The government is dismissive of Anglican Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu’s support for reparations cases brought before United States courts by apartheid victims.
If Tutu had discussed his concerns with the minister of justice, who asked the court in July to dismiss the suits, he would have had a clearer understanding of the position of the government, its chief spokesperson, Joel Netshitenzhe, said on Sunday.
“This is that not settling the matter in South Africa has profound implications for the country… for instance, for the assessment of (its) risk profile, investment and job creation.”
President Thabo Mbeki has said many of the companies cited are assisting in South Africa’s development.
Judge John Sprizzo of the New York District Court is to rule whether the cases against international companies, which claimants say flouted United Nations sanctions by doing business in apartheid South Africa, may go ahead.
The Sunday Independent reported that, in an eight-page affidavit submitted on behalf of the Dumisa Ntsebeza class action suit, one of four filed in the US since 2002, the former Truth and Reconciliation Commission chairperson urged the US court to hear the cases.
Contrary to the government’s position that the cases would undermine investment and possibly reconciliation, Tutu said, “the obtaining of compensation… supplementing the very modest amount to be awarded… under the TRC process could promote reconciliation” in South Africa.
“(Tutu) has touched on all the right things,” said an “extremely pleased” Ntsebeza, counsel in the case.
The SA Council of Churches supported Tutu’s appeal, its general secretary, Molefe Tshele, said, but it had reservations about the representivity of the groups that brought the claims.
Jubilee SA was elated, chair M P Giyose said, speaking for the Jubilee and Khulumani group claimants. “We would hope Nelson Mandela would take his customary stand next to (Tutu) and show there are still honourable men who stand with the masses.”