GM settles with apartheid victims

2012-03-01 16:11

Cape Town - US car giant General Motors has agreed to pay a symbolic sum of up to $1.5m to victims of the apartheid era government, who are suing it and another four companies for helping prop up the white-minority state.

The Khulumani Support Group lodged a US class action lawsuit a decade ago against more than 20 firms it accused of aiding and abetting human rights violations, including torture and extrajudicial killings, under apartheid.

Only five companies - General Motors, which has since filed for bankruptcy, Ford, Daimler, German defence group Rheinmetall and computer giant IBM - still stand accused.

“GM want to carry on with their business in South Africa and want to settle their scores and maintain good relations with the country’s people,” said Khulumani member Shirley Gunn, who was detained and tortured under the white-minority rule that ended in 1994.

“But we are very grateful and can seriously start to redress the legacy of apartheid.”

General Motors said the settlement was agreed by a trust set up after the company declared bankruptcy in 2009, and as such would be a lot less than $1.5m.
The company also said the settlememt contained no admission of wrongdoing and stressed it had “adamantly opposed” apartheid.

However, Khulumani laywer Charles Abrahams said the payment to more than 20 Khulumani claimants should help their case against the remaining four companies.

“The fact that GM has made a without prejudice offer to our clients clearly indicates that they acknowledge liability of some sort,” Abrahams told Reuters.

“For us that is a significant step in corporate accountability and we hope it will stand us in good stead with our class action against Ford, Daimler, Rheinmetall and IBM.”

A number of US Supreme Court justices have expressed scepticism over whether companies can be sued in the United States for alleged complicity in human rights abuses abroad.

  • Ian - 2012-03-01 16:30

    The correctness of this decision depends on which side of the fence you were sitting.

      msendi - 2012-03-01 17:49

      The problem with South Africans is that we can't let go this "US AGAINST THEM" attitude. Suing someone doesn't mean that you are getting hand-outs, but you let that person pay for the damage. If those companies see a need to pay, there is no need for some South Africans who enjoyed benefits during the past regime to undermine those who are claiming for the damages. It is better if the complain come for the person who endured the pain of being oppressed…

  • Oliver - 2012-03-01 16:31

    Id like to sue macdonalds for making me fat

      Jay - 2012-03-01 18:00

      You will get a pay out if you Black. But no pay out if you White. That's how this FIASCO works for "Politically Correct US Companies" I Rest My Case

  • Marliza - 2012-03-01 16:55

    I certainly not be be buying any GM products in future.

      Jay - 2012-03-01 18:06

      Really, Marliza? I am shocked that you are unaware of EVERY CAR MANUFACTERER in SA being guilty of supporting the Ex Apartheid Govt, in one way or another. Ask them to show you their Salaries & Wages registers going back. You will see EXPLOITATION by every manufacturer NOT ONLY GM. Then will you NOT BUY ANY OF THOSE BRANDS TOO? I Rest My Case.

  • Comrade - 2012-03-01 16:57


  • Wesley - 2012-03-01 17:01

    Symbolic money, they will pay $1.5 mil in monopoly money

  • Mkhululi - 2012-03-01 17:02

    bunch of racist morons commenting here...why can't you lot acknowledge anything wrong that your Apartheid government did? thank god that GM is not run by racists like the ones on news24...

      Deon - 2012-03-01 17:20

      Please enlighten us to the definition of racist - you guys are so quick to play the race card and brand someone as racist yet I do not think you know the true meaning of the word. GM is run by Capitalists - they will lose a little money here to make a lot of money there, race has nothing to do with it, only the colour of money

      Ian - 2012-03-01 17:29

      Just to clarify. How do you know that the parts supplied were used by the Government of the day against black civilians and not (quite justifiably in my view)against terrorists intent on blowing up innocent civilians?

  • - 2012-03-01 17:06

    What about companies like ICL & IBM that continued to do business with the large Life assurance companies during apartheid years? IBM , ICL ??????

  • reine.marais - 2012-03-01 17:08

    I wonder whether IBM was sued by the families of victims of the Holocaust after World War II? According to Edwin Black, IBM was pretty active in helping the Holocaust along. Or maybe, because their head office is in America they are immune from aiding and abetting abuse in other countries? All very interesting.

  • Mpho - 2012-03-01 17:24

    This is very generous of GM! If this gets divided equally amongst the 40 million victims each of us will receive a princely 0.3 cents! This will do great wonders to reduce my overdraft!

  • Shirley - 2012-03-01 17:33

    More freebies! They will milk this "apartheid" for the next 100 years!

  • Arp Liebenberg - 2012-03-01 17:45

    this must be a joke?

  • Wayne - 2012-03-01 18:05

    So who is the money going to be paid to?

  • Hermann - 2012-03-01 18:08

    A good example for class action by those who are suffering due to affirmative action and labour equity, the modern version of apartheid job reservation.

  • clivegoss - 2012-03-01 18:21

    What "fence"?

  • alxsmith2 - 2012-03-02 09:38

    when I read this guff I know that the attorneys want the money and the claimants will get something probably symbolic amounts. Shall I sue GM etc for supporting a regime that ignored and sidelined me because I was English-speaking and never voted for the Nats.? where does one draw the line? It's really all b.s.

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