July 1, 2002

SOUTH AFRICA: Apartheid victims' lawyer files lawsuit against IBM, German banks

US-based computer giant and three German banks were on Monday, July 1, added to the apartheid reparations class action filed against Swiss banks Credit Suisse and UBS and the US's Citibank.

A South African lawyer representing apartheid victims in the action against apartheid-era sanctions busters said the papers were filed in a New York court.

John Ngcebetsha, a Johannesburg-based lawyer, said the papers were filed against IBM, Deutsche Bank, Dresdner Bank and Commerz Bank. The victims are accusing the companies of benefiting from the apartheid system. "We have asked the court to preserve the evidence until the trial starts," he said. IBM is accused of supplying South Africa with computer technology and systems which helped the system of institutionalised racial discrimination and repression to function, he said.

The first claims were filed in New York and Zurich in mid-June in an action lead by US attorney Ed Fagan. In the late 1990s, Fagan played a leading role in pressing compensation claims against Swiss banks by Holocaust survivors, triggering international pressure on Switzerland to account for its record during World War II. The claims have met with mixed reaction.

The claims have been filed on behalf of Lulu Petersen, younger sister of Hector Petersen, the first victim of police shootings during the June 16 student riots of 1976; Sigqibo Mpendulo, the father of two 12-year-old twin brothers who were shot dead in a 1993 police raid at a house in Umtata; Ntebeza's brother Lungisile, who was detained and banished several times; and Themba Maqhubela, a US citizen who fled South Africa after refusing to testify against Ntsebeza in a political trial.

The court action was open to all interested victims or relatives of those who suffered in the form of torture, detention, banishment and even forceful removals. (Sapa)

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