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Reparation Payments to Apartheid Victims in South Africa

April 28, 2003
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South African President Thabo Mbeki has announced that his government will pay reparations totaling $85 million to more than 19,000 victims of apartheid crimes who testified about their suffering before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

But Mbeki is being criticized for what campaigners called "pitifully low" compensation for the victims of gross human rights violations during the apartheid era.

The family of each victim who appeared before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission will receive a one-time payment of 30,000 Rand, or about $3,900.

Mbeki firmly rejected a recommendation from the chairman of the commission, Bishop Desmond Tutu, to impose a wealth tax on multi-national companies and individuals who thrived during white minority rule.

The government also decided not to back a series of lawsuits against multinationals such as Anglo American and De Beers filed in US courts on behalf of apartheid victim groups.

The reparation payments totaling $85 million fall far short of the $360 million requested by the commission.

The issue of payments has become a political one because the vast majority of apartheid’s perpetrators, from cabinet ministers down to police officers, have escaped unpunished.

  • Alex Boraine, former Deputy Chair of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission and author of ??A Country Unmasked: Inside South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. He now serves as the President of the International Center for Transitional Justice and is an adjunct professor at New York University School of Law.
  • Dumisa Ntsebeza, former head of the investigative unit of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission. He is now an acting judge in the labor court of South Africa.
  • Thandi Shezi, apartheid victim speaking from Cape Town.

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