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Malawi pins hopes on gold standard of cannabis PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Saturday, 05 December 2020 08:14

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/malawi-pins-hopes-on-gold-standard-of-cannabis-kbjlqf768#:~:text=In%20the%20lush%20hills%20of,the%20finest%E2%80%9D%20grows%20with%20abandon

 

Malawi pins hopes on gold standard of cannabis

 

Jane Flanagan 01/12/2020

 

In the lush hills of one of the poorest nations in the world, a strain of cannabis whose potency even ranks at the World Bank as “the finest” grows with abandon.

 

Revered among purists as a potent marijuana nirvana, a micro-tourism industry has sprung up around so-called Malawi Gold. Known locally as chamba, the strain has reached cult status with blogs and websites devoted it.

 

The government of the southern African state is now hoping that its fast-growing weed will help its population out of poverty. The former British colony has joined its regional neighbours in decriminalising cannabis for medicinal and industrial purposes.

 

A company founded by Tanya Clarke, a British entrepreneur, established the first government trials on industrial hemp that formulated the government’s decision. She believes the law change will bring in much needed investment and create jobs, but leaders in the conservative, Christian country took some convincing.

 

Ms Clarke, who moved to Malawi after studying at Edinburgh University 14 years ago, said even the word “cannabis” provokes panic and associations with drug addiction and social mores.

 

“We found the term industrial hemp caused less alarm to describe the industrial applications of the plant,’’ she told The Times. In meetings with political and community leaders, she drew on the Bible’s references to plants and vegetation, in the book of Genesis, to argue that Malawi’s natural resources had a higher purpose. Cannabis thrives in Malawi’s climate, even during periods of drought.

 

New laws will enable Ms Clarke’s company, Invegrow, to legally investigate what it is about Malawi Gold that has made it one of the most psychoactive pure African sativas. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the only psychoactive element in the plant. Plants up to one per cent THC cannabis have been legalised for cultivation.

 

Malawi joins Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Lesotho in legalising industrial hemp, though South Africa went a step further in 2018 by decriminalising recreational use of cannabis. Lobbyists have long claimed cultivating cannabis would boost Malawi’s economy and plug the gap left by a drop in demand for tobacco. Eighty per cent of Malawi’s workforce are employed in agriculture. Tobacco accounts for 60 per cent of the country’s foreign exchange earnings and 13 per cent of its GDP.

 

Boniface Kadzamira, a politician who first campaigned for decriminalisation in 2015, said the cannabis industry would give Malawians the opportunity to process their own product and set their own standard.

 

“We don’t want to replicate what has happened in the tobacco industry. Malawians should participate, not as tenants, but as equal partners in this new sector,” he said.

 

A new Cannabis Regularity Authority is now considering 100 applications for licensing. With fees ranging from $100 to $100,000, the agriculture ministry said it wanted to draw a range of small and large-scale operators. Although Africans have been smoking marijuana for centuries — traces have been found on 14th-century pipes in Ethiopia — shifting attitudes towards legalising the plant have only come as the appetite for cannabis products in rich countries has mushroomed.

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Zimbabwe president’s relative arrest at airport after gold bars found in handbag PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Sunday, 01 November 2020 15:03

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/zimbabwe-president-s-relative-arrested-at-airport-after-gold-bars-found-in-handbag-6gblw2zq8

 

Zimbabwe president’s relative arrest at airport after gold bars found in handbag

 

Jane Flanagan, Cape Town – 27/10/2020

 

A prominent figure in Zimbabwe’s ruling party allegedly tried to smuggle 14 bars of gold on a flight to Dubai.

 

Airport scanners at Harare on Monday picked up 6kg of gold valued at £280,000 in the handbag of Henrietta Rushwaya, who is head of the Zimbabwe Miners Federation and a relative of President Mnangagwa.

 

Steven Tserayi, one of the president’s long-term aides, was detained with her, according to local reports, and has been sacked by the president, but not arrested.

 

The scandal has highlighted Zimbabwe’s murky gold sector which, analysts claim, has drawn “untouchable” members of its political elite into smuggling cartels, costing the bankrupt state millions of pounds.

 

Ms Rushwaya, 53, who appeared in court today charged with smuggling, allegedly told officers she was acting as a mule for a licensed dealer in Harare called Ali Japan and was due to hand the gold to “an unidentified person” in Dubai. The gold did not have the paperwork required for its export.

 

Political analysts said the arrest of Ms Rushwaya was possibly the latest salvo in a power struggle within the ruling party.

 

A detective who is stationed at Robert Mugabe International Airport said that well-connected travellers often turned up with treasures to smuggle abroad. “You can receive a phone call from these big people ordering you not to search their bags when they come through,” he told the Mail & Guardian.

 

Grace Mugabe, the widow of the late president, and Joyce Mujuru, his vice-president, have both been linked to smuggling gold and diamonds worth millions of pounds. No charges have been brought and both have denied any wrongdoing.

 

Mthuli Ncube, the finance minister, has estimated that $100,000 of gold illegally leaves the country each month, often to Dubai, robbing the state of much-needed foreign currency.

 

Ms Rushwaya’s association of small-scale miners produces more gold than large-scale operations. The collapse of commercial agriculture, once the country’s largest employer, has pushed thousands of people into illegal mining with their finds being sold to black-market middlemen and often trafficked to states where prices are higher.

 

Police documents revealed that detectives had been tracking Ms Rushwaya after they received a tip-off. A spokesman for the government hailed the operation and said it followed warnings by Mr Mnangagwa, 78, to “those close to power to desist from wayward ways”.

 

The allegations are not Ms Rushwaya’s first brush with scandal. She was sacked from her role as head of Zimbabwe’s football association after it emerged that the national side was competing in obscure tournaments in Asia, north Africa and the Middle East where players and coaches were bribed to throw games.

 

She has not yet made a statement on the gold smuggling charges she is facing.

 
President Mnangagwa’s Address to the Nation - 4th August 2020 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Saturday, 08 August 2020 10:11

My Fellow Zimbabweans,

 

The world is in crisis. Borders have been closed, trade has ceased and businesses negatively impacted by the deadly Covid-19 pandemic. 

 

The virus breaches borders, and knows no boundaries. This is the time when many in our country are looking for answers. Your cries are not unique to our country, region or our continent.  As elected leaders, we have to take the responsibility of providing solutions, ensuring stability and setting direction in the midst of it all. 

 

The New Dispensation came with the clear goal to improve the plight of the majority of our people, through an elaborate agenda to reform, restructure and rebuild, towards the achievement of Vision 2030.Undoubtedly, my Administration has faced many hurdles and attacks since its inauguration.  These included the divisive politics of some opposition elements, the illegal economic sanctions, cyclones, droughts and more recently, the deadly Covid-19 pandemic.  Added to this, is economic aggression, local currency manipulation and detractors who fear the inevitable imminent success of our reforms.  All this was meant to undermine our projected economic growth and stability. As a result, we have had to constantly recalibrate our compass to ensure that we remain on course, and that the standard of life of the majority in our society gets better and better. 

 

The direction we desire remains unchanged. Our goal remains clear and stable. Forward ever! This is the goal of peace, unity, stability, development, progress and prosperity. 

 

Although our progress has been slowed down, rest assured that we shall achieve our objectives. We will overcome. We will defeat the attack and stop the bleeding of our economy.  We will overcome attempts at destabilisation of our society by a few rogue Zimbabweans acting in league with foreign detractors.  The reforms, opening up, liberalisation and modernisation we began shall continue with accelerated pace. Those who promote hate and disharmony will never win. The bad apples that have attempted to divide our people and to weaken our systems will be flushed out. Good shall triumph over evil. 

 

Fellow Zimbabweans, to achieve the prosperity we deserve, let us all unite, working together towards a common goal and dealing with each other in honesty and love. 

 

We make no apologies for fixing our systems across the socio, economic and political spectrum.

 

Accountability and transparency will keep on being enforced in every facet of our society. These values are, after all, the DNA of the Second Republic and must permeate all our institutions.  Our political reforms have equally been guided by these twin concepts.  We repealed and replaced POSA and AIPPA in the spirit of these ideals. The new legislation, the Maintenance of Order and Peace Act (MOPA), was created after much deliberation and consultation. 

 

My Administration remains committed to enhancing cooperation with friends and partners in the international community, as we entrench democracy and the rule of law within our jurisdiction.  In this regard, we will continue to strive to achieve the delicate balance between the maintenance of peace and security on the one hand and protecting civil liberties and individual rights, on the other.  

 

In all circumstances, public officials and the security services will carry out their duties with appropriate astuteness and resolve.  The protection of the right to life is paramount, especially in light of the Covid-19 pandemic and machinations by destructive terrorist opposition groupings. 

 

Our Monetary and Fiscal authorities will continue to work tirelessly to tame the economic turbulence we face. We commend international financial partners who continue to provide invaluable expertise in this regard.  Opportunities are being created across all economic sectors. The development agenda we began is taking shape in line with Vision 2030, and incorporates the youth and marginalised of our country, leaving no one behind. Levelling of the economic development playing field is ongoing through our devolution policy. Reforms related to opening up the economy, and to empowering entrepreneurs, as well as unleashing the creative potential of the private sector and SMEs, are bearing fruit.

 

Corruption at all levels must stop. 

 

Meanwhile, let us be consistent in all that we do. Through persistence and hard work, we will achieve a sustainable and prosperous future for all.  Zimbabwe has to get back to working efficiently again. Vision 2030 will become a reality. We owe it to ourselves and to future generations to succeed. 

 

Fellow Zimbabweans, the dark forces, both inside and outside our borders, have tampered with our growth and prosperity for too long. They have thrived on dividing us. Let us as a people embrace the call for patriotism, hard work, transparency, accountability, love, unity and peace. 

 

Now is the time to embrace the opportunities before us with optimism and determination to transform and modernise our society. 

 

The door to the old manner of doing things is shut. The corrupt way is closed. 

 

Let us, therefore, pledge, individually and collectively, to defend our country, to be productive, to grow our economy and never to tear our motherland apart by dividing its people. 

 

In unison we must proclaim that “Enough is enough. This is Zimbabwe, our Motherland and we will defend her from any form of attack”.

 

As your President, I vow to continue working harder and walking the talk towards the Vision we have set out. Let us together cultivate a society of hope, and not despair; of inspiration instead of desperation. Unity in place of disunity, love in place of hate, and peace instead of disharmony and instability. 

 

Drawing inspiration from our departed brave heroes and heroines, let us pursue with renewed fortitude and zeal, the journey we began of reforming and rebuilding our motherland. 

 

Emboldened by the tenacity that inspired our heroes to wage a war for our Independence, sovereignty, and the freedoms we enjoy today; let Zimbabwe strive towards a prosperous future. 

 

Now is the time to look forward, as one people — a united people. Let us press on, with vigour and hope; hand-in-hand, being each other’s keepers.

 

In unity and love nothing is impossible. Forward ever, backward never.

 

God bless you all. God bless Zimbabwe. I thank you.

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ROHR Zimbabwe’s virtual fundraising party. PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Tuesday, 30 June 2020 15:37

ROHR Zimbabwe’s virtual fundraising party. Saturday 4th July from 7 to 9 pm. RSVP: Rangirirai Chivaviro 07378429599, Esther Munyira 07492058107, Enniah Dube 07367504747 and Benjamin Molife 07490919900 for how to connect. Please join to catch up with other activists and to take part in a fantastic raffle. Prizes include: £5 for a microwave, £2 for a bottle of wine.

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South Africa, a nation ravaged by HIV, is flattening the coronavirus curve. PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Sunday, 26 April 2020 13:09

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/south-africa-a-nation-ravaged-by-hiv-is-flattening-the-coronavirus-curve-bp2dxhd3q

 

South Africa, a nation ravaged by HIV, is flattening the coronavirus curve.

 

Max Price – Sunday April 26 2020

 

South Africa has experienced the Covid-19 epidemic rather differently from many other countries and there is much interest and speculation why this might be.

 

It appears to be different in two ways. First, the total number of infected people presenting with illness or discovered through limited community testing is relatively low (4,220 as of April 25). Compared with the United Kingdom, or with developing countries, such as Brazil and Mexico, there are far fewer cases per million population, and South Africa finds itself in the company of countries such as Finland, Egypt and Argentina.

 

The first explanation for these lower rates is simply that the initial infectious cases appeared in South Africa later than they appeared in the UK and US. One way of marking the “take-off” point would be the date on which the number of cases exceeded 100. In South Africa that was March 18. In the UK and the US, it was March 5 and 4, respectively.

 

The longer period of community transmission in some countries is certainly part of the explanation.

 

But in Brazil and Mexico the take-off dates were March 13 and 19 respectively. The fact that Mexico, at 12,800, and Brazil, at 54,000, are so much higher than South Africa even though the epidemics took off at roughly the same time, and that the number of cases in the UK and US is far greater than can be accounted for by the two-week lag, suggests that something else is at play.

 

This also challenges another speculative explanation — that warmer temperatures, as found in South Africa in summer, inhibit Sars-CoV-2 transmission. While other coronaviruses show marked winter seasonality, and Sars-CoV-2 might well do so too, and there is laboratory evidence that Covid-19 has decreased survival in high humidity and warmer temperatures, there is plenty of evidence that transmission may be high in warm climates.

 

There was initially a concern that, since most testing had been done by private laboratories accessible only to middle-class patients, with the state laboratories initially lacking the capacity to test anyone other than those with contact history and symptoms, there might be both an undercount and a bias in understanding the distribution of infection. But with the extension of testing to poorer communities, no hidden mass of infections has yet been discovered.

 

So something else has happened. This is well illustrated by the kink in the South Africa epidemic curve at March 27. This decline in the rate of new cases, maintained for the next few weeks, is most likely due to the declaration of a “state of disaster” by the government on March 15 and a strict lockdown on March 27. The lockdown, in particular, reduced the spread to townships from the middle-class areas where most business and recreational travel originates.

 

The second difference between South Africa and most other countries is the low death rates. Reported Covid-19 deaths per 100,000 population as of April 22 were: UK 27.3, US 14.2, Germany 6.4, Brazil 1.39, South Korea 0.46, China 0.33, Egypt 0.28 and South Africa 0.11. In other words the rate was nearly 300 times higher in the UK than South Africa.

 

In fact this tells us nothing, since the number of deaths are related to the number of cases, and that in turn is strongly dependent on where each country is in terms of when the first cases occurred, and how many cases (usually infected travellers) seeded the local epidemic.

 

More useful will be the case fatality rate (CFR), ie the cumulative number of deaths compared with the cumulative number of cases. Here too, however, it appears South Africa is an outlier. It is 1.8% compared with, for example, UK at 13.5%, Brazil at 6.4%, or South Korea at 2.2%. Expressed another way, if there were a similar number of infections in each country, for every death in South Africa, there would be 1.2 in South Korea, 2 in Germany, 4 in Brazil and Egypt, 6 in the USA and 8 in the UK.

 

This confounds predictions for several reasons. It is generally thought that more vulnerable populations such as the general South African population will have higher mortality rates. South Africa has about 7.7 million people living with HIV (13% of the population) of whom about 2.5 million are not on treatment and are therefore very vulnerable to infections. Tuberculosis rates are very high, too, with about a third of a million new infections annually, and 78,000 deaths annually.

 

Vulnerability may also be more general, related to poverty, nutrition, overcrowding and exposure, access to health services etc. This has been amply demonstrated in the United States where, for example, while black Americans represent only about 13% of the population in the states reporting racial and ethnic information, they account for about 34% of total Covid-19 deaths in those states. In the UK, death rates per 100,000 population were 23 for white British, 27 for Asians and 43 for black people (as categorised by NHS England and the Office for National Statistics). In South Africa, with very high levels of inequality and deprivation, one might expect similarly raised death rates.

 

Another explanation for differing death rates is that the death rate will reflect the adequacy of the health service to treat those who become severely ill — hence the emphasis on flattening the curve to avoid the number of severe cases exceeding hospital capacity. South Africa is poorly endowed with hospital beds, personnel and ventilators but that will become a contributing factor to death rates only once the total demand on the health service exceeds its capacity, and that has not happened yet, largely because of the success in flattening the curve as a result of the early lockdown.

 

A further explanation might be a high proportion of the population being below 55 years old. In South Africa that proportion is 87%. In the UK it is 69%. The higher proportion of older people will result in more deaths for the same number of infections. However, compared with countries such as Egypt, Brazil and Mexico, which also have relatively young populations, this argument would not be sufficient. Furthermore the epidemic, thus far, has been concentrated in geographic communities that have above average age distributions. This may be expected to be a factor in the future.

 

One theory for the lower Covid-19 death rates in South Africa and other developing countries relates to BCG, the anti-TB vaccine. The theory is that South Africa, and many other developing countries, and also Portugal, have high BCG vaccination levels and low Covid-19 infection and death rates, whereas the reverse is true for many European countries and the US. However, the data to support this is suspect.

 

Many countries with low BCG rates now had compulsory BCG a few decades ago, such that almost all the population over 60 are in fact vaccinated – yet they are the most vulnerable age groups in those countries. Furthermore, at the individual level, there does not appear to be any correlation between those with severe illness and their BCG status. Moreover, there are many exceptions to the inverse correlation of country BCG rates and Covid-19 rates. Well-designed studies will still be required to see if there is any protective effect.

 

Probably the most important reasons for the variation in death rates, at least between countries that are similar in many relevant respects, is how widely each country has tested for the virus rather than relying only on severely symptomatic cases that come to hospital as the measure of infections. If the infections are undercounted, this will naturally appear to increase the death rate. Yet in South Africa, until the past 10 days, testing was also restricted to people who were likely to have the virus. If anything, there was been less testing here than in many other countries, which should overstate the CFR. In fact as testing has expanded, the CFR has gone up slightly.

 

So we do not yet have a good enough explanation of South Africa’s lower death rates. The early stage of the epidemic here is probably the most significant one; the fact that at this stage the health services are not overwhelmed is another. No doubt there might be other factors such as immunity related to prior exposure to other infections, average infectious dose exposure (often higher when people are in close quarters such as in cold weather), and genetic factors, but these remain to be demonstrated.

 

What may we expect ahead? President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced that the restrictions on movement and work will be eased from May 1, and will be progressively reduced or increased according to calculations based on rates of new infections balanced with economic imperatives.

 

We have no reason to think the rate of transmission would be any different from other countries once the lockdown is eased, and it may well be worse given the high rates of HIV and TB. We have thus far had too few cases of Covid-19 in HIV or TB patients to know how the two interact. Similarly, with only 79 deaths, and almost none in HIV or TB patients, we do not know how this will impact on the CFRs.

 

We can only hope that the six-week delay in the exponential rise of cases will have been enough to increase testing and field hospital capacity, the supply of protective equipment, and the inculcation of social distancing habits and lifestyle to hold the epidemic from its worst-case forecasts.

 

Dr Max Price is the former vice-chancellor and principal of Cape Town University and former dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences at Witwatersrand University

 

 
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