Letter: Arms to Africa

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The Independent Culture
Arms to Africa

Sir: Tony Blair is currently visiting South Africa with a view to establishing relations with president-in-waiting Thabo Mbeki. He is also there to secure UK defence contracts. South Africans are outraged by their government's intention to spend billions on weapons purchases, including pounds 700m on British Aerospace/Saab Gripen fighters at pounds 700m and possibly another pounds 300m on BAe Hawks.

As one South African economist, Terry Crawford-Browne, has put it: "People cannot eat warships, warplanes or tanks. Issues of human security relating to people - access to health services, clean water, jobs etc must take priority over the traditional notions of military security. Fortunately there is no military threat to South Africa. Yet the very real threat to security by poverty undermines our still fragile transition to democracy."

Talk of industrial participation benefits has been described as a smoke screen. Expenditure could be better used in education, housing and health.

Once again the short-term interests of UK arms export companies are placed above social, economic and humanitarian concerns and once again Tony Blair leaves his government open to the suggestion that policy is manipulated by the arms exporters.

RACHEL HARFORD

Joint Co-ordinator

Campaign Against Arms Trade

London N4

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