South African mining giants face $6bn law suit
Saturday 05 April 2003
Anglo American and De Beers, the mining giants, were yesterday hit with a $6.1bn (£3.9bn) lawsuit for alleged gross human rights violations during the apartheid era in South Africa.
The class action case will be heard in the US and prosecuted by Ed Fagan, the lawyer who made his name in a successful claim against Swiss banks that held onto the deposits of Jews killed by the Nazis.
The case singles out Anglo American and De Beers as among the chief economic beneficiaries of the apartheid system, which severely restricted the freedom of South Africa's black population until majority rule was introduced in 1994. Shares in London-listed Anglo American dropped 3.3 per cent to 940p. The company, which said it will vigorously contest the case, owns 45 per cent of De Beers, the diamond business.
A South African law firm, Ngcebetsha Madlanga Attorneys, is behind the lawsuit, which seeks money to compensate miners who suffered under apartheid, many of whom are still alive. About 100,000 workers are party to the action, though any reparation won will go to poor black communities, rather than individuals.
John Ngcebetsha, senior partner at the law firm, said apartheid produced such cheap labour that it was "tantamount to slavery". He added that key laws of the apartheid regime, such as the pass laws, which restricted the movement of black people and created a captive labour force, were "engineered by the mining industry".
Anglo American reacted with fury to the case, especially to the fact that it is to be filed in the US. The company has just been heavily criticised for its record under apartheid in the report of South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, to which it gave evidence. "The question of whether reparations to individuals is an appropriate or effective way to assist in the rebuilding of South Africa is a matter to be resolved through South Africa's democratic processes, including, if necessary, its courts," the company said.
Anglo American argued that it has contributed, since 1994, to initiatives aiming to redress the effects of apartheid. It also claimed that the group was always against the racially divisive system. "During the apartheid era Anglo American undertook many actions in opposition to apartheid policies and in support of anti-apartheid campaigners. We firmly believe that our opposition helped bring about an end to the apartheid system," the company said.
Mr Ngcebetsha, speaking from Johannesburg, described such arguments as "laughable" and easily contested by the miners. "We are prepared for them [Anglo American]. If they want to embarrass themselves by arguing such things in court, so be it," Mr Ngcebetsha said.
Actress sees off speculation about her appearance in an amazing way
Powerful images of strays taken moments before being put down
The Washington Post editor helped Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein bring down President Nixon
Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search
- 1 Salisbury ranked seventh-best city in the world to visit in Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015
- 2 Disney announces new female-led film Moana
- 3 Banksy has not been arrested: Internet duped by fake report claiming artist's identity revealed
- 4 Kentucky gang rape: 15-year-old boy left in critical condition after sexual attack by group at party
- 5 Russell Brand threatened with arrest after filming outside Fox News headquarters
Chicago voter tells Obama 'don't touch my girlfriend' – Obama stays super smooth
Oscar Pistorius: The brutal prison life that awaits disgraced athlete
Banksy has not been arrested: Internet duped by fake report claiming artist's identity revealed
Raphael Ravenscroft dead: 'Baker Street' musician who played the most famous saxophone solo for just £27, dies aged 60
Darren Vann: Indiana man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear more
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Residents should throw a street party and mix with immigrant neighbours, councils told
Russell Brand threatened with arrest after filming outside Fox News headquarters
London bus driver 'kicks gay couple off for kissing'
Jose Manuel Barroso warns David Cameron against making 'historic mistake' over immigration reforms
Of course, teenage girls need role models – but not like beauty vlogger Zoella
iJobs Money & Business
£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: The SThree group is a world le...
£18000 - £23000 per annum + Comission: SThree: The SThree group is a world lea...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £Competitive: SThree: SThree Group and have be...
£23000 per annum + pension and 22 days holiday: Ashdown Group: An established ...