On March 16, the Pan African Liberation Committee (PALC) sponsored a teach-in on the relationship of Gulf Oil Corporation to the national liberation struggle in Angola. Robert Van Lierop, a black American filmaker who had recently returned from Mozambique, another Portuguese colony, showed slides depicting life inside the liberated areas of that country. Then Van Lierop and Abel Guimares, a member of the Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) who is touring the United States, answered questions from the audience.
They spoke on a number of the broader issues that have been raised by the PALC's campaign to force Harvard to divest itself of Gulf Oil stock. Because the teach-in was sparsely attended, we are printing the following edited transcript of the question and answer session.
Question: Have there been acts of sabotage by the revolutionary army against Gulf's equipment in Angola? Abel Guimares: Oh yes! Cabinda is one of our main objectives. One of the things we tried to do was destroy the operations of Gulf. But Gulf has supported the Portuguese troops and mobilized a local militia.
Robert Van Lierop: Part of the agreement that Gulf has with Portugal is that Gulf will provide so much money per year to the Portuguese military effort and the Portugal shall keep Gulf's operation safe from interference by third parties. Another part of that agreement requires Gulf to maintain its own private army. Where do you think these people come from? They are former Katangese mercenaries and gendarmes from the Congo.
Question: Could you describe the relationship between Portugal and South Africa, and describe their joint plans to build the Cabora Bassa Dam in Mozambique?
Van Lierop: Cabera Bassa. Remember those two words. Cabora Bassa is a proposed hydroelectric dam that the Portuguese are going to build in Teti province along the Zambezi River.
Why are the Portuguese doing this. Number one, they want to internationalize their struggle because they are on the ropes, and the only way they can do this is to involve the Western countries deeper and deeper and deeper.
Before these revolutions, Portugal used to be very jealous about foreign investment. They wouldn't let foreigners invest in Angola. Mozambique or Guinea Bisseau. They were particularly afraid of South Africans taking over. But as these revolutions have progressed, the Portuguese have discovered that they need help; that they can't do it alone. So now you have West German, French, British, American, and South African capital involved in building the Cabora Bassa dam. They have conceived Cabora Bassa as the largest hydroelectric dam in Africa, larger than the Aswan high dam in Egypt. And they plan to settle one million Europeans along the site of this dam. The European presence will not only create a second line of defense, but also create an emotional involvement to protect the million Europeans from the African nationalists. The dam itself will provide hydroelectric power not only to the Portuguese but also the Rhodesians and the South Africans. And they have told Zambia and Tanzania. "If you stop acting so African, we'll let you have some of this power too." Frelimo, the liberation movement in Mozambique, vowed that this dam will never by built. And as soon as the Portuguese began construction. Frelimo went into action, politically and militarily.
Politically, they organized a series of demonstrations, actions such as the one that is happening now on this campus, in Sweden. There is a Swedish company called ASEA which has a patent for a specialized process of stringing AC wires long distances from the dam site into the heart of South Africa. The Swedish government was forced to make this company withdraw on the pretext that this company couldn't be sure that Rhodesia wouldn't do some of the work, which would break Sweden's economic embargo against Rhodesia, and thus be a violation of Swedish law. But the real reason was that they looked out the window, and saw all those Swedish people out in the streets.
Then a British company, operating under a licensing agreement with ASEA said. "Don't worry about it, Portugal. We'll take the Swedish company's place." Frelimo contacted support groups in England. They organized the same sort of activity in England that had taken place in Sweden. And the English had to withdraw before they ever got in.
Then Frelimo, through the offices of Kenneth Kaunda. President of Zambia, told Italy that if the Italian government guaranteed export credits for Italian firms participating in Cobora Bassa, all Italian property in Zambia would be expropriated and nationalized. The Italians backed down. The Portuguese and South Africans flew off to Bonn and Paris, where they got increased backing. Political activity in Germany and France has not yet reached the level that it did in Sweden and Britain. So those companies are still involved.
Militarily, the Portuguese and South Africans vowed that no Africans would be allowed to cross the Zambezi River. Yet last year, while I was inside Mozambique. I monitored a South African radio report which admitted that Frelimo had crossed the River in force and that the Portuguese could not get them out. While we were there, President Banda of Malawi, one of the great traitors to the African people, was scheduled to visit the Cabora Bassa construction site. Comes the day when Banda is supposed to land at Cabora Bassa, Radio South Africa was shocked to admit that his helicopter could not land because "terrorist" activity had created a security problem. The following day he was supposed to have lunch at so-forth-and-so-on Officers Club, and they had to admit that he was forced to dine on a boat because the "terrorists" had created a security problem on the land and they couldn't guarantee his safety.
Plus, last year in an ambush, Frelimo killed two South African engineers and captured a vehicle containing maps, charts, diagrams and equipment to be used on Cabora Bassa. The South Africans were furious. The South African engineering company withdrew its engineers and said "The Portuguese are incapable of protecting us." They requested and received more South African troops at Cabora Bassa to supplement the Portuguese garrison. And right now, today, Frelimo is within twenty miles of the construction site, and soon they will be able to begin shelling the dam. And then the Portuguese will send in more troops, and the situation will get very tough. But Frelimo is committed to the fact that that dam will never, ever be built.
There is another one that they are trying to build in Angola, called the Kunene River Scheme. This is not one big dam, like Cabora Bassa, but a series of eighteen small dams. Here they plan to settle a half-million European settlers as a second line of defense. And here they hope to set up a buffer zone. They've learned a little from Cabora Bassa. This time, in Angola, they are depending primarily on Portuguese and South African capital.
Question: What is the significance of the Harvard campaign around Gulf's involvement in Angola in terms of building a national movement that can force Gulf out?