Robbing Peter to pay the lawyersAbiola over at Foreign Dispatches comments on a story of sheer lunacy. A group of South Africans is suing their government for reparations over apartheid-era injustices. South African firms are being sued for "genocide, expropriation and other wrongful acts." But the government is also being sued allegedly for "continuing to allow companies to exploit victims". The lawyer said the government was being targeted "because of its failure to fulfil its obligations and its conspiracy with specific companies to violate these people's rights". He wants the government and the corporations to set up a $20 billion "humanitarian fund".
In case you're confused, the current African National Congress government was not only not complicit in the apartheid-era crimes, but they were actively fighting to bring down apartheid and minority rule. If the government loses, money will be paid from the South African government's general fund, and will thus take money away from programs for education and health and housing and public transport. Programs that benefit millions of South Africans who... suffered under apartheid.
Robbing Peter to pay, er, Peter... except with American lawyers getting a nice hefty cut.
Abiola hits the nail on the head when he writes: I have a sneaking suspicion that, like the civil actions against Microsoft for "overcharging", the real motive power behind this lawsuit lies not with the victims supposedly being "represented" by Ed Fagan and his accomplices but with the lawyers themselves; a bunch of sharp Ivy League law-school grads cotton on to some piece of plausible grimcrackery to hit the financial big-time and then set about rustling up victims they can use to further their legal entrepreneurialism in court. And short of a certain Godwin's Law invoking ideology, what more appealing cause could there be to ride to legal riches than apartheid?
I'd say the suspicion should be more than sneaking.