Campaign News
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.

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


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


Marry Chiwenga: Jilted wife off Zimbabwe strongman fears for her life PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 08 March 2020 11:42

Marry Chiwenga: Jilted wife off Zimbabwe strongman fears for her life

Jane Flanagan – 7 March 2020


Marry Chiwenga is accused of trying to murder her husband and other charges including money laundering


A divorce battle involving Zimbabwe’s feared vice-president has transfixed the country with murky allegations of attempted murder, voodoo and drug addiction.


According to Marry Chiwenga, 39, however, the reality of her estrangement from Constantino Chiwenga, the former general who toppled Robert Mugabe, is even darker.


In an interview with The Times, the former model described “feeling thrown to the wolves”, her terror following late night car chases and fears that her calls are being monitored since her 62-year-old husband demanded a divorce three months ago.


Her comments have shed rare light on the upper echelons of power in the southern African state and painted a picture of lavish wealth enjoyed by an unaccountable few, while millions lurch towards starvation and the economy withers.


“I will never be left to live in peace. It will be a life in and out of jail, or no life at all,” she said following her recent spell in prison. Mrs Chiwenga is accused of trying to murder her husband and other charges including money laundering. She insists that she is innocent.


“My protection has been taken away and if anything happened to me, there would be no witnesses. It could easily be explained away,” she said.


In papers filed to court, the couple’s wrangling over cash, a contentious 600-acre farm and luxury cars have been laid bare.


This month she is appealing to the supreme court for custody of the three children she shares with the former army chief: two boys and a girl aged nine, eight and six.


She said that being refused access to them since her arrest in December “has broken my heart open”, adding that she fears “command justice” directed from higher powers will ultimately thwart her efforts.


“It feels like David and Goliath with the state machinery being used against one woman,” she added.


Born into a wealthy family, Mrs Chiwenga met her husband a decade ago when they were neighbours in an upmarket suburb of Harare.


“I knew nothing of politics and now probably know too much,” she said in a call from the capital, where she has been staying with her mother since losing access to the family mansion. She described her relationship with President Mnangagwa, 77, as “very good”, but she is reluctant to draw him into the turmoil.


“I’ve been involved at the highest level of the ruling party for a decade and lived through Operation Restore Legacy [the Mugabe ousting]. My husband has many enemies — within his own party, the opposition party and Zimbabweans generally who are facing many challenges now. That makes me feel very vulnerable.”

Mrs Chiwenga remains a divisive figure. The designer wardrobe and extravagant lifestyle that she lost in her separation drew comparisons with Grace Mugabe, the unpopular widow of the late president.


Yet her arrest and willingness to stand up to the feared Mr Chiwenga, who has been blamed for a string of violent crackdowns, has seen the public mood soften towards her.


She dismissed the allegations that she disconnected her husband from life support equipment at a South African hospital last July, and questioned why no allegation was made against her until five months later when Mr Chiwenga demanded a divorce. “Too much of a coincidence,” she concluded.


She is also accused of illegally transferring almost US$1m (£740,000) out of Zimbabwe to buy cars and property in neighbouring South Africa without her husband’s knowledge.


Mrs Chiwenga denies laundering money and said that any cash she had access to was no secret, claiming it had come from cash allowances given to Zimbabwe’s elite.


“We all got that and if you save it all, it’s enough to buy you a property outside the country. Everybody has one,” she said.


Mr Chiwenga did not respond to a request for comments.

Why do some failing states never fail PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Sunday, 01 March 2020 08:43


Why do some failing states never fail


With Russia’s help, corrupt regimes in Iran and Venezuela have prospered from catastrophe


Roger Boyes - Wednesday February 26 2020, 12.01am, The Times


Iran looks this week like the unluckiest country in the world. A rigged, widely boycotted parliamentary election has brought in a new cohort of hardliners. The supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is still smarting from having seen his favourite general killed by a US missile. The accidental shooting down of a Ukrainian airliner by trigger-happy Revolutionary Guards highlighted the country’s chronic failure of government.


Every extended middle-class family has a relative who wants to emigrate. Students and workers are still ready to take to the streets. To top it all, the coronavirus has claimed, by one estimate, at least 50 lives. Neighbouring countries are closing their borders, quarantining a pariah state.


Iran should be a simmering cauldron right now, on the cusp of revolutionary change. Instead, this unhappy nation is learning to live with its victimhood. The West needs to understand the deeper meaning of this apparent resilience. Led by the United States, we have been demanding that leaders in Iran, Venezuela and Syria either reverse aggressive policies or step down. The harder we push, the tougher our sanctions, the faster these failing states seem to turn into hellholes. But rather than this stoking domestic support for regime change, leaders seem to hang on to power quite comfortably.


Syria’s Bashar al-Assad may be standing on the rubble of his country but no one doubts that he will win, with Russia’s help, his final battle in Idlib. Nicolás Maduro was written off last year and the West courted a potential rival in Juan Guaidó, but Maduro’s still at the helm, even though hospitals are falling apart and people are fleeing in their millions (the number of refugees from Maduro’s misrule is expected to reach six million this year, thus overtaking even Assad’s ugly record). There are food shortages, power cuts, the currency is foundering. A cup of coffee in Caracas last year cost 450 bolivares. Now it costs 30,000.


Obviously, these are dictatorships backed by secret police, snatch squads and goons who tear out fingernails. They know how to batten down resistance. And since they still have a few bargaining chips — oil in the case of Venezuela and Iran, a naval port in Syria — they can count on the brawn of Russia.


Crucially, though, the ruling cliques have adapted to and profited from sanctions. To be head of customs in these countries is to be on the road to self-enrichment. Whole new patterns of kleptocracy have opened up. The Venezuelan economy runs on US dollars and the Maduro court, in league with criminal gangs, can turn the flow of imported goods on and off, maximising personal profit. Black marketeers and smugglers have become a new class and, together with the security establishment, see their future as linked to Maduro. To prevent the economy from being completely paralysed, Maduro’s ministers are leasing back premises expropriated by his predecessor, Hugo Chavez.


In Iran, businesses linked to the Revolutionary Guard have grown rich on the back of political connections. In Syria, the golden circle starts with the Assad clan and stretches outwards in a way that makes a nonsense of the sanctions that bar individuals from travelling to the West or accessing their bank accounts. It is a system built on trusted couriers and the active connivance of Russia. Those co-opted into the process naturally remain loyal to the regime. They take precautions — wealth is hidden, extravagant purchases are made abroad by personal shoppers — but they don’t yet fear the anger of the masses. The lesson they have learnt over the past five years is that enforced poverty depoliticises rather than radicalises the population.


Revolutions erupt because of rising but thwarted expectations. So the primary task of kleptocrats is to banish ambition. The ambitious, the able-bodied, the desperate flee the country in droves. And the leaders are OK with that, too. One day, they figure, the pressure of refugees mounting up in western countries will force the outside world to strike a deal with leaders who have demonstrated their survival skills. Allowing their states to fail gives them a perverse advantage: it makes them indispensable.


As a result many people in these miserable states don’t even pretend to trust their leaders. Better muddle through with the ruler we know, is the short-term calculation, than topple him and risk the wholesale collapse of society. They keep their focus on family, not state; the health of their children and elders. Venezuela used to have the best-funded health system in Latin America. Now nursing staff have to pump incubators by hand for newborn babies.


Such everyday tragedies have to inform our policies. There have always been reservations about sending convoys of aid to the poorest subjects in these states. The message of sanctions — stop your malign activities or we will punish you — could be undermined. Helping the downtrodden could be seen as a sign of western sentimentality rather than resolve. But we shouldn’t overthink this.


Whether in Iran, Venezuela or Syria, humanitarian aid, clearly marked as coming from a concerned international community, should be part of our response to mismanaged dictatorships. It makes our argument for us: your leaders are too incompetent or too avaricious to perform the basic duties of governance. The brunt of sanctions should now fall on the main enabler of rogue states: Russia.

Report from the Bulawayo Pastor – October 2019 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Sunday, 27 October 2019 15:24

I greet you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ

Wherever we go people no longer say the usual ‘How are you / I am fine.’ They go directly into talking about their problems. They say:
  • I haven’t eaten for two days, no food at all, even today.
  • We made a mistake by voting for the present government because we thought that by removing the late president things would get better, but they are worse.
  • The prices have gone up so much we can’t afford to buy; the children will die.  They can’t even go to school.
  • We can’t afford to go to hospital when we are sick because the bus fares are too high.
  • Now our money can’t buy anything.  After all this the President doesn’t say anything, nothing encouraging, no plan. At least President Mugabe would say something.
  • We don’t know what’s going to happen to the whole nation.  There’s hunger everywhere.
  • If you need anything like a birth-certificate you have to pay somebody for it.  If you don’t pay you don’t get it.
  • We are praying and praying and praying and we thank God that we are still alive. He has heard our prayers.
God has been answering many prayers:
  • Mrs Banda coming from hospital looked in her bag for her bus fare but it was gone. The tout shouted at her and threatened kick her off.  One woman from behind said, ‘Don’t cry, I will pay for you.’ Mrs Banda told her story at church on Sunday.
  • Three weeks ago I had a burden to visit a family to pray with them.  I was wondering what to bring them.  The only thing in my storeroom was a bag of maize and it was full of weevils—you couldn’t eat it—but I decided to take it anyway. When I got there they asked for food.  I did not want to give it to them but I did not have anything else.  When they opened it the maize was okay to eat and they were very happy.
  • In 2018 before the elections, a number of our pastors and their church members were drawn away with promises by Obert Mpofu to support a ZANU (PF) church.  Since the middle of this year many people have returned and last week three pastors returned.  They were interviewed by our board and they said there was nothing spiritual at the other church, there was just talk of what car you might get.  They admitted they were lost.
With this desperate situation people are going along the railway tracks to collect grain fallen from railway trucks.  The local currency has become worthless and people cannot buy from the shops anymore. We don’t know what is going to happen.

We are grateful to our donors who keep us going.  This month with funds from Zimbabwe Victims’ Support Fund we will get 19 tonnes of maize: 2t for feeding from Hillside Methodist Church; 4 tonnes for schools in Lupane and the rest for church members from Binga to Beitbridge.  The problem we are facing now is transport costs.  We can’t afford to pay for the food to be sent out.
Zimbabwe Partnership Trust and Whitestone Chapel also provide e’Pap for babies and young school children.  This has helped to keep these children healthy and alert.  Because of these feeding programmes we are able to hire the school hall for a reduced fee for church services.

Not many people were able to come to our conferences this year, due to transport costs, so we are going to send pastors out to Binga, Beitbridge, Masvingo, Plumtree, Gwanda and the Midlands instead. We managed to have a Women’s conference and studied the book of Ester, working from an excellent book provided by Pastor Kevin Thompson.

This year we have only planted one church two weeks ago at Nyathi.  There was a very good turnout and about 150 found the Lord and many sick were healed. At Killarney the school building is still dismantled and they are meeting under the trees. 
People are still being helped with money for school fees and rent from the ZVSF emergency fund.  Thanks to all donors big and small for your obedience and your compassion for this desperate community. Please pray for good gentle rains this season, seed to plant and leaders who have a heart for the people. 

Yours in Christ
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