The question of corporate responsibility in South Africa under Apartheid has been the object of debate nationally in institutions like the Truth And Reconciliation but also internationally as a law suit currently filed against 5 corporations, Daimler ag ; Ford motors ; General Motors ; IBM and RHEINMETALL, under the Alien Tort Claims Act. This case feeds into the wider debate about corporate social responsibility in the case of non-democratic regimes and business responsibility to uphold human rights.
Sources for the findings in this case study are the business hearings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that took place in South Africa in 1997, legal documents from the Khulumani support group that initiated the legal case and interviews with plaintiffs, a corporate lawyer defending one of the accused corporations and the director of the Khulumani Support Group, Marjorie Jobson.
The central questions of the case study are threefold : Firstly, in what way might corporate activity have immoral consequences, here defined as gross violations of human rights ? Secondly, what are tools for citizens to address their concerns and demand accountability from corporations ? Thirdly, why doesn’t the government provide a sufficient framework to mediate between citizen’s and corporate interests ?