An Open Letter to Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Cyril Ramaphosa: Act Now Against Vossloh and Other German Companies Involved in State Capture
6 February 2020
Dear President Cyril Ramaphosa and Chancellor Angela Merkel
#UniteBehind is a coalition of people’s movements joined by legal, policy and research organisations working for a just and equal society. Since 2017, we have run the #FixOurTrains campaign. The commuter rail service operated by the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) is a national disaster as a consequence of a decade of rampant state capture, corruption and mismanagement. German companies are directly implicated in this organised criminality at PRASA which has had the dire consequences of death, job losses, delays, assaults, injury and violations of fundamental rights of millions of people in our country as the broader public transport has been directly affected by the near collapse of our rail system.
Among the most egregious cases of capture was the Swifambo contract, in which Vossloh España, the Spanish arm of a German rail conglomerate, fraudulently represented itself as a black-owned company in order to secure a contract to provide PRASA with trains. Huge bribes were paid to ANC and PRASA functionaries, and at the end of the day, the trains could not fit on our tracks.
The civil case against Swifambo has been successful in South Africa’s courts; the Constitutional Court dismissed Swifambo’s appeal. However, to date, no civil case has been launched in Germany against the Vossloh executives who masterminded the fraud, nor have any criminal charges have been laid against the perpetrators of this crime, either in South Africa or in Germany. In the matter of Siyangena, Germany’s Dallmeier Electronics has been implicated.
The international nature of these crimes requires an international solution to achieve a just outcome.
We call upon President Ramaphosa to request juridical assistance from the German justice department, for him to request to Chancellor Merkel that the matter be investigated and prosecuted in Germany, and for the money acquired by Vossloh to be returned with interest.
We urge the Chancellor herself to independently raise the matter with President Ramaphosa. Her government has been appraised of the facts of this case, and this matter has been raised in the Bundestag by Die Linke MPs Fabio De Masi, Jorg Cezanne, and Klaus Ernst.
#UniteBehind has kept sustained pressure on this issue, with letters to the German government, demonstration outside the German Consulate, and engaged our allies in the German Bundestag. In December 2019 we met with the German Deputy Ambassador to discuss this issue.
We urge the President and the Chancellor to act on articles 16(1) and 26, and 31 of the UN Convention Against Corruption.
Article 26(4) is explicit:
“Each State Party shall, in particular, ensure that legal persons held liable in accordance with this article are subject to effective, proportionate and dissuasive criminal or non-criminal sanctions, including monetary sanctions.”
On Behalf of the Organising Secretariat of #UniteBehind,