Tagged: South Africa

South Africa’s controversial Chloroquine Phosphate adoption

WHY ANYONE would prescribe a substance such as Chloroquine Phosphate for the treatment of Covid-19 is a mystery. For starters the anti-malaria drug is an amebicide, ‘an agent used in the treatment of amoebozoa infections, called amoebiasis’ and is not an anti-viral as such.

It has a low LD50, the lethal dose at which rats and patients die (low is more toxic). It has been touted by both the Trump administration and the World Health Organisation as a treatment for the disease but has been lambasted by critics. Chloroquine: Trump’s misleading claims spark hoarding and overdoses reads one headline.

On the March 19, South Africa adopted Chloroquine Phosphate in its guidelines for the clinical management of Covid-19, published by the Department of Health and the National Institute for Communicable Diseases. A local pharmaceutical company has received permission from the medical regulator to import half a million chloroquine phosphate tablets.

New research published on Wednesday however, ‘suggested that “off label” re-purposing of drugs such as hydroxychloroquine could lead to “drug-induced sudden cardiac death”. The paper by the Mayo Clinic, a nonprofit medical organisation, found that ‘chloroquine and Kaletra, a HIV drug also being used against coronavirus, can cause the heart muscle to take longer than normal to recharge between beats.’

Most RNA viruses develop solely in cytoplasm (a thick solution that fills each cell and is enclosed by the cell membrane.) Unlike plasmodium malaria (amoebozoa ) viral populations do not grow through cell division, because they are acellular.

Coronaviruses are enveloped positive-stranded RNA viruses that replicate in the cytoplasm.

‘To deliver their nucleocapsid into the host cell, they rely on the fusion of their envelope with the host cell membrane. The spike glycoprotein (S) mediates virus entry and is a primary determinant of cell tropism and pathogenesis.’

There are over 100 known drug compounds capable of disrupting the viral replication of Sars-CoV-2, the coronovirus responsible for COVID-19. These substances have been located via an unprecedented bioinformatics search by two groups of scientists working round-the-clock on the equivalent of the Manhattan Project.

Their findings were published less than three weeks apart and must be considered required reading by anyone working in the field of coronovirus medicine. Unfortunately due to politics surrounding branded drugs and the Trump administration, and the machinations of the World Health Organisation, and our own government, these findings are being ignored.

Local use of the drug appears to pre-empt a WHO trial already underway in Norway and Spain.

Although Chloroquine Phosphate, ‘the phosphate salt of chloroquine, a quinoline a compound with antimalarial and anti-inflammatory properties’ appears on one of the lists provided by the researchers, the substance is not recommended by doctors as anything more than a last resort.

The chief executive of Novartis cautioned on Friday that it is “too soon” to be sure whether the anti-malaria drugs could be a definitive treatment for the coronavirus.

“Researchers have tried this drug on virus after virus, and it never works out in humans. The dose needed is just too high,” says Susanne Herold, an expert on pulmonary infections at the University of Giessen,

The latest list of potential coronovirus drugs discovered via an unprecedented bioinformatics search, include many compounds already approved for administering by doctors, some are already in preclinical trials. Among them is a 1971 antiviral drug, Ribavirin capable of disrupting the RNA synthesis of the coronovirus itself, the bug responsible for the biggest health crisis event of the 21st Century.

The drug is described in a paper aptly entitled ‘Broad-spectrum coronavirus antiviral drug discovery‘. It escaped media attention, perhaps due to its patent rights lapsing, while Lopinavir–Ritonavir, a relatively new HIV drug has received a lot of press, alongside Favivlavr a drug from China approved by the National Medical Products Administration of China .  Clinical trials of a promising COVID-19 antiviral, Remdesivir, which gets incorporated into viral RNA and prevents it being synthesised, halting viral replication, are currently underway.

Ribavirin, also known as tribavirin, is an antiviral medication used to treat RSV infectionhepatitis C and some viral hemorrhagic fevers.

A team lead by Nevan Krogan of the Gladstone Institute, working around the clock have identified more than 300 human proteins that interact with SARS-CoV-2 during infection.

Since the Trump announcement there has been attempts to classify coronovirus medicine research and restrict any adverse criticism of Chloroquine, with EPA announcing broad restrictions.

Efforts to raise awareness amongst local organisers of a Peninsula community coronovirus response team were instead met with ridicule, and the writer threatened with prosecution. The lack of debate amongst local authorities is reminiscent of the HIV-denial era, since anyone publishing coronovirus information ‘not authorised by the DOH ‘ may run foul of recently gazetted regulations governing the spread of information.

It is safe to say when this epidemic broke, we were dealing with denialists who refused to believe there was an epidemic. Overnight, these same folk have turned into gatekeepers of what can and cannot be said. Now even government officials are denying there are any antiviral treatments capable of bringing down the epidemic to manageable proportions and urging us all to use Chloroquine  the most widely used drug against malaria.

The safety issues here are also reminiscent of the thalidomide disaster,  one of the darkest episodes in pharmaceutical research history

Although the mechanism of action is not fully understood, chloroquine has been shown to inhibit the parasitic enzyme heme polymerase that converts the toxic heme into non-toxic hemazoin, thereby resulting in the accumulation of toxic heme within the parasite.

Chloroquine may also interfere with the biosynthesis of nucleic acids. However the coronovirus is not a microbial parasite and more research on the use of the substance in symptomatic treatment of a condition associated with an RNA virus would be required.

The most important lesson of the 1918 influenza pandemic: Tell the damn truth

As South Africa fumbles COVID-19 testing, WHO warns social distancing is not enough

AS SOUTH AFRICA continues to struggle to ramp up basic testing for COVID-19, experts at the World Health Organization on Monday emphasized that countries should prioritize such testing— and that social-distancing measures are not enough.

“We have a simple message for all countries: test, test, test,” WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (aka Dr. Tedros) said in a press briefing March 16.

Dr. Tedros noted that, as the numbers of cases and deaths outside of China have quickly risen, many countries—including the US—have urgently adopted so-called social-distancing measures, such as shuttering schools, canceling events, and having people work from home. While these measures can slow transmission and allow health care systems to better cope, they are “not enough to extinguish this pandemic,” Dr. Tedros warned.

What’s needed is a comprehensive approach, he said. “But we have not seen an urgent-enough escalation in testing, isolation and contact tracing, which is the backbone of the response,” Dr. Tedros said.

“The most effective way to prevent infections and save lives is breaking the chains of transmission,” he went on. “And to do that, you must test and isolate. You cannot fight a fire blindfolded. And we cannot stop this pandemic if we don’t know who is infected.”

SEE: US testing response flounders 

SEE: Singapore’s Portable Covid-19 Swab Test 

SEE: Covid-19 Facts: Surviving the Covid-19 ‘Immunity’ Disaster

Covid-19 Facts: Surviving the Covid-19 ‘Immunity’ Disaster

1. What is SARS-CoV-2 and Covid-19?

“Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)” is the name of the new virus according to the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses (ICTV). “COVID-19” is the name of the new disease caused by SARS-CoV-2 following guidelines previously developed with the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

This means it is related to the coronovirus responsible for the 2003 SARS epidemic. ‘Based on phylogeny, taxonomy and established practice, the CSG recognizes this virus as forming a sister clade to the prototype human and bat severe acute respiratory syndrome coronaviruses (SARS-CoVs) of the species Severe acute respiratory syndrome-related coronavirus, and designates it as SARS-CoV-2.’

2. What are the Symptoms?

The most common symptoms of COVID-19, according to the WHO: fever (in 88% of cases), dry cough (68%), fatigue (38%) and sputum/phlegm production (33%). Shortness of breath occurred in nearly 20% of cases, and about 13% had a sore throat or headache, the WHO said in a report drawing on more than 70,000 cases in China.

3. How Infectious is SARS-CoV-2?

Covid-19 is more infectious and contagious than previously assumed. R0 value is likely to be between 4.7 and 6.6., and not 2.2 to 2.7 as previously reported. This places it in the realm of Smallpox which has an R0 of 5–7.

It can survive for up to 3 days+ on surfaces and remain airborne for hours.

It is most infectious during incubation, and first week of symptoms and less infectious during post-symptomatic recovery period. Incubation period averages 5.1 days.

It follows that since SARS-CoV-2 is related to the SARS 2003 virus, the same protocols should apply, ‘avoid direct contact with respiratory secretions or body fluids.’

Note: It is well worth reading up on predecessor SARS 1

Can We Learn Anything from the SARS Outbreak to Fight COVID-19?

The problem is that since the coronovirus is a new pathogen, we do not possess natural immunity. South Africans will eventually gain ‘herd immunity’ which is ‘the resistance to the spread of a contagious disease within a population that results if a sufficiently high proportion of individuals are immune to the disease, especially through vaccination’.

4. How many South Africans are likely to catch COVID-19?

If one uses Boris Johnson and Angela Merkel’s estimates that 40%-60% of the population will invariably be infected: South Africa with a population of 56+ million must plan for some 22 400 000 to 33 600 000 cases of which 1 904 000 will be critical according to WHO average mortality rate of 3.4. This makes it a major problem for the public health system. See Coronavirus: Simple statistical predictions for South Africa

Luckily we have a relatively young population. Age of a population is a factor in mortality rate.

5. How many hospital beds does South Africa have?

There are currently some 80 000 beds in the public health system, and 5000 beds in the private health care system according to MOH Dr Zweli Mkhize today. This means a potential shortfall of 1 819 000 beds. Nationally, there is only 1 hospital, 187 hospital beds and 42 surgical beds per 100 000 population.

6. Which groups are most at risk from SARS-CoV-2?

Most reports suggest that the elderly, infirm and those already possessing co-morbidity, i.e underlying disease such as HIV, Diabetes, Cardiovascular disease are particularly at risk from falling critically ill from the disease.

COVID-19 update: What you need to know now that it’s officially a pandemic

7. Why should I be concerned about SARS-CoV-2 & COVID-19?

Patients with SARS-CoV-2 infection are presenting with a wide range of symptoms. Most patients seem to have mild disease, and about 20% appear to progress to severe disease, including pneumonia, respiratory failure, and, in some cases, even death, according to the Lancet.

Coronavirus turns deadly when it leads to ‘cytokine storm’; identifying this immune response is key to patient’s survival

Since COVID-19 may also reduce lung function, opportunistic infection from Pneumococcus, Streptococcus and Mycobacterium Tuberculosis within the South African context may also be inferred. This presents a substantial and heretofore under-reported risk.

Unless we think globally and act locally to contain and prevent transmission, new waves of the pandemic are likely to hit the sub-continent.

8. What can I do to prevent transmission?

Social distancing, avoiding large crowds, hand-washing, the Covid “handshake” and sneezing into ones elbow are all behavioural changes suggested by our MOH.

Providing hand-sanitation stations at Taxi ranks, Metro-Rail and public venues is another suggestion, so too providing UV lights and/or latex gloves and hand sanitiser to those who deal with money at checkouts, and also pump jockeys at Petrol Stations.

Disinfection of Public Transport and Taxis should be prioritised!

Predecessor SARS 1 showed sensitivity to UV light, renders inactive.

Traditional burning of Imphepho or African Sage may assist poor households in removing bacteria and viruses from the air, as inferred from Journal of Ethnopharmacology, since havan samagri has the potential to kill 94% of bacteria.

9. Is there a cure?

Treatment is currently symptomatic. Several treatment therapies have been advanced, including the use of chloroquine phosphate to treat fever, antivirals such as protease inhibitors to treat viral reproduction and other therapies. Anecdotal evidence suggests that codeine and ibuprofen exacerbates the fever and should not be taken without doctor supervision. Favipiravir, a Japanese flu drug has also proven effective.

Covid-19: ibuprofen should not be used for managing symptoms, say doctors and scientists

See Could an old malaria drug help fight the new coronavirus?

Warnings issued on lethal dose of Chloroquine 

Nvidia is calling on gaming PC owners to put their systems to work fighting COVID-19 by assisting projects already  ‘simulating potentially druggable protein targets from SARS-CoV-2

Avoid Coronophobia, the fear of Coronoviruses killing you. Rational thinking rather than fear, panic and denial is the key here.

10. Can I test for SARS-CoV-2?

Yes, currently the only tests available are via pathology labs, designated public hospitals such as Tygerberg and the private health system and cost anywhere between R1400 to R900. Local tests have a 48 hour turnaround. This is a significant downside to an otherwise excellent disaster plan. Singapore for instance has rolled out a four-hour turnaround swab-test at entry points, while Senegal is working on a 10-minute PCR test.

Demand better screening, lowering of threshold of surveillance and access to free testing.

11. Is there a Vaccine?

South Africa has no candidate vaccine at this time.

See: How can AI help biotech companies seeking vaccines?

Passive antibody therapy, an Antibody Method from the 1890s is being used to provide stop-gap immunity.

A Phase 1 clinical trial evaluating an investigational vaccine designed to protect against coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has begun at Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute (KPWHRI) in Seattle.

Immunisation will take time, we need to be vigilant and patient until then.

Everything You Need to Know About Coronavirus Vaccines

12. Which borders are closed?

A travel ban has been enforced on foreign nationals from high-risk countries such as Italy, Iran, South Korea, Spain, Germany, the United States, the United Kingdom and China. There is currently no word on Japan,  Spain and other places of concern.

13. How will this effect the global economy?

In 2004 Jong-Wha Lee and Warwick J. McKibbin in ‘Estimating the Global Economic Costs of SARS’ published in ‘Learning from SARS: Preparing for the Next Disease Outbreak‘ produced a global model to simulate the economic impact of a long-term SARS epidemic using the period 2002–2081. The so-called ‘G-Cubed (Asia-Pacific) model’ is eerie and prescient in its description. I reproduce it here:

First, fear of SARS infection leads to a substantial decline in consumer demand, especially for travel and retail sales service. The fast speed of contagion makes people avoid social interactions in affected regions. The adverse demand shock becomes more substantial in regions that have much larger service-related activities and higher population densities, such as Hong Kong or Beijing, China. The psychological shock also ripples around the world, not just to the countries of local transmission of SARS, because the world is so closely linked by international travel. Second, the uncertain features of the disease reduce confidence in the future of the affected economies. This effect seems to be potentially very important, particularly as the shock reverberates through China, which has been a key center of foreign investment. The response by the Chinese government to the epidemic was fragmented and nontransparent. The greater exposure to an unknown disease and the less effective government responses to the disease outbreaks must have elevated concerns about China’s institutional quality and future growth potential. Although it is difficult to measure directly the effects of diseases on decision making by foreign investors, the loss of foreign investors’ confidence would have potentially tremendous impacts on foreign investment flows, which would in turn have significant impacts on China’s economic growth. This effect is also transmitted to other countries competing with China for foreign direct investment (FDI). Third, SARS undoubtedly increases the costs of disease prevention, especially in the most affected industries such as the travel and retail sales service industries. This cost may not be substantial, at least in global terms, as long as the disease is transmitted only by close human contact. However, the global cost could become enormous if the disease is found to be transmitted by other channels such as through international cargo.

14. How will this effect the local economy?

Our economy is so intertwined with the rest of the world that the impact is bound to last for a very long time. In the meantime, think about the benefits and opportunities of buying local, sharing with your neighbour, lending a hand and being prepared. Household responsibility dictates that it is up to individual households at the end of the day to provide for oursselves and to figure out how best to move the economy forward.

How SA bungled the Covid epidemic and looks set to repeat the mistakes of the Spanish flu

INSTEAD of focusing efforts at containment, the country was transfixed by what President Ramaphosa described as an `exercise to carry the pride and hope of the nation`. Instead of closing borders to the new epicentres of Italy and Spain, the country was welcoming travellers, without so much as a Covid-free certificate. No quarantines for incoming tourists from Spain, Italy or Hong Kong for that matter. Our national effort focused on the plight of less than 150 citizens living in Wuhan. In the process the ruling party sacrificed a massive opportunity to contain Covid-19 until a vaccine could be found.

Our efforts at containment are too little, too late, and will in all likelihood cost the lives of some 3 million citizens once the epidemic is over.

Airport screening is largely futile, research shows. 

Singapore’s MOH has expanded the definition of suspect cases to include ‘persons with pneumonia or severe respiratory infection with breathlessness.’ The country has rolled out a new portble swab test at checkpoints.

Meanwhile in the Cape Metro, our Health MEC issued guidelines that excluded the possibility of Community Infection.  A poster issued by the City 11 March directs persons with Covid-19 symptoms to seek assistance ONLY if they have travelled overseas or have come into contact with a person already diagnosed with Covid-19.  Achieving what other countries could not with a stroke of pen.

The same posters were then translated into several of our national languages with better graphics and type and rolled out this week, in a total waste of resources.

Instead of lowering the threshold of surveillance, MEC Nomafrensch Mbombo raised the bar, excluding assistance to anyone who may have gotten an infection from a traveller or tourist. A public health policy which merely feeds into a testing system overly dependent upon private pathology labs, and where Covid test costs are anywhere R1400 – R900.

It is a policy which appears to also have originated from the previous SARS epidemic in which no tests nor vaccines were available, and where case definitions relied upon excluding various symptoms in the absence of treatment modalities.

Senegal a country with experience  from recent Ebola epidemic, is able to produce 10 minute tests which cost R16.50

Massive testing has been a key factor of successful combat of the epidemic in South Korea and Canada. The linchpin of South Korea’s response has been a testing programme that has screened more people per capita for the virus than any other country by far. ‘By carrying out up to 15,000 tests per day, health officials have been able to screen some 250,000 people – about one in every 200 South Koreans – since January’.

Australia has issued an order directing new arrivals to the country to self-quarantine for 14 days as has Canada and New Zealand.

Independent reports of citizens using the national toll free number, confirm that no Covid assistance will be forthcoming to anyone who suspects community transmission. A report of the country’s first confirmed community transmission in the Free State was withdrawn last week, apparently the result of ‘misinterpretation’.

After dithering on the issue of testing the Trump administration announced sweeping reforms on Friday which included free testing for all citizens, a policy already mandated by congress. The declaration of a state of emergency in the USA has also paved the way for pharmaceutical company Roche to access federal emergency funding for a massive rollout of SARS-CoV-2 Test to detect novel coronavirus.

If one uses German Chancellor Merkel’s estimates that 40%-60% of the population will invariably be infected: South Africa with a population of 52 million must plan for some 20 800 000 to 31 200 000 cases of which 1.8 – 3.4 % will be critical. In other words we stand to lose 561 600 to 1 060 800 and 374 400 to 707 200 people during the course of the epidemic.

Extrapolating stats from the North presents certain difficulties, the least of which is our country has many informal settlements and an under-resourced public health system. The figures therefore need to be corrected by a factor of 3 — we could end up shedding anywhere between 1 200 000 and 3 million people if critical cases do not receive treatment.

Editorial note: Readers please refrain from comparing raw exponential data surrounding an evolving epidemic to events which are static, and without same variance like annual mortality rate for car accidents, since according to statistician, NN Taleb, ‘this introduces a flaw in standard statistics’.

A local epidemiologist Jody Boffa, says she suspects ‘that once COVID-19 is more established in South Africa, the numbers of people requiring hospitalisation for pneumonia and other severe complications will be higher than 1.7 to 4 million if we do not take preventive steps now because of specific health issues in our population that affect the immune system of younger populations as well; specifically HIV, tuberculosis (TB), and malnutrition.’

A guide on ‘Interpreting and using mortality data in humanitarian emergencies’ cautions on the imprecision inherent to all epidemiological models but nevertheless insists such impact data ‘should be used to drive policy decisions’.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has issued a statement calling on the Minister of Health, Dr Zweli Mkhize, to institute a mandatory self-quarantine period of 14 days for all travelers from high-risk European countries whether the person is symptomatic or not. The party could not explain why the City’s own Covid-19 programme excluded those who have not travelled overseas or have not come into contact with a person already diagnosed with Covid-19.

During the 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic South Africa was one of the five worst-hit parts of the world. About 300,000 South Africans died within six weeks. This represented 6% of the entire population.

In 1918, the city of Philadelphia threw a parade that killed thousands of people. Ignoring warnings of influenza among soldiers preparing for World War I, the march to support the war effort drew 200,000 people who crammed together to watch the procession. ‘Three days later, every bed in Philadelphia’s 31 hospitals was filled with sick and dying patients, infected by the Spanish flu.’

The UK has announced a preventive quarantine programme for the elderly as well as other measures to combat the fast-moving epidemic.

Covid-19 is more infectious and contagious than previously assumed. R0 value is likely to be between 4.7 and 6.6., and not 2.2 to 2.7 as previously reported.

Coronavirus turns deadly when it leads to ‘cytokine storm’; identifying this immune response is key to patient’s survival

The most common symptoms of COVID-19, according to the WHO: fever (in 88% of cases), dry cough (68%), fatigue (38%) and sputum/phlegm production (33%). Shortness of breath occurred in nearly 20% of cases, and about 13% had a sore throat or headache, the WHO said in a report drawing on more than 70,000 cases in China.

Veredus Laboratories has announced development of detection kit for Wuhan Coronavirus. 

The credit card sized kit is a portable Lab-on-Chip application capable of ‘detecting the Middle-East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV), Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (SARS-CoV) and 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) i.e. Wuhan Coronavirus, in a single test’ in about 2 hours.

See Covid Simulator

Towards an African, humanist environmentalism for South Africa

IT WAS during the dying days of apartheid, that I wrote a series of articles promoting ‘ecological sustainable development’ and deep ecology. The pieces published by Grassroots and South Press were extraordinary, the least of which is that they were published by a working class imprint shortly after the state of emergency.

They dovetailed my criticism of race-based conservation efforts by elements within the regime, for example the Rupert Family, and addressed perceptions that the emergent environmental justice movement in the country was, to put it crudely, an all-white affair.

The result was the ‘First National Conference on Environment and Development’, in which academics and activists from all quarters joined hands on a broad eco-justice platform which included both the ANC and PAC, and which resulted in the placing of Earth Rights at the centre of our Constitution, in the form of article 24.

Today’s political pundits Carilee Osborne and Bruce Baigrie , conveniently ignore the history of environmentalism in South Africa, preferring to situate their respective struggles within the contemporary milieu of the Climate Strike — the recent Cape Town March which saw some 2500 people from various organisations and civic structures take to the streets in what they view “as one of the largest environmental protest actions in South Africa’s history.”

This is no mean feet and without wishing to downplay the successes of these epic events during the course of the past year, one should always remember that the environmental justice movement arose as a foundation stone of our Constitution during a period of mass democratic action, the likes of which have yet to be repeated. And thus a struggle which was situated not upon my own writings, nor the writings of any one particular individual, but rather the Freedom Charter, which (within the colour of the time) called upon people black and white, to “save the soil”, whilst sharing the land, and assisting the tillers of the land.

A similar mistake in historical proportion and misreading of history occurs within the various articles penned by one Farieda Khan. She writes in “Environmentalism in South Africa: A Sociopolitical Perspective”, (an otherwise excellent paper written over the turn of the millennium): “The first extra-parliamentary political organization to commit to a formal environmental policy was the Call of Islam, an affiliate of the United Democratic Front (the South African front organization for the then-banned African National Congress).” She goes on to state: “The Call of Islam had a formal environmental policy since its inception in 1984, due in large measure to the efforts of its founder, Moulana Faried Esack.”

If only history were so convenient as to claim environmentalism on behalf of any one religion or individual, whether Islam, or the Church, as many within SAFCEI and SACC would have it, or on behalf of one or more important groups or class formations formulated by those on the left, as those within AIDC would have us believe.

Rather, I think it more accurate and best to take a broader arc of history — one that includes the Freedom Charter and reaches forward to the essential humanism espoused by the deep ecology movement of the 1970s, whose distinguishing and original characteristics are its recognition of the inherent value of all living beings: “Those who work for social changes based on this recognition are motivated by love of nature as well as for humans.” And by extension, as much of my writing and published work from the 1980s suggested, an African environmentalism which realises that Ubuntu is not simply being human because we are all human, but rather, a common humanity contingent upon the necessary existence of our habitat, without which we could not exist as a species.

Instead of situating the environmental movement within so-called ‘working class’ struggles, or working class factions as Osborne and Baigrie attempt in “Towards a working-class environmentalism for South Africa”, and thus the binary of a grand populism vs narrow neoliberalism which simply perpetuates the idea of man’s dominion over nature and thus a struggle which of necessity is juxtaposed alongside the authoritarian grip of party politics, another path must be found.

It is all too easy to issue anti-capitalist prescriptions, leftist directives and cadre-based imperatives calling for the end of free markets whilst, forgetting that it is Eskom’s captive market, Eskom’s socialist ambitions, and Eskom’s coal barons which have pushed South Africa ahead of the UK in terms of GHG emissions, a country with 10-15 million more people. Although only the 33rd largest economy, South Africa is the 14th largest GHG in the world. Our national energy provider, Eskom has yet to adopt GHG emissions targets.

All the result of  the boardroom compromises of the statist, authoritarian left, whose policies have seen our country embrace ‘peak, plateau and decline’ alongside a COP-out strategy excluding South Africa from the Paris Agreement, and thus a national environmental policy which is not based upon empirical science and evidence-based research but rather class driven kragdadigheid and Big Coal.

If those on the far left expect us all to reject secular humanist values alongside Norwegian philosopher Arne Naess who introduced the phrase “deep ecology” and thus an environmentalism which emerged as a popular grassroots political movement in the 1960s with the publication of Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring, simply because these persons are lily-white, or tainted by the liberal economics of the West, then they are sorely mistaken.

Instead, I believe, that it is far better to formulate an African-centred response, and rather a Pan-African struggle which is broad-based and inclusive of our collective humanity and common habitat. Such a broad-based struggle out of necessity includes an African-Centered Ecophilosophy and Political Ecology.The draft Climate Justice Charter is one such vehicle and deserves our full support.

The struggle for survival during the collapse of the Holocene, includes those already involved in conservation and preservation efforts and those who now join because of concerns about the detrimental impact of modern industrial technology. When one talks about climate justice we thus need to include the voices of those who have not been given an opportunity to speak, and remember that without mass mobilisation, nothing would have changed during apartheid.

Dagga legalisation, correcting an historical wrong (Round Two)

DEAR older generation. You were wrong about apartheid, you were wrong about same-sex marriage, and you were wrong about dagga. When the Western Cape High Court affirmed the rights of all citizens to the use and cultivation of dagga in the privacy of our own homes, thus suspending the drug laws for two years and allowing Parliament to amend the legislation, it corrected an historical wrong committed by the past regime.

Then when the apex court of our country, the Constitutional Court, affirmed the High Court ruling and extended these protections, it read parts of the decision into law, granted dagga users the right to carry the herb without fear of arrest and opened the door for the ‘dagga economy’ surrounding the herb.

Thus cannabis (or dagga as it is known in South Africa) was moved from the realms of the narcotics act into the ambit of the liquour licensing regime. Our Parliament is still debating exactly how to go about regulating certains aspects to do with the medicinal and commercial use of the herb, and the sale and commercial exploitation of the plant remains a grey area so far as the law is concerned.

It was thus that a groundbreaking High Court decision this month resulted in serious charges brought some time ago, against a dagga activist and DIY hydroponics expert, being squashed.

While the concourt decision was proscriptive rather than retroactive, the High Court clearly saw the social mores of the time as  being more persuasive than the previous period of prohibition. More importantly the decision pronounced upon the role of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act (POCA) in harrassing growers, and thus the proportionality of  the ‘dagga crimes’ in a case which had not yet been proven by the state, and where the state attorney had in effect jumped the gun in seeking forfeiture of the residence of one Richard Kraak.

Several articles appearing in the mainstream online media have appeared to punt the commercial benefits of dagga. One article went so far as suggesting mechanisms for investors keen to get in on the action, and the benefit to the broader economy, while others extolled the virtues of the inaugral Cannabis Expo, an event currently being held in Jozi and set for Cape Town later next year.

How the mighty moral police and their religion-inspired vice squad have fallen upon tough times, one can only remark here that a similar sequence of events followed the legalisation of porn after the end of apartheid — the death throws of the regime in which women’s breasts and nipples were only to be seen behind the shiny stars covering them in men’s magazines.

In 2015 the first ever Weedstock Festival due to take place on a farm in Bronkhorstspruit was cancelled due to vice squad intervention.

Similar festivals around South Africa appeared to have gone by without a hitch, but expect more information on this topic. Police continue to terrorise the communities of Sedgefield and Knysna. Despite setbacks, Dagga synonymous with the counter-culture surrounding the anti-apartheid movement has certainly returned for good, as has the feel-good vibe which immediately followed our nation’s liberation.

Those old enough to remember the likes of James Phillips aka Benoldus Niemand, may recall that the apartheid state pilloried activists as mere ‘drug-users’ —  cannabis hooked social deviants wanting to create mayhem to overthrow the state.

Law and order was thus contingent upon the banning of people’s consciousness — our innate rights to freedom of thought alongside the right to privacy. See Thembisa Waetjen’s excellent historical appraisal here.

Alongside the Botha government’s Bureau of State Security (BOSS), the narc squad and thought police, armed with an ideology supplied by the NGK, decreed race segregation to be divinely inspired by God, Cannabis to be the work of the Devil himself, and the Afrikaner grip over the African hinterland the result of a “Covenant at Blood River”.

How times are a changin.

When the ruling ANC finally came into power, there was every indication that dagga-smoking revolutionaries were going to legalise the herb whilst recognising the contribution to the struggle by Bob Marley and the Jamaican Defense Force.

Instead, activists like Trevor Manual exchanged their berets, dashikis and the proverbial stash, for bespoke suits, and the joys of fine champagne and cognac. The transformation of the liberation movement into a political bureaucracy built upon corporate largesse meant that adopting the white man’s laws alongside certain UN conventions supporting prohibition was paramount.

All of this toenadering came tumbling down this week, as yes, one Jacob Zuma appeared in the dock.

SEE: Greenlight districts solution to dagga prohibition 

 

Mboweni, ANC new economic era?

THE dramatic events this week which saw the removal of finance minister Nene and his replacement by former reserve bank governor Tito Mboweni arrived not a moment too soon.

With the ruling ANC on the ropes after state capture revelations at the Zondo Commission. Nene’s departure signals the demise of Zumanomics and hopefully the re-introduction of the pragmatic, consensus-based policies which gave rise to the boom period under Mandela and Mbeki.

Anyone appreciating the opportunities in the bond market as many analyst did, may find it painful to digest other facts surrounding the South African economy, currently in its longest slump since 1945 .

South Africa has slipped down the ranks of economic freedom to 96 out of 162. a sharp slump from its ranking of 46 in 2000.

Economic stimulus plans announced by President Ramaphosa will come to naught unless there are serious policy reforms.

Reforms which can only happen if the entire economic paradigm and political economy of the country is shifted, from big government for the sake of big government, to household responsibility and individual freedom.

The country recorded a surplus last quarter, a factor of the currency, which also has an effect on consumer prices.

Getting South Africans to work, requires entrepreneurs and individuals ready to create jobs,  thus the politics of the Zondo commission is revealing in what it shows of the opposite trajectory under Zuma. Ergo the clandestine leftism of the former President’s associates, all squaring state capture and the Gupta’s with a ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ and other Marxist mantras, best understood by dashiki-wearing economics students sipping chai lattes while quoting Fanon and Frere.

The business environment in the country is said to be hostile, a result of ‘ideology getting the better of pragmatism’. A series of blunders involving populist rhetoric on land reform and property rights, and inability to deal with parastatals, in other words, State-owned Bureaucracy, has hobbled Ramaphosa’s government.

Under the last administration, cabinet posts almost doubled, as bureaucracy took its toll on productivity and individual freedom.

Ramaphosa has yet to pronounce on any constructive changes to policy in this regard.

South Africa’s unions must take some of the blame in driving a one-sided narrative, a wedge between the state and business, that has shifted the party from workers rights to political intrigues that saw the Guptas rise to power amidst BRICS neo-colonial ambitions.