinmetall Group, DaimlerChrysler, IBM and British Petroleum for reparations for gross human rights violations during the apartheid era.

The multinationals had until October 26 to lodge an appeal with a full sitting of the appellate court and until January to approach the US Supreme Court.

Charles Abrahams, the lawyer representing Khulumani, confirmed that the multinationals had requested, and had been allowed, an additional two weeks to consider their next move.

Francis Barron, the New York-based lawyer acting for the various multinationals, said it was ?too early to say what we are going to do at this stage?.

Of the 22 companies approached by the Mail & Guardian, most refused to comment.

Some remained defiant: Exxon Mobil Corporation?s media relations adviser, Gantt Walton, said the corporation ?strongly disagrees with the decision?.

Sabine Woessner of UBS said the company ?rejects the two lawsuits in their entirety?. She said UBS was ?convinced that it can successfully defend itself against these charges?.

Minister of Justice Brigitte Mabandla has reiterated that the country will oppose the submissions made by the civil society groups.

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