The 4th December was the first anniversary of Ciskei’s ‘independence’ from the Republic of South Africa. Instead of embracing their new status, the region’s new citizens have been protesting angrily over the last year.
Ciskei has few resources apart from labour. So the new government is anxious to make Ciskeian person-power as attractive as possible to employers. Ciskei’s current development plan identifies worker militancy as an important obstacle to its plans for marketing cheap labour to nearby white areas and promises tough action against strikers. Trade unions are ‘not appropriate’ for Ciskei. declared the authorities in the Rand Daily Mail in November.
Much of the repressive action in Ciskei has concentrated on the South African Allied Workers’ Union (SAAWU). Centred in East London, whose black townships are part of the Ciskei homeland, SAAWU has become the political focus of the region.
As a result SAAWU members have suffered extreme harassment from homeland police operating as convenient on-the-spot bully-boys for the South African authorities.
SAAWU is one of a growing band of ‘independent trade unions’ in South Africa At the end of 1980 some 200,000 black workers belonged to unions compared with just 16,000 in 1969. And the past year has been a stormy one. Food prices rocketing at an annual 36 per cent have resulted in 20 per cent inflation for low-income groups. This is probably the chief factor motivating the recent wave of strike action in the country. From January to August there were 119 illegal strikes involving nearly 80,000 workers. And in October at least 7,000 workers — many of them members of the independent unions — were on strike.
The label ‘independent’ serves to distinguish these unions from the ‘parallel’ black trade union counterparts of the white trade unions. The ‘parallel’ black unions were established by the white-dominated Trade Union Council of South Africa (TUCSA) as an instrument to control black worker militancy.
Today they are a direct threat to the independent unions: every TUCSA recognition agreement serves to exclude a corresponding independent union from the factory or industry concerned.
The independent trade union movement arose in the vacuum left by the banning of the African National Congress (ANC) in 1960 and the subsequent banning of 160 officials of the ANC’s trade union arm, the South African Congress of Trade Unions (SACTU) in 1966. SACTU itself was never banned but many of its leaders left the country to join the military wing of the ANC.
A decade of minimal activity followed until itt 1973, under hothouse conditions of high inflation, the seeds of trade unionism burst into widespread worker militance. An estimated 100.000 black workers were involved in strikes which spread from Durban to the whole country. In the atmosphere of confidence bred by this experience grew today’s independent trade unions.
The major independent trades union groups are:
Mud, glorious mud
Worried about the cost of bricks for that house repair? You could do worse than take a few spadefulls of earth from the flower bed. Mud or ‘adobe’ has always been a basic construction material for Third World houses. Now it seems to be catching on in the West too. There are about 175,000 mud houses in the US today— and mud-mania is growing.
Mud buildings have traditionally been weatherised by being plastered with dung or by mixing the earth with straw to give more stability. Now this September’s Worldwatch — ‘Global Housing Prospects’ — reports that the addition of s small amount of cement significantly improves performance without a dramatic increase in cost. Load-bearing capacity can also be increased by pounding the material together to form what is called — appropriately enough — ‘rammed earth’. By mixing in about two per cent asphalt you come up with a water-resistant brick- ‘asphadobe’.
Cost, of course, is the chief advantage. In the Sudan, for example, regular bricks cost $32 per thousand, but the asphadobe variety can be turned Out for around S 12. Developing countries which presently import around three-fifths of the material they use for official construction could make a considerable saving on foreign exchange.
A significant obstacle to the greater use of mud, however, is the status associated with ‘modern’ materials. People — and governments — will only stop wanting concrete houses when they see the rich using traditional materials for their homes.
Today they need look no further than the richest country of them all. In California prize-winning houses have been constructed from the asphalt-rammed-earth recipe at a cost one-third less than the average new home.
But since mud is as near free as you’re likely to get, there is no industry with a vested interest in upgrading its use. So development of the process is slow. In addition mud houses in the West will have stiff building regulations to contend with before we see mud housing estates springing up on the outskirts of our cities.
Though this means that mud skyscrapers will remain a rather unlikely prospect, this application of traditional materials in developing countries now has a brighter future in low-cost housing.
A forgotten famine
‘Tens of thousands of men are going through new hardships. . . Another famine and starvation are likely in the near future.
No, not the latest report from Uganda or Somalia. The words are from an Australian church worker struggling to keep people alive in East Timor. one of the worst— and least publicised — man-made disasters of recent years.
Indonesian forces are now sweeping through East Timor in a final attempt to wipe out resistance to their occupation of the territory. Some estimates say that one sixth of the population — one hundred thousand people — have already died since the Indonesian invasion. And the fate of the rest now hangs in the balance.
East Timor is at the easternmost point of the Indonesian archipelego. The western part of the same island has always been a part of Indonesia, the former Dutch East Indies, but East Timor was a Portuguese colony. After a Portuguese coup in April 1974 the new government in Lisbon recognised the territory’s right to self determination but the referendum that was proposed never took place. Indonesia pre-empted the negotiations by invading in December 1975 and incorporating East Timor as its 27th province — on the grounds that an independent East Timor would have served as a base for Communist subversion.
The UN General Assembly has six times rejected Indonesia’s claims to the territory and has called upon Indonesia to withdraw its forces — all to no avail. President Suharto’s occupying army continue their efforts to contain the bitter resistance of East Timor independence groupings —particularly FRETILIN, the Revolutionary Front of Independent East Timor.
Since 1977, the Indonesians, amply aided and abetted by the US, have been bombarding East Timor, creating havoc and bloodshed on a scale reminiscent of the worst days of Cambodia — though with scarcely any international condemnation. Food production has been totally disrupted and the casualties from starvation and disease grow each day.
The latest offensive — one which threatens to bring a new famine in 1982— is called Operation Security. It is based on the ‘fence of legs’ — a traditional method of combatting banditry in the villages. The ‘fence’ is a closed front of people who move forward constantly making their presence known by shouting.
The Indonesian Army variation of this consists of a pincer movement coming in from either end of the island trying to squeeze out the FRETILIN forces. The ‘legs’ are provided by the local people themselves with an admixture of soldiers.
Practically all men between fifteen and fifty years are forced to join in.
This approach, according to church reports reaching Australia. will have two destructive side effects. First the conscripted’ men will be prevented from planting their crops for next year’s food, and second, since they are inadequately supplied by the army during the operation they are having to ‘eat anything that they can find in the woods and gardens of the villages that they pass through’. A famine in the first few months of 1982 seems inevitable.
Relief aid so far has been inadequate and, although coming from the International Red Cross and from Catholic Relief Services, it has to be distributed via the Indonesian military. The latter have been anxious to play down the problem and indeed information from within the country has been very hard to come by. But although much more aid is needed, just as urgent is some kind of political solution —and this is unlikely to come unless there is a political upheaval within Indonesia itself or the government is subjected to strong pressure from the outside.
Particularly important are the attitudes of the US government — which continues to give military support — and of Australia, Timor’s next door neighbour. The Australian Foreign Ministry apparently considers Indonesia’s invasion of another country to be an ‘internal problem’ and sees no reason to intervene.
Sailing against the subs
Making its way across the Pacific Ocean, bound for West Coast USA, is a yacht christened Pacific Peacemaker. It is the symbol of Australian anti-nuke protest —especially against the development of the Trident nuclear submarine system.
Pacific Peacemaker’s voyage is a direct consequence of a meeting in Hawaii of56 peace activists from 19 Pacific countries in May 1980. They decided to initiate and support an international campaign against Trident.
Among those who attended the meeting was Bill Ethell. Within six months Bill and Lorraine Ethell had mortgaged their home in Perth, Western Australia and, along with other loans, raised the $85.000 needed to buy Pacific Peacemaker. Then began a public fund-raising campaign urging Australians to buy shares in the vessel.
Bill and Lorraine set sail with their four young children in December, accompanied by other supporters of a ‘Nuclear-free Pacific’ and a television crew. Auckland New Zealand, was their first stop to pick up provisions for the long journey via Tahiti and Hawaii to Seattle. where they plan to arrive as the leaves begin to fall from the trees in 1982. That is when the first Trident is expected to become fully operational.
Australia’s involvement with Trident is mostly a mystery. Even its Prime Minister has not been told everything about US activities on Australian soil. But there’s no doubt American bases in Australia will be interlocked with the new Trident system.
Pacific Peacemaker supporters believe that these bases all add up to making Australia a ‘frontline’ target in the event of a nuclear war. So anyone thinking of emigrating to avoid Europe’s predicted ‘theatre’ holocaust had better think again.
The greedy weed
In September 1980 the New Internationalist reported on the rise of cigarette exports – and smoking-related diseases like lung and throat cancer and coronary heart disease – in the Third World (NI No. 91). We pointed out that cigarette advertising is more blatant, tar and nicotine levels twice as high and there are no health warnings on the packets in developing countries.
But research is now showing that the cigarette is affecting the health of people in developing countries in more ways than one. Not only are their lungs and pockets damaged — their soil and economy suffer too’
This was one of the main messages to emerge from the one-day conference on ‘Tobacco in Africa’ held at the Africa Centre in London this November.
Researchers working in Kenya, Malawi and Zimbabwe reported that tobacco is a greedy plant. A field cannot be used for anything else for three years after a tobacco crop has been harvested. And it is not just the soil nutrients that are consumed in the process of cigarette making. Cigarette manufacturers prefer tobacco that has been ‘flue-cured’ — that is smoke-dried. The fuel for this pre-smoking process is obtained by felling and burning nearby trees. In Malawi one hectare of forest is felled for every hectare of tobacco harvested. In Kenya the ratio is much higher three hectares of trees for every one of tobacco. While in the Tabora district of Tanzania over 200,000 hectares of forest have been destroyed over the last 20 years to produce 120,000 tons of tobacco.
The soil may take three years to regenerate — forests take much longer. And without trees to hold it firm and soak up rainfall, the land is laid bare and quickly eroded by wind and rain. The result is barrenness. And although governments now encourage conservation measures, most farmers cannot afford to replant the precious trees.
As tobacco production expands – at a rate of eight per cent a year in Kenya, for example — so food production declines. Farmers bring more of their maize, sorghum and bean fields under the greedy weed; and more and more land lies fallow between crops. The result— in Kenya— is a country predicted to be self-sufficient in tobacco in 1982, but unable to feed its population.
One of the leading tobacco multinationals is British American Tobacco. Their spokesperson, Michael Leach, claims that farmers are encouraged to grow food crops in rotation with tobacco. But even in those places where the soil will stand up to this practice, food production continues to suffer. In Kenya again, the price of maize fell dramatically by 70 per cent from 1975 to 1980 while the price of tobacco rose by 87 per cent in the same period. With incentives like this it is no wonder the amounts of maize grown are declining.
At present the anti-smoking lobby, Action on Smoking and Health(ASH), has succeeded in alerting consumers in the West to the health hazards of smoking. And they have been in the forefront of publicising the additional health risks run by smokers in developing countries. What has been missing from the campaign, however, is an analysis of the economic effects of tobacco — the effects on the people who grow tobacco as a cash crop as well as on those who consume it as a drug.
Once more into the breach...
‘Tested in four major wars’ — proclaims sales literature for Israel’s state-controlled arms industry. According to a report in The Middle East in September. the country’s arms sales rose by 341 per cent to $1,450 million in 1980, and are expected to top two billion this year. At 40 per cent of total exports, military hardware has become Israel’s single most important industry.
And the customers? The government maintains a discrete silence about the identity of the 40 governments in its arms invoice ledger. But research from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem reveals that Latin American regimes now buy over half of Israel’s exports of security equipment.
Israel began selling large quantities of weapons to Latin America in the wake of the US ban in 1968. That ban was lifted in 1973, but Israel’s second chance came in 1977 when President Carter suspended US military aid to Argentina, Chile, Uruguay and Paraguay — a decision partly reversed by President Reagan in July.
Israel’s arms industry has been more successful than any Western producer in taking advantage of this ‘market opportunity’ and it has tailored its products developing countries in more ways than one. specifically to the needs of countries with ‘internal security problems’.
The Israeli Aircraft Industry, for instance, offers ‘friendly nationals overseas anything from ‘multi-role combat aircraft to security and surveillance systems and operational training of personnel.. . from a single dependable source’. And prominent among Israel’s exhibits at this year’s Le Bourget air show was a new type of radar which can pick up a pedestrian at 20 kilometres and a truck at 70 kilometres in all weather conditions. So many orders have flooded in for this new ‘guerrilla detection kit’ that Deputy Defence Minister Mordechai Zippori described Israeli products as ‘a hit on the world market’.
Other successes have come from Israeli Military Industries who will have produced nearly two million machine guns this year, and the army’s weapons development unit which has just announced its newest bestseller — the Tal cluster bomb, which can spread a shower of smaller bombs over a one-mile radius.
• Most important among Israel’s customers is El Salvador’s ruling junta, whose armed forces have killed an average of 2,000 people a month this year. Eighty-one per cent of the junta’s military supplies come from Israel and include the sturdy Arava planes which can take off from almost any terrain and perform low-level bombings. The Arava is marketed by Israel as a civilian plane, but instructions for its conversion for military use are supplied by the makers. It is used extensively all over the continent for strafing civilian areas.
• Another major customer is General Viola of Argentina where, according to Amnesty, 15,000 people have disappeared since the 1976 coup. Apart from small arms and electronics, the country has recently recently bought 26 fighter bombers, two patrol boats and 18 missiles worth 5250 million.
• When Chile’s Pinochet regime found itself short of military supplies as a result of the US ban and a British arms embargo. Israel was quick to plug the gap.
• And in Guatemala, the Israelis made a similar pledge to keep General Garcia’s arsenals well-stocked when the US stopped supplies after the slaughter of hundreds of students in 1979. According to a Guatamala journalist investigating the dictatorship’s source of weapons, Israel has so far supplied 50,000 rifles. 1,000 machine guns. 15 transport planes and at least five large troop-carrying helicopters.
Most Israeli military equipment contains US components but the US government is strangely silent on Israel’s arms deals. It seems clear that these deals are an accepted way to bypass Congressional opposition to the maintenance of unsavoury regimes in Latin America\Congressional opposition to the maintenance of unsavoury regimes in Latin America.