Year 2000 No. 75, April 25, 2000

Britain Must End All Interference in Zimbabwe and Meet its Obligations to Zimbabwe in Full

Workers' Daily Internet Edition : Article Index : Discuss

Britain Must End All Interference in Zimbabwe and Meet its Obligations to Zimbabwe in Full

May Issue of Progress Published

Unity and Determination at Conclusion of South Summit in Havana

Fidel Castro Speaks in Defence of the Rights of World’s People

UNISON Health Care Sector Conference: Health and Safety

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Britain Must End All Interference in Zimbabwe and Meet its Obligations to Zimbabwe in Full

Zimbabwe celebrated its 20th anniversary of independence from British colonial rule on April 18. But as the economic and political crisis in that country intensifies, it is becoming ever clearer that the British government is playing an extremely active role to exacerbate Zimbabwe’s problems and to interfere in its internal affairs while hypocritically posing as Zimbabwe’s "oldest friend".

The British government can only claim to be Zimbabwe’s "oldest friend" if this expression is used in the racist and patronising way in which colonial rulers always speak of those they have conquered and subjected to brutal exploitation. What is more, the British government, despite all its denunciations of Zimbabwe’s government and its president Robert Mugabe, fully recognises that the problems that currently exist in Zimbabwe are a legacy of British colonial rule. This view was made public during the questioning this week of Peter Hain, the Minister for Africa, before the House of Commons Committee on Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. On that occasion Hain spoke of Zimbabwe’s need to redress "the historic imbalance which has been left over from both colonialism and the racist white minority rule of Ian Smith". In fact the British government had and still has an obligation to assist in redressing this "historic imbalance" that is particularly clear in the area of land ownership.

The previous Conservative government, which was in power at the time of Zimbabwe’s independence, advanced £44m to assist with land redistribution, under the terms of the Lancaster House Agreement. However, it stopped all payments in 1988 on the basis that it did not agree with the way in which the government of Zimbabwe was redistributing the land. Britain has not provided in further assistance of this kind to its former colony since that time.

According to a statement made by Robin Cook earlier this month, Britain is still only prepared to help fund a land reform programme that satisfies its requirements and conditions. It will not recognise that Zimbabwe is entitled to compensation and assistance as of right. On the one hand, the British government recognises that Zimbabwe’s current economic problems, the unequal distribution of land, reportedly 79% interest rates, inflation at 60%, domestic debts at a third of GDP, unemployment at 50 %, and only a day or two of foreign exchange reserves left, are part of the legacy of colonialism. On the other, it will only fulfil its obligations to Zimbabwe if that country pursues policies that are to its liking, that lead to "efficient farm production" and are "cost effective". In this way Zimbabwe’s "oldest friend" demands that land occupations must be stopped, as it will only support the voluntary surrender of land for a "fair price". In short, the government of Zimbabwe must change its policies. The British government might accept that 4,400 farmers control over 30% of the best arable land, often acquired by dubious means during colonial times, and even that in the past they treated African farm workers in a "brutal fashion". But in no way will it accept that they should relinquish control of this land for those who are landless.

The British government is full of pious words about the dire consequences of the crisis not only for Zimbabwe but also for other countries in southern Africa, but all its actions and the abusive and racist language it has used are designed to inflame the situation and to pressurise the government of Zimbabwe to act according to Britain’s colonial diktat. On the basis that "human rights abuses" are taking place, the British government is openly interfering in Zimbabwe’s internal affairs, intriguing with various politicians and demanding a say in the running of Zimbabwe’s elections and its future economic and political system. It cannot even be ruled out that Britain will intervene more directly in Zimbabwe whether under the auspices of the UN or by some other means. This is the very stand of so-called "humanitarian intervention" that the recent South Summit, in which Zimbabwe participated, condemned with one voice.

The Labour government continues to act in the manner of 19th century imperialists who took up the "white man’s burden" in Africa in the interests of the monopolies and financiers. It is out of step with the requirements of the times and with the overwhelming majority of public opinion throughout the world. The British working class and all democratic people must also raise their voices higher against the government’s condemnable policy, and break with the chauvinism and disinformation that is being promoted on this and similar issues.

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May Issue of Progress Published

WDIE has recently received Issue Number 10, May 2000, of Progress, the Newsletter of the African and Caribbean Progressive Study Group (ACPSG).

In an editorial, ACPSG welcome readers to the first issue of Progress for the 21st century. The editorial comments, "We present a range of news and commentary that develops our regular themes and highlights important issues for Britain, Africa and the Caribbean. If the dawn of a new millennium is to mean more than a planetary movement and instead assumes the role of a symbolic advance to new, modern arrangements which sweep away outmoded political structures and archaic ideas then the article on the 1900 Pan-African Conference held in London shows how that event, which ushered in the beginning of the 20th Century, can be regarded as a beacon for this century. With that Conference the participants sought to address the problems of Africans on the continent and in the Diaspora. Although colonialism and overt foreign domination no longer exists contemporary problems still require solutions. Dealing with such post-colonial issues is a feature of the commemoration of the birth of Dr. Walter Rodney, acclaimed scholar and revolutionary who contributed to historical awareness and participated in the political struggle to renovate the Caribbean. The articles on Rodney and the Pan African Conference illustrate a people taking up the problems of the moment and looking for concrete solutions. It’s a tradition continued in Progress."

The editorial says later on, "Participation and empowerment are crucial components of a modern society. Participation in the way all issues are addressed and achieving our empowerment to become the society’s decision makers is a theme of this edition. Several members and friends of Progress Readers Groups attended the launch of the book "The Line of March to a New Society", which deals with many of these topics. We publish a short article about the event and also include a letter from a participant."

Besides the articles referred to in the editorial as quoted above, the May 2000 issue of Progress carries articles, among others, on International Women’s Day, the drought in Ethiopia and the case of Elian González. On its front page, it carries two articles: Bill to Amend "Race Relations Act" Does Not Deal With Racism! and Britain Interferes in Zimbabwe! The newsletter also carries a number of readers’ letters, a regular feature of Progress and one which ACPSG stresses is important.

Further information can be obtained by e-mailing: Kobinam@Hotmail.Com

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Unity and Determination at Conclusion of South Summit in Havana

Workers’ Weekly Correspondent Attending the Summit

The South Summit of the Group of 77, most of the world’s poorest countries, ended in Havana, Cuba last week with a firm consensus in opposition to globalisation which benefits only the world’s richest powers. Delegates from some 122 countries, including over 40 heads of state, approved a final declaration and programme of action. These agreements signal more co-operation between the world’s poorest countries, particularly in their relations with the world’s richest countries. They demand that these countries must be more equitably represented in all international bodies which take decisions affecting their futures, such as the G8, the United Nations, the World Trade Organisation, the IMF and the World Bank. All those who attended the Summit agreed that the world’s developing countries had emerged with a more coherent voice and greater unity and determination to insist that their needs and interests were recognised. In the final session, Cuban President Fidel Castro announced that Cuba would make available 3,000 doctors for a new health care programme in some of the poorest countries. He said this was a tangible example of south-south cooperation and called on other countries to follow Cuba’s example. The announcement was greeted with sustained applause from all those present.

Speaking of the success of the Summit at the closing ceremony, the Jamaican Prime Minister, P.J. Pattterson, stressed that "the South cannot afford the status quo, neither in economic nor political terms". He added, "We cannot accept the common destiny to which the prevailing order threatens to consign the peoples and countries of the South relegating us to the margins of prosperity." Patterson spoke of the Summit as "a turning point" in the resolve of the world’s poorest countries "for fairer shares in decision making; fairer shares in the fruits of human labour; fairer shares in the bounty of the planet; fairer shares in global governance and the fruits of international interaction". He concluded, "We will no longer endure the dominance of the North at the price of our relegation to the periphery."

Fidel Castro closed the Summit with another passionate address. Amongst other things he stated, "While before we spoke of apartheid in Africa, today we can speak of apartheid in a world where four billion are deprived of the most elemental rights: to life, health care, education, safe drinking water, housing employment, and hope for their own and their children’s future." He added, "We are struggling for the poor countries’ most sacred rights, but also for the salvation of the First World, which is incapable of guaranteeing the existence of the human species, of governing itself amidst its contradictions and selfish interests." Castro’s speech was greeted with a tumultuous ovation from the audience in the international convention centre.

As pointed out by the Nigerian President, Olusegun Obasanjo, this first South Summit has been a defining moment in the history of the Group of 77. The organisation has reached a point in which there is no turning back on its determination to revitalise its mission of solidarity and unity of intention. Olusegun Obasanjo, who is also president of the Group of 77, stated that from now on the Group would take up the role of creating a just, equitable and mutually beneficial order for all.

The Summit, which was hardly mentioned in the press in Britain, has been viewed internationally as an important turning point in international relations and in the struggle against globalisation, an important contribution in building the unity of all those opposed to the diktat of the big powers headed by US imperialism. It also highlighted that far from being isolated in the world, as the US and others would wish, Cuba is increasingly seen by many as a beacon of hope and a significant factor in world affairs. The South Summit concluded with a resolution proposed by the president of Ghana on behalf of all G77 countries and China demanding that the US lift the criminal blockade, imposed on Cuba for four decades. The resolution was vigorously acclaimed and unanimously adopted.

Documents of the Summit may be found at

Photos are on

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Fidel Castro Speaks in Defence of the Rights of World’s People

"While before we spoke of apartheid in Africa, today we can speak of apartheid in a world where four billion people are deprived of the most elemental human rights: to life, health care, education, safe drinking water, housing, employment, and hope for their own and their children’s future," emphasised President Fidel Castro during the closing session of the South Summit on April 14.

"We are struggling for the poor countries’ most sacred rights, but also for the salvation of the First World, which is incapable of guaranteeing the existence of the human species, of governing itself amidst its contradictions and selfish interests. Only through our struggle can we keep the boat which is this world from crashing into an iceberg and drowning us all," he insisted.

Speaking to the heads of state and government and delegations attending the first summit of the Group of 77, Fidel reiterated the proposals and aspirations of the developing countries in their struggle for achieving development in a globalised world with an unequal and unjust economic order.

At the start of his speech, which lasted barely 20 minutes, Fidel expressed his admiration for the unity of criteria he observed among the leaders of the Group of 77. He noted that the Summit’s discussions revealed the talent of the leaders of this community of nations, and their ability to bring together ideas and experiences. At the same time, the discussions confirmed the depth of the crisis facing these nations and the difficulties and calamities their peoples suffer.

Fidel noted the unanimous opinion that globalisation benefits only 20% of the world population, barely aiding the other 80%, and that the gap between rich and poor countries is growing larger.

There is also unanimity, he noted, around the idea that the United Nations and the international financial system should be transformed.

He denounced the trade system which is unequal and unjust for the countries of the South, the failure to provide promised government development aid, difficulties in gaining access to know-how and technology, and the shameless brain drain.

He said that there is a widespread demand that the Third World debt should be considerably reduced, if not completely eliminated, which would be the fairest thing to do. Just 1% of the income from speculative operations would be enough to finance the development of the poor countries. "Don’t listen to anyone who tells you that it wouldn’t be possible," the Cuban president warned.

He charged that in this century of great advances in communications and science, there are still hundreds of millions of people who are hungry, malnourished, illiterate, unemployed or sick. Furthermore, there are colossal numbers of children with insufficient weights and heights for their age, without schools or medical care, and obliged to do hard labour.

Fidel summarised the consensus of this summit, which was aimed at joining forces, strategies and forms of co-ordinating efforts, with the goal of guaranteeing the South’s economic rights.

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UNISON Health Care Sector Conference: Health and Safety

I would like to add a report to those given by the Workers’ Weekly Health Group on the UNISON conference which took place from April 12-14. I attended the conference with especial interest in the issue of health and safety, which is my professional concern.

A number of resolutions addressed the hazards staff face in the course of their work, the toll on their health and the fight for better safety standards.

During the first day a guest speaker, a nurse from the United States, addressed Conference on the dangers of needlestick injuries. She told her own story of how, whilst working as an emergency room nurse, she punctured her hand on a syringe needle wedged in the opening of the sharps disposal box, from which she contracted HIV and hepatitis. Her experience has spurred her to campaign across the US for better safety standards. Tragedies like this could be largely avoided if hospitals were required to use a better design of needles and sharps boxes, and safer procedures were followed.

In the debate on Health and Safety the next day the delegates passed a resolution on maintaining the union’s campaign to prevent such injuries. It stated:

"Conference notes the apparent inability of hospitals to control the disposal of used needles and reduce accidental injury, while discarded needles anywhere and everywhere are a cause of concern to society.

"However, safer needles are available and proven to reduce accidents. The reason safer needles have not been adopted is due to cost, ….."

Increasing incidence of violence against health workers was a major cause for concern. A motion was supported deploring the increasing levels of violence, threats of violence and abuse to all sections of health service staff, and calling for actions identified to reduce the risks to be implemented and resourced by additional funding from government where needed.

Ambulance branch delegates related the problem to the increasing violence in society, and in particular for ambulance workers the circumstances in volatile areas into which they have to enter. During the debate one of the delegates warned that we must look at the causes. Where someone has to wait for hours to be treated because of too few staff and resources, in pain, anxious, frightened, these are conditions that make aggression against front-line staff more likely, remove such conditions and the problem will reduce.

Preparations for much wider use in the Ambulance Services of single response vehicles, with one ambulance crew on their own responding to 999 calls was opposed. Staffordshire Ambulance Branch warned against the introduction of a so-called high performance system they are being made to operate in Staffordshire. It is claimed this system has put the area at the top of the response times league table, but at what cost? "Staff have had their stations and facilities taken from them. These have been replaced by dirty little rooms and isolated lay-bys or car parks with no facilities at all. Their shifts have been changed and they are scattered to the four corners of the county as soon as they start the shift. This means they are isolated from other colleagues and therefore lose the ability to have any counselling with other shift members after attending a highly stressful incident". The increased "efficiency" with which staff are being made to work "has led to little or no time to recover after difficult and stressful incidents and, on very regular occasions, no meal breaks" "Several other Ambulance Services are showing an interest in this system. We strongly urge Conference to reject this system, for the sake of Unison Ambulance members’ health, welfare and morale". Delegates called for investment in more ambulance crews as the real answer.

This is what happens throughout the health service when the government sets efficiency targets, without putting the resources into services to enable these to be met, it is the working conditions, health, welfare and safety of staff that are sacrificed.

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