New Internationalist

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Issue 225

new internationalist
issue 225 - November 1991

Updates

SOUTH AFRICA

Reclaimed
Evicted farmers return

In May South African police opened fire on white protesters for the first time in living memory. It was at Goedgevonden. This is just one of several communities where, encouraged by the prospect of land reform, blacks have returned to land they claim as theirs. About 250 people went back in early April and started rebuilding their homes. They provoked the hostility of neighbouring white farmers. Police had to intervene when the extreme right-wing political party Afrikaanse Weerstandsbeweeging (AWB) attacked and tried to evict the black community.

The community won the right to appeal against an eviction order and are allowed to stay on the land pending the outcome, which could take up to two years. But the Department of Agricultural Development has placed armed guards on the gates and they refuse entry to anyone not listed as a ‘resident’.

Lawyers, the Red Cross and the welfare organization Operation Hunger have been denied access. Mr Smit, a Department official, said: ‘We won’t stop people giving aid to the squatters. They just have to stop at the gate and the people can walk up from their houses to fetch it.’

The black community of Goedgevonden was forcibly removed in 1978 and trucked 130 miles to a site in western Transvaal. Then in 1984, without their knowledge, they were incorporated into the so-called ‘independent’ homeland of Bophuthatswana. The South African Government then refused to negotiate with the community on the grounds that they were no longer South African citizens.

In the meantime the Government leased their land to white farmers. ‘There were 7,000 people using the land and surviving on it at Goedgevonden,’ says Mr Olifile Segopolo, the community’s leader. ‘Now only six people are using the land and we 7,000 are suffering.’

In March of this year the Government released its White Paper on land reform, abolishing the notorious Land Acts that had carved the country up. But the White Paper does not restore land to those who were evicted, supporting the status quo ‘in the interests of peace and progress’. In August 1990 President de Klerk promised white farmers that their land would be forever safe.

Dispossessed communities across South Africa rejected the White Paper, arguing that an independent Land Commission needs to investigate and assess conflicting land claims.

The future for Goedgevonden is by no means certain, but the black residents know what they want. ‘I just want to be a farmer on my farm,’ says Mr Segopolo, ‘then I’ll be satisfied.’

Matthew Sherrington/Oxfam
(UK & Ireland)

[image, unknown] Church boycott
The General Synod of the Church of England has voted for the first time to back a boycott of a commercial product. The product is Nescafé, made by the world’s largest food multinational, Nestlé, which continues to promote baby milk in ways that undermine breastfeeding. The Synod motion calls on Nestlé to ‘end the promotion of breastmilk substitutes by means of free and subsidised supplies to Third World hospitals and maternity wards’. Nestlé has responded by writing to The Times and by sending out 14,000 letters to members of the clergy attacking the Synod decision and calling for it to be rescinded. The Synod has asked the UK government to ban the advertising of these products in the UK and to support stricter legislation on exports to developing countries.

Source: Baby Milk Action, UK, Aug 1/1991

Chilean TV and censorship

[image, unknown]

REFUGEES

Tuan’s tale
From Vietnam to China, Macau to Hong Kong — one man’s futile search for refuge

On 6 October 1979 Trinh Anh Tuan celebrated his 18th birthday in northern Vietnam by playing the ‘yellow music’ associated with pre-communist South Vietnam. He was arrested with his friends after a scuffle with police. He escaped from prison and reached China in 1980.

For a year he lived in a camp with 40 other refugees in Long Chau. Then he was transferred to a more crowded camp at Ning Ming, where attempts were made to recruit him as a spy. He escaped again and arrived in Macau in July 1982.

Here the authorities decided to send him back to China in chains. Within two days Chinese guards forced him to cross the mined border back into Vietnam – his companions were killed when a mine exploded. Tuan was promptly arrested by Vietnamese soldiers.

In Vietnam he was suspected of spying for the Chinese and tortured. He was taken to Haiphong Prison. After several years of ‘re-education’ he was released, but remained under the watchful eye of Vietnamese security services.

In 1987 he was arrested for ‘preaching reactionary propaganda’. He had told his friends about his experiences in the prisons of China, Macau and Vietnam. He was interrogated and tortured again. He began to develop serious health problems.

Released once more, he set out by boat for Hong Kong, where he was apprehended and taken to Whitehead Detention Centre. Doctors say there is no cure for the liver and nervous disorders from which he now suffers. On 25 June 1991 he was advised by the Hong Kong Immigration Department that he would not be accepted as a political refugee. He will be returned to Vietnam.

‘Maybe the world prefers to believe that there are no longer refugees, only illegal immigrants and economic migrants,’ says Tuan. ‘I no longer know where freedom and justice exist.’

Scott Roberts

 

WATER

Wild card in the West
Native Americans claim their rights

Dancing on the 'rez': for Native Americans old traditions give strength for new battles.
JENNIFER BEASTON /
CAMERA PRESS

Indian rights are the wild card in the politics of the American West. Competition for resources grows ever fiercer; water, land, gas, oil and minerals become ever scarcer. Chief among these is water. Much of the West is an oasis civilization with too many demands on a limited supply. Native American water claims are now pending on every major water source.

The upper reaches of the Wind River in Wyoming are home to the Shoshone and Arapahoe peoples. The reservation has become a patchwork of 300 Indian and Anglo farms. Each farmer has a claim to the river according to the date of settlement – the older your claim, the further up the queue you are for water.

In the early 1980s the State of Wyoming challenged Shoshone and Arapahoe water rights in court, claiming that they were not being used. The Indians made a stand. In 1989 the Supreme Court adjudicated that they were entitled to a third of what they were claiming – but far more than they were actually using.

Dave Neary, an Anglo farmer and member of the Crowheart Water Users Group says: ‘This Indian water right is like a time bomb dropped years ago that’s just exploded beneath us’. Water supplies to white farmers could soon be cut off.

The Tribal Council has voted to use water for recreation and developing fisheries, rather than allowing farmers to irrigate. The Council says this marks a return to Indian values, respecting the ‘spirit of the water’ and protecting its wildlife. It also hopes to get a piece of the lucrative tourist market.

There is great potential for conflict. Most of the farmers losing water are white. Fran Fox is one of the first to have his supply shut down. ‘It’s almost as though the politicians are waiting for someone to come apart at the seams, walk into a local store and blow everyone away to get something done,’ he says ominously.

The tribes accept that some farmers will get less water but maintain that it’s probably a good thing for the environment. Wes Martel of the Shoshone and Arapahoe Joint Business Council wants to build a future that is not dependent on federal subsidies or environmental degradation by mining and irrigation. ‘We aim, through our water, to become the first Indian tribe that can afford itself,’ he says.

Pratap Rughani

Nuclear future
The UN International Atomic Energy Agency is calling for 500 new nuclear-power plants to be commissioned between the years 2001 and 2010 ‘to meet increased energy demand and combat global warming’. Director General Hans Bix says that ‘an annual start-up of some 50 nuclear-power plants per year from 2001, for which the industrial capacity exists, would cover 25 per cent of the electricity consumption which is expected by 2010.’ Absurd though it seems, the campaign to present nuclear power as a ‘green’ option is well under way.

Source: ICEF Focus June 1991

 

THE WAR ON DRUGS

Death penalty
China declares 'people's war'

[image, unknown]
FRANK FISCHBECK / CAMERA PRESS

The authorities in Beijing are having to admit that drug smuggling and addiction, which they felt had been all but eradicated in the 1950s, are making a comeback.

‘The drug horror is spreading like an epidemic disease,’ says Wang Fang, head of the newly created National Narcotic Control Commission.

‘We are launching a people’s war against unlawful trafficking, planting and addiction. Security departments all over China have been advised to make this a top priority.’

Between 1985 and 1990 the authorities arrested 20,000 people suspected of drug offences and 80 per cent were found guilty. Convicted traffickers are usually sentenced to death, a verdict that customarily entails being taken into a prison yard and shot in the neck or back of the head. In June 1991 21 dealers received the death penalty in one province alone – all were from Yunnan, a region bordering on Myanmar/Burma and the ‘Golden Triangle’, the world’s largest opium-producing area.

With annual incomes of less than $100 in some remote areas of China, increasing numbers of farmers are being persuaded by drug merchants to plant opium poppies.

Regular reports suggest that heroin addicts in mainland China, desperate for cash, are smuggling guns into Hong Kong or slipping into the colony to fulfil murder-for-hire contracts. Zhou Yongli, a Chinese delegate to a recent international anti-drugs conference in Beijing, commented: ‘No one in China wants the kind of nightmare that exists in America… The death penalty may seem very harsh but, as we proved in the 1950s, it is a very effective way of taking care of the problem before it ruins a country.’ Whether it takes care of the causes of the ‘epidemic’ is another matter altogether.

Ted Ferguson

[image, unknown] Rebirth
The former ‘people’s car’ of East Germany, the Trabant, may get a second life in Egypt. It went out of production in Germany earlier this year, but is attractive to Egyptians because of its rust-proof plastic body and the low cost of its production machinery. Thankfully the car’s notorious smoke-sputtering engine, a feature of the stalled traffic jams trying to leave East Germany before unification, will be replaced in Egypt by a Volkswagen motor.

Source: Berliner Morgenpost

One eyed jack
On the day Rajiv Gandhi would have turned 47, had he lived, the man believed to have masterminded his assassination died. His name was Sivarasan, and was known to the police as One-Eyed Jack because of his glass eye. He was a member of the Tamil Tigers, the guerilla group that wants a separate state in north-eastern Sri Lanka.

Evidence gathered since Gandhi was murdered on 21 May convinced the Indian police that Sivarasan was their man. They were tipped off that he was hiding in a house in Bangalore, but in the end were cheated of their quarry.

When the house was surrounded on 18 August Sivarasan and many of his colleagues committed suicide, mostly by swallowing cyanide capsules. This is a traditional policy of the Tigers, both men and women, showing the depth of their commitment. It also frustrates the authorities, giving them precious little evidence to use in future operations against the guerilla movement.

Source: The Economist August 24 1991

Arms safari
A senior Thai military delegation recently visited South Africa with a view to buying arms. This is consistent with the Thai Government’s policy of spreading its arms purchases. Washington announced a cut- off of military and economic aid to Bangkok after the 23 February military coup. But Thailand can still buy US arms with its own cash, and some 50 US-made M60 main battle tanks are currently being delivered.

Source: Far Eastern Economic Review Vol 153 No 35

Short of SNAGS
Sensitive New Age Guys (SNAGS) who share the cooking, cleaning and care of the kids remain a dream for most Australian women. A study of household work published recently found that women in Australia do 71 per cent of all unpaid work in the home and family.

A woman’s home work-load increases from 18 hours a week to nearly 30 after marriage, while a man’s typically expands from 15 to 17 hours.

Source: Australian Financial Review, Sydney, Australia

Quote

"Organizers of strikes are ...breaking the law. Strikes interfere with Poland."

Lech Walesa, former leader of the Solidarity
trade union, now President of Poland.

 

"Paris will be one of the attractions of Euro Disneyland."

Nicolas de Schonen,
Disney Communications Manager.


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