Banking on Botha
Although South Africa is currently basking in the warmth of its strongest economic revival since the war - with GDP expected to rise seven per cent this year and foreign cuff ency reserves already up 50 per cent many corporations are happier to remain in the cold. Since 1978 US investment has been covered almost entirely by recycled profits. And in New York a prominent gold analyst, James Sinclair, has begun advising clients to sell off South African holdings - securities as well as gold. `In our view' he wrote in a newsletter for customers `the difficulty that South Africa is experiencing isn't a minor or localized affair.'
This latest spate of corporate nail-biting began as soon as the pacifying effects of South African Prime Minister Botha's `total strategy' began to wear off. The mild reforms promised by the new government to stem the growing radicalisation of the black workforce have failed to materialise, and black trade unions are expanding. In October last year the European division of the New York-based Business International Corporation issued their forecast for South Africa in the 1980s: there will be neither radical nor gradual change, the report predicts. The government will continue to ignore black demands for racial reform, and black resistance will increase until a state of `violent equilibrium' is reached.
Concerned over domestic unrest and a shift in the attitudes of multinationals, the apartheid government has chosen to enter the Euromarket for its first sizable borrowing spree since 1972. Commercial banks have proved to be receptive partners in government efforts to restore its image as an acceptable medium-term risk. The credit - a $52 million Euro-bond issue floated on the West German capital market - was intended to demonstrate that international markets have more confidence in South Africa's bounty than in the ANC or other liberation movements.
In August, the South Africans again entered the credit market, this time for a $250 million loan from a syndicate of banks led by West Germany's Dresdner Bank, and including Citibank, Barclays, and the Union Bank of Switzerland. The loan, said to be for black housing and education projects, was extended for seven years at a very competitive interest rate.
South Africa certainly didn't need the loans for economic purposes. As The Citizen - the South African daily paper with close ties to the ruling party - admits: `Tire loan is turning out to be an excellent public relations exercise for the country'. It is aimed at alleviating some of the very conditions that are causing businessmen to pause. For South Africa the loans appear as an endorsement of its long-awaited reform policies. For the banks the loans - to be spent on black schools and houses -are easier to defend against anti-apartheid critics.
But South Africa continues to blot her public relations copybook - most recently by her raids into Mozambique. And however much the financial pages sing South Africa's praises, it is the headlines on the front page that are more likely to catch the eye of long-term investors.
It all began in 1972 when Newlove Mamattah began, with a breeding stock of 80 rabbits, to try to establish `rabbit for food for the millions'. Operation Feed Yourself, begun under the former military government, gave it some support, but it was only when Malawian Joseph Ashcroft came to head a multimedia support unit that Mamattah's idea really took off. Among other things Mamattah was given the chance to prove that rabbit dishes (rather like chicken only tastier and less fatty) can be delicious. Today, it is believed, rabbits are beginning to oust chickens in some backyards.
The French, those famous gourmets, killed off their rabbits years ago with a man-made disease, myxomatosis. Today rabbit is an expensive delicacy there. Britain imports rabbit meat from China. But in West Africa old rabbits die hard.
Fighting for the Fourth World
Organisers expect more than 1,000 representatives from the world's small nations, provinces, clans, tribes, and races, to gather in July to `declare war on giantism'.
`There has got to be a revolt at ground-floor level by the people' declares Mr. Papworth - who has already stood for the British Parliament as a Fourth World candidate. `All the big nations are ready to crumble,' he warns darkly. He believes that only by scaling down present military, industrial and commercial insitutions can we avert global war and ecological disaster. Papworth and his supporters - who include such big proponents of ,small is beautiful' as E.F. Schumacher, Professor Leopold Kohr and Ivan Illich - believe that nuclear warfare would be far less likely between small societies because none could consider sacrificing millions of its citizens and still survive. And, of course, it would cost too much.
`Localism' and `internationalism' are the bywords of the new movement, which was formally launched in August last year. With one official putting ten million as the critical number of people which any government can manage without going out of control, Fourth World believes that centralised power must revert to the local level.
Unfortunately the movement has been delving so deeply into the grass roots of development problems that there is as yet no sign of them surfacing with practical ideas. Their utopian vision will appeal to everyone who has read of the burgeoning power of multinational corporations or corrupt and inefficient state bureaucracies. But can Fourth World supporters stomach the kind of global revolution which a real showdown would involve?
Deep sea decisions
The Draft Convention proposes that every coastal state should have an ,exclusive economic zone' stretching up to 200 nautical miles into the sea. The catch is that although the coastal state has rights over resources in the zone it must perform certain duties too. And these duties may put a serious strain on poor Third World governments, who have neither the wealth nor the expertise to cope with exploiting and policing their ,exclusive zones'.
As Bernardo Zuleta, under-secretary-general to the Law of the Sea Conference, points out in an EEC publication The Courier the zoning will require `... physical and geological research, exploration and exploitation of mineral resources... prevention of over-fishing, management of species throughout their migratory range... negotiation of international arrangements for the licensing of fishermen...'. And so on. The list is alarming, and impossible for developing countries to fulfil without substantial international co-operation.
Before the icing on the Draft Convention cake has hardened into real initiative, there are signs of trouble. According to a report in the New Scientist a group of eight rich developed nations have formed a cartel to protect their mining interests. The `Likemind Group', - the US, Britain, France, West Germany, Holland, Japan, Belgium and Italy - met in Washington in early November and in Bonn in January, to discuss what `unilateral action' they could take over sea-bed mining. Observers were excluded from the meeting, of which there are at least six more planned for this year.
The major sticking point at the August conference was a conflict of interests over existing investment in sea bed technology. What the Likemind Group call `protecting their investments', several of the 132 Third World nations involved in the negotiations see as merely a ruse to hold on to their technological monopoly and delay developing countries from getting their share of sea-bed wealth.
The US and West Germany have already passed legislation which gives government protection to companies mining the sea-bed. And in December the British House of Commons gave its own deep-sea mining bill a first reading. Japan and Belgium are considering similar legislation. In every case such action violates existing UN resolutions and threatens the signing of the new Law of the Sea.
Curing the outcasts
`Unless inflationary and currency pressures are compensated for, the effectiveness of the programme could be crippled in the short term' warns Dr. A.B. Morrison, Chairman of WHO's Scientific and Technical Committee concerned with leprosy.
Sadly the cuts coincide with a break-through in leprosy vaccine production at research laboratories in Louisiana - one of the American states where leprosy still exists. In Carville, Louisiana, WHO scientists have a breeding colony of 300 nine-banded armadillos. The sudden interest in armadillos is due to their discovery as a successful host for the leprosy bacillus from which the vaccine is cultured.
Much larger quantities can be produced with the armadillos than with the previous smaller-scale cultures from the footpads of mice. And the key to successful leprosy eradication is blanket coverage of the threatened population. In south Malawi LEPRA began a Leprosy Control Project in 1965. By the end of 1975, the endemic disease had been brought under sufficient control for the remaining cases to be handled on an indvidual basis by local health authorities.
The importance of the new vaccine in preventing fresh outbreaks of leprosy is that there are disturbing signs of increasing resistance to dapsone, the drug normally used to treat it. But getting the new vaccine developed for field use is only a future solution - what is needed now is effective treatment for those already suffering from leprosy. Aproblem with existing treatments - such as dapsone and the more expensive rifampicin - is ensuring that people continue coming back to the clinic until they are completely cured. Any long-term treatment faces the same difficulties. But the difficulties are not insurmountable.
In Mandwa, 150 miles from Bombay, Dr. Noshir Antia has been training community health volunteers to search out and diagnose cases of leprosy in their villages. In leprosy the nerve endings get destroyed - so the volunteers were trained to look for pale patches of skin that produced no sensation when pricked with a pin. Dr. Antia's volunteers managed to outdo the trained government leprosy technicians in both detection and treatment rates. With a village based worker to make sure that his or her neighbours take their medicine regularly until they are cured and the new armadillo vaccine from Louisiana, the prospects for leprosy eradication seem much better.
Trudeau's guilty conscience?
A recent trip took Mr. Trudeau to Nigeria, Senegal and Brazil. Though an Algerian visit had to be cancelled when he was snowbound in an Austrian skiiing village, the Canadian Prime Minister is scheduled to make at least one more Third World tour before this summer's conference.
Despite hard-nosed scepticism from the media Mr.Trudeau's travels, if they've done nothing else, have at least introduced the term 'North/South' to the Canadian public. The problem is that with the global recession chilling the Canadian economy, the climate for discussing Third World poverty is not exactly balmy. Critics pointed out that Trudeau's sudden concern for the North-South dialogue seems to have bubbled up out of nowhere. Although Canadians tend to see their country as the benign boy-scout - selflessly bringing succour to the world's poor - that self-image is seriously warped. Canada still has one of the highest levels of `tied aid' in the world - about 80 per cent of the country's bilateral assistance has to be spent on Canadian goods and services. And aid as a percentage of GNP has plummeted in recent years - from .54 per cent in 1975 to .45 per cent in 1980 and a pathetic .37 per cent in 1981.
During the 13 years of Trudeau's leadership Canada has dragged its feet consistently on most of the crucial economic questions raised by the Third World. Some observers feel that Mr. Trudeau's sudden belated entrance into the international limelight may be prompted by the need to pad his curriculum vitae for a future career as an international bureaucrat - perhaps with the UN.
The Prime Minister himself says `the top priority is to create the feeling that we have an obligation to act. There has to be a revolution in international morality - otherwise nothing will flow from it.' Part of that `revolution in morality' has to begin at home. But so far Ottawa has refused to act on Canadian investments in Chile, Guatemala, Namibia, Argentina and a number of other Third World human rights offenders. In fact, the government continues to support some of these investments through its own Export Development Corporation - (recent examples are big loans to South Africa and Argentina and a $6.1 million loan to the Chilean airforce for aircraft and spare parts).
Raising public consciousness about the North-South conflict is a legitimate goal, but unless Mr. Trudeau and other Western leaders are willing to drop the rhetoric in favour of action the spectacle of two more global talkshops this summer will produce little but sore throats.
Add a dash of poison
About a dozen major multinationals dominate the global pesticide market including Shell, Bayer, American Cynanimid, Monsanto and Pfizer. The $7-billion a year industry is mushrooming - and 20 per cent of the exports end up on Third World crops. Under current US law the export of dangerous or suspect chemicals for use on food crops is perfectly legal, about 25 per cent of American pesticide exports are either banned, heavily restricted or have never been registered for use by Washington.
Most outlawed chemicals areused to grow tropical fruits and vegetables for export to the dinner tables of rich nations. But some also find their way into beef. Herbicides like 2, 4, 5-T and 2, 4-D have been used to clear huge areas for grazing in Latin America - both leave residues of dioxin, which has been linked to genetic defects and miscarriages. Beef imports from Mexico, El Salvador and Guatemala were recently halted by the US Department of Agriculture due to heavy contamination.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says ten per cent of food imported into the US contains illegal levels of pesticides. But Weir and Shapiro contend the FDA estimate falls far short of the actual level, partly because the agency fails to measure 70 per cent of cancer-causing pesticides. They point out that 50 per cent of imported green coffee beans contain illegal pesticide levels and that freshly-cut flowers from Colombia have caused widespread organophosphate poisoning among US florists.
Most of the contaminated food lands in the basket of the unwary shopper. The company justifies their export of the harmful chemicals on the grounds that Third World countries desperately need to improve their food production. `We see nothing wrong with helping the hungry world eat,' says a Velsicol Chemical Company executive. But up to 70 per cent of the pesticides used in poor countries are applied to crops grown for export. Large doses of chemicals are one way of ensuring uniform, blemish-free, attractive fruits and vegetables for export. And in Indonesia farms producing coconuts, coffee, sugar cane, and rubber use 20 times more pesticides than small farms growing food for local consumption.
Weir and Shapiro argue that this tightening `circle of poison' draws together consumers in the West who eat the contaminated food and farm workers and peasants in the Third World who handle and breathe the poisons.
This first appeared in our award-winning magazine - to read more, subscribe from just £7