Keith Parkins | 23.08.2002 15:07
too keen to take his environment minister on his junket to
Johannesburg on the other hand he is only too happy to include
his Big Business cronies in his party of 70.
Slimmed down from 100 to 70, Blair's junket to Johannesburg
contains a number of his Big Business cronies including Bill
Alexander, chief executive of Thames Water, Sir Robert Wilson,
executive chairman of mining company Rio Tinto, and Chris Fay,
non-executive director of Anglo American, another of the world's
Chris Fay also serves as a non-executive director of BAA and
chairs their ethics committee and environment committee! He was
previously chairman and chief executive of Shell UK Ltd and is
chairman of the government's Advisory Committee on Business and
Chris Fay is also a director of Weir Group plc. This is the same
Weir associated with genocide in the Sudan. Weir Pumps (Glasgow)
are a subsidiary of The Weir Group plc.
Chairman, Expro International Group plc
Chairman, Tuscan Energy Group Ltd
Deputy chairman, STENA International BV
Director, STENA Drilling Limited
Director, Anglo American plc
Director, The Weir Group plc
Director, BAA plc
Weir Pumps (Glasgow) are identified by Christian Aid as a key
player in human rights abuses and genocide in Sudan. The flow of
oil, which Weir pumps, pays for arming the Muslim north which
then carries out atrocities against the Christian south.
The flow of oil was around 185,000 - 200,000 barrels a day, with
the help of Weir, has been doubled to 400,000 barrels a day.
Revenues from oil are used by the Muslim north to further their
war of genocide against the Christian south, a scorched earth
policy, and to fund extreme Islamist groups.
'Sudan's oil revenues have been used for the purchase of weapons
used for killing and displacing people in the oil areas.' --
Sudanese Council of Churches, April 2000
'In the past couple of months, we have been active in
interactions with the UN system and others to put across business
ideas for the structure of the summit and in the regional
preparation meeting from which the agenda and arrangements will
eventually emerge.' -- Sir Mark Moody-Stuart, chair of BASDards
Sir Mark Moody-Stuart, chair of BASDards, is former chairman of
'Business Action for Sustainable Development (BASD) is the
distasteful lovechild spawned from an unholy union between the
International Chamber of Commerce (ICC - the world's premier
business lobby group) and the benign sounding, but very
dangerous, World Business Council for Sustainable Development
(WBCSD - otherwise known as Greenwash International). The
initiative was launched in April 2001, with the expressed
intention of 'rallying the collective forces of world business in
the lead up to next year's Earth Summit.' It is aptly headed by
Sir Mark Moody-Stuart, retired chairman of those arch-deacons of
global greenwash Shell.' -- Corporate Watch
The three companies known to be on Blair's junket (he dare not
release the names of others for fear of backlash) have been
involved in a number of high-profile and damaging accusations
over their environmental record.
Thames Water, the largest water company in the UK with 12 million
customers, has been prosecuted by the Government's Environment
Agency watchdog for pollution on more than 20 occasions since
1996. During 2000 the firm appeared in court five times for six
offences and was fined a total of £288,000. Earlier this year it
was fined £12,000 after it admitted polluting tributaries in
Thames Water has also been fiercely criticised in the past for
operating in Indonesia while President Suharto - whose rule was
marked by human rights abuses - was in power.
Rio Tinto, the largest mining conglomerate in the world, has a
poor environmental record worldwide, is currently the focus of
one of Australia's highest profile environmental rows ever. The
company's plans to mine uranium in one of the planet's most
valuable wildlife sites - Kakadu National Park, a World Heritage
Site - has enraged environmentalists. Clashes involving
protesters have led to more than 500 arrests.
Mining giant Anglo American has been embroiled over claims
concerning its planned operations in Peru and alleged pollution
Big Business has already taken over Rio+10. Should the taxpayer
be paying their air fare to get there, especially when
environment minister Michael Meacher is being denied any form of
A leaked EU report shows why they are going. Privatisation of
services under GATS is what is being sought. Not to bring
services to the poor but to expand the EU service sector. EU has
supplied a long list of services it wishes to see liberalised
under the GATS neo-liberalisation process. A list that not even
European parliamentarians are allowed to see.
If you host a summit that's costing millions of rands to talk
about poverty reduction, protecting the environment and
sustainable development, where do you get the money from? Why Big
Business of course, including Eskom, the electricity company
who've been busy helping people stay in abject poverty by pushing
up bills past the point where people can afford to pay for them
and then cutting off their electricity supply.
Last September, 1800 houses in Tafelsig, a township near Cape
Town, had their water cut off because they couldn't afford to pay
the bills the recently privatised company was demanding, some of
which had increased about 400%. People who resisted were shot
with live ammunition while riot cops protected the people who
were busy disconnecting. Within weeks, a major cholera epidemic
broke out because people were forced to use rivers and stagnant
ponds for water. To date there have been more than 100,000 cases
of cholera and 250 deaths.
Meanwhile, the recently privatised electricity company, Eskom,
started cutting off the electricity of people who couldn't pay
their massively increased bills. Poor communities in Sowetan
South Africa organised a boycott of their Eskom payments and the
Soweto Electricity Crisis Committee (SECC) began illegally
reconnecting the power of families left in the dark. For their
troubles one ANC minister called them a 'criminal gang'. For nine
months SECC co-ordinated this campaign, until last October, when
Eskom announced it would no longer disconnect those who couldn't
A trial has begun of 87 people arrested in April as part of an
action organised by the Soweto Electricity Crisis Committee
(SECC). The group had gathered in front of the mayor's house to
protest about people's services being cut off. Some thought it
would be good to give him a taste of what they have to put up
with and tried to cut off his water and electricity when one of
his bodyguards fired eight shots into the crowd, wounding two
people. The protesters were then all arrested for public violence
and damage to property.
The Mayor of Soweto has a swimming pool, ironic since most of the
people in Soweto can't even afford to pay for drinking water.
The success of the campaign inspired a similar boycott of water
payments, and thousands of Sowetans took to the streets.
With the telephone system also recently privatised, 40% of the
new phone lines that the company Telkom has installed have been
disconnected because the people can't afford the new rates that
have gone up by 35%. In contrast, the price of domestic
long-distance and international calls, used mainly by wealthy
South Africans, has become 40% cheaper!
Downing Street, still smarting from criticism over its misguided
attempt to drop Environment Minister Michael Meacher from the
delegation, has refused to release the entire official line-up
for fear of further attack.
Proponents of Big Business involvement at Johannesburg are asking
us to trust corporate criminals who cannot even be trusted not to
cook their own books or defraud their own shareholders.
And Tony Blair? Blair's only interest in the Earth Summit is to
pass through for a few hours to partake in a photo opportunity -
Blair the leader poncing around on the international stage.
Well at least we now know what Blair means by 'sustainable
Footnote: ASEED are organising a global day of action against the
Big Business takeover of the Earth Summit. 31 August 2002. On the
same day, many of the social movements in South Africa have
agreed on a common platform to organise what they hope will be
the biggest independent political gathering since apartheid ended
The Scorched Earth: Oil and War in Sudan, Christian Aid, March
Gravy Plane, SchNEWS, Issue 368, Friday 16 August 2002
Blair backs big business at the Earth Summit, Corporate Watch, 21
Private Eye, issue 1061, 23 August - 5 September 2002
WDM in Action, Autumn 2002
Johannesburg Earth Summit special issue, The Ecologist, September