International news briefs


International news briefs

Muhammad Ali calls for end to Cuban blockade

Former world heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali, in Havana on September 11, called for the lifting of the US blockade of the island. Lonnie Ali said her husband's criticism OF the blockade "transcends politics". "You cannot deny someone health and assistance based on politics. It's ridiculous."

"If Americans would come over here and watch these people here or go to Iraq and watch those babies die in front of their eyes, I don't think any of them would stand for that", she said.

The Alis, together with actor Ed Asner and Cindy Asner, were in Havana with officials from two US aid groups. The Alis and Asners visited a training centre for athletes for the special Olympics. Muhammad Ali, who suffers from Parkinson's disease, shook hands, performed magic tricks and, at the training centre, took to the basketball court and scored a basket from the three-point line.

South African deaths in custody

Four hundred and eighty people died in police custody or as a result of police actions in South Africa in the first six months of 1998, the Independent Complaints Directorate reported on August 20. The figure includes deaths from police negligence, suspected suicide, and deaths during arrest and investigation.

KwaZulu-Natal had the highest number of deaths (116), followed by Gauteng (112) and North-West province (73). ICD assistant director Jabu Dhlamini said the number of deaths was unacceptably high. The ICD is also investigating hundreds of other complaints against police, such as rape, torture, assault, corruption organised crime and arson.

SA metalworkers on strike

Members of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa employed in small workplaces associated with the motor industry began an indefinite national strike on September 1.

On the first day of the strike, 160,000 NUMSA members — including members employed by South Africa's major car manufacturers — walked out in support of the 60,000 petrol pump attendants and workers in panel beating shops, spare parts firms and car parts manufacturers. They are demanding a wage increase of 12-18% on actual pay, rather than the bosses' offer of 4.5% on workers' minimum pay.

On September 22, all 220,000 NUMSA members will join a solidarity strike to support the workers.