Letters to the editor: September 14 to 20

Get US out of Diego Garcia

Your article “Fight to free Britain’s last African colony” and editorial “Let Chagossians speak” have inadvertently adopted the British-United States-Israel-Australia position on the question of the decolonisation of Africa —including Mauritius, which includes Chagos.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) case is not a bilateral matter (as Britain and company argue) but a case brought before the court on the basis of a United Nations general assembly resolution (that is, the entire UN, a resolution won 94-15). The case was not even brought to the UN General Assembly by Mauritius but by the African Union (55 countries).

Unless you adopt the terra nullius justification of colonisation to now justify seeing this as bilateral, it just makes no sense to maintain that it is bilateral the way your article and editorial do.

All the detailed arguments about self-determination during the four days at the ICJ show that the unit for self-determination was Mauritius, including Chagos.

The British have a fall-back position: self-determination within the logic of the illegal colony, the British Indian Ocean Territory, set up when part of Mauritius was detached at the anachronistic moment of 1965.

The issue at stake is decolonisation. The UN charter and subsequent resolutions make clear that the UN, as a whole, is concerned with this.

Your article and editorial failed to mention the presence at the ICJ as part of the Mauritian delegation of nine Chagossians, including one who gave testimony, Liseby Elysée, as well as Olivier Bancoult, the leader of the main Chagossian organisation, the Chagos Refugees Group.

For many of us worldwide, the importance of getting full decolonisation includes the right of return (heads held high) of Chagossians as Mauritians, the reunification of Mauritius (dismembered illegally in 1965)and, importantly, the closing down of the US military base on Diego Garcia that is the cause of all the other crimes committed by the US and Britain over the Chagos issue. — Lindsey Collen, for the Lalit party in Mauritius

Coca-Cola’s sugar imports are minimal

The letter “Coca-Cola must honour its word” implies that South African industrial sugar purchasers, including Coca-Cola Beverages South Africa (CCBSA), rely disproportionately on cheaper sugar imports, with the net effect of causing damage to domestic sugar production.

We’d like to set the record straight.

Throughout CCBSA’s value chain, we, along with all our suppliers, are acutely aware of our responsibility to positively affect the local residents where we operate to contribute to their economic growth and prosperity.

As a company, we have a strong track record of investing in South Africa and contributing to supply chains across multiple sectors in the interests of various stakeholders, including sugar.

Our first priority is to buy locally produced sugar to contribute towards the sustainability of the local sugar industry.Indeed, we are obliged to maintain or grow the amount of sugar we source locally as part of CCBSA’s public interest commitments in the 2016 merger between SABMiller and Coca-Cola bottlers. Since January 2015, CCBSA has sourced 95% of its sugar locally.

As a manufacturer, however, there are times when we have had no option but to rely on a small portion of imported sugar from multiple markets around the world when there have been weather dependencies that have affected local supply. But the amount is nominal —about 5% out of total sugar volumes since January 2015.

It is worth noting that the effect of multiple, excessive price increases of local sugar, supported by a high dollar based reference price, has continued to affect our production costs. The sugar industry has levied cumulative price increases of about 45% over the last three years — with the latest being a 19.5% increase, effective from September 5.

If we, as manufacturers, are to remain in business — and to continue supporting our 7500 employees along the supply chain — we need to provide our beverages to consumers at commercially competitive prices.This means sourcing ingredients at competitive prices too.

Yet, over the past 15 years, the average sugar cane yield in South Africa has been consistently below the global average, and the local industry has proven less efficient relative to its regional peers, such as Malawi and Swaziland.

In addition, the recently imposed sugar tax has further increased input costs materially for beverage producers, affecting volumes.

We are committed to contributing to the sustainability of jobs in rural areas and have put in place programmes — such as contributing R400-million to the Mintirho Foundation — to support previously disadvantaged black farmers and small suppliers of inputs in the agricultural sector.

The sugar industry’s woes are not a result of the actions of one or two large industrial purchasers of sugar, nor of the importation of cheaper sugar alone.Instead, the industry faces a number of challenges driven by policy issues that are hampering its sustainability and global competitiveness.

We have agreed to engage with FairPlay and await confirmation of their participation.This is part of our ongoing commitment to engaging with all stakeholders to find solutions that are workable for all interested parties.

We will continue to participate in ongoing dialogue with trade unions, government, industry associations and other stakeholders in the sugar sector to find a way to best balance the interests and concerns of sugar producers while keeping prices paid by consumers affordable. — Velaphi Ratshefola, managing director, Coca-Cola Beverages South Africa

I’ve switched to the M&G

As a new reader of your newspaper, may I say congratulations on a publication that publishes a wide diversity of news.

I’ve cancelled my subscriptions to other daily newspapers because there was little news and a lot of adverts. Please keep up the good work. By the way, I loved the cartoon of “St Markus” by Carlos — it hit the nail on the head. — JM Hatton, Bothasig

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.


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