A second campaign opening this month is the North London Haslemere Group's drive to stop all imports into Britain of coffee from the Portuguese colony of Angola. Haslemere's objection to Angolan coffee is two-fold. First, coffee exports provide over 30% of Portugal's export earnings from its Angolan colony and this trade is therefore an important prop to the repressive Portuguese regime and is directly helping to finance the war which Portugal has been fighting for the last 12 years to maintain its grip in Angola. Secondly, the Angolan coffee plantations, owned by rich Portuguese and Europeans, are worked by African labour, often forced labour, under appalling conditions. Workers are kept in compounds, surrounded by barbed wire, overlooked by machine-gun turrets, and patrolled by guard-dogs.
The Haslemere campaign is inspired by the success of the Dutch Angola Committee who succeeded in stopping all Angolan coffee imports into Holland by publicising the conditions in Portuguese Africa. Sheer weight of public opinion in Holland forced the Dutch coffee roasters to stop importing from Angola, after the Committee had run a nation-wide campaign, spearheaded by posters showing a beheaded Angolan coffee-worker and captioned "Coffee for Holland means blood for Angola".
Nestles, the makers of Nescafe, are now importing about 8% of their coffee from Angola and the Haslemere Group has begun its campaign by writing to Nestles' managing director, Mr. Manahan, spelling out the situation and asking him to stop using Angolan coffee. The signatories of the letter include Barbara Castle, Barbara Ward, Bishop Trevor Huddleston, and Bishop Fansbury, General Secretary of the British Council of Churches.
If Nestles reject or ignore the letter, a similar approach will be made to the major retailers, Sainsbury's, Tesco, and Woolworths, asking them not to sell Nescafe.
Jonathan Power, who is leading the campaign, is now preparing Haslemere tactics in the event of both letters proving fruitless. The next step will be to buy shares in the major companies which sell Nescafe (Nestles itself being based in Switzerland and its shares being too expensive), so that Haslemere members can attend the Annual General Meetings of the companies concerned and make out their case before the shareholders.
Share-buying is a familiar technique to the Haslemere Group. Last year they used similar tactics with Barclays Bank and Rio Tinto Zinc in order to ask questions at shareholders' meetings about the involvement of these two companies in South Africa and Namibia. This campaign is still continuing, even though Haslemere members were thrown out of a Barclays Bank Annual General Meeting for persistently asking questions to the chair about apartheid. They have recently been offered practical support by a member of the World Development Movement, Francis Prideaux, who has inherited shares in both Barclays and Rio Tinto Zinc and who has offered free shares to any Haslemere, WDM or Third World First member who wants to join the campaign and is prepared to attend and protest at company Annual General Meetings.