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Scientists mystified, wary, as Africa avoids COVID-19 disaster – 9News

At a busy market in a poor township outside Harare this week, Nyasha Ndou kept his mask in his pocket, as hundreds of other people, mostly unmasked, jostled to buy and sell fruit and vegetables displayed on wooden tables and plastic sheets.

“COVID-19 is gone, when did you last hear of anyone who has died of COVID-19?” Mr Ndou said.

“The mask is to protect my pocket. The police demand bribes so I lose money if I don’t move around with a mask.”

People are seen at a busy market in a poor township on the outskirts of the capital Harare in Zimbabwe.
People are seen at a busy market in a poor township on the outskirts of the capital Harare in Zimbabwe. (AP)
Earlier this week, Zimbabwe recorded just 33 new COVID-19 cases and zero deaths, in line with a recent fall in the disease across the continent, where World Health Organisation data shows infections have been dropping since July.

When COVID-19 first emerged last year, health officials feared the pandemic would sweep across Africa, killing millions. Although it’s still unclear what the virus’s ultimate toll will be, that catastrophic scenario has yet to materialise in Zimbabwe or much of the continent.

Scientists emphasise obtaining accurate COVID-19 data, particularly in African countries with patchy surveillance, is extremely difficult, and warn declining infection trends could easily be reversed.

But there is something “mysterious” going on in Africa that is puzzling scientists, said Wafaa El-Sadr, chair of global health at Columbia University.

“Africa doesn’t have the vaccines and the resources to fight COVID-19 that they have in Europe and the U.S, but somehow they seem to be doing better,” she said.

When the coronavirus first emerged last year, health officials feared the pandemic would sweep across Africa, killing millions.
When COVID-19 first emerged last year, health officials feared the pandemic would sweep across Africa, killing millions. (AP)

Fewer than 6 per cent of people in Africa are vaccinated. For months, the WHO has described Africa as “one of the least affected regions in the world” in its weekly pandemic reports.

Some researchers say the continent’s younger population — the average age is 20 versus about 43 in Western Europe — in addition to their lower rates of urbanisation and tendency to spend time outdoors, may have spared it the more lethal effects of the virus so far. Several studies are probing whether there might be other explanations, including genetic reasons or past infection with parasitic diseases.

On Friday, researchers working in Uganda said they found COVID-19 patients with high rates of exposure to malaria were less likely to suffer severe disease or death than people with little history of the disease.

“We went into this project thinking we would see a higher rate of negative outcomes in people with a history of malaria infections because that’s what was seen in patients co-infected with malaria and Ebola,” said Jane Achan, a senior research advisor at the Malaria Consortium and a co-author of the study.

“We were actually quite surprised to see the opposite — that malaria may have a protective effect.”

The nation of Mali shut its borders down before a single case was reported in the country.
The nation of Mali shut its borders down before a single case was reported in the country. (AP)

Achan said this may suggest past infection with malaria could “blunt” the tendency of people’s immune systems to go into overdrive when they are infected with COVID-19. The research was presented Friday at a meeting of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.

Christian Happi, director of the African Center of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases at Redeemer’s University in Nigeria, said authorities are used to curbing outbreaks even without vaccines and credited the extensive networks of community health workers.

“It’s not always about how much money you have or how sophisticated your hospitals are,” he said.

Devi Sridhar, chair of global public health at the University of Edinburgh, said African leaders haven’t gotten the credit they deserve for acting quickly, citing Mali’s decision to close its borders before COVID-19 even arrived.

“I think there’s a different cultural approach in Africa, where these countries have approached COVID with a sense of humility because they’ve experienced things like Ebola, polio and malaria,” Sridhar said.

In past months, COVID-19 has pummeled South Africa and is estimated to have killed more than 89,000 people there, by far the most deaths on the continent. But for now, African authorities, while acknowledging that there could be gaps, are not reporting huge numbers of unexpected fatalities that might be COVID-related.

WHO data shows deaths in Africa make up just 3 per cent of the global total. In comparison, deaths in the Americas and Europe account for 46 per cent and 29 per cent.

Nigeria has launched a mass rollout of COVID-19 vaccines as it aims to protect its population of more than 200 million amid an infection surge in a third wave of the pandemic.
Nigeria has launched a mass rollout of COVID-19 vaccines as it aims to protect its population of more than 200 million amid an infection surge in a third wave of the pandemic. (AP)

In Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, the government has recorded nearly 3000 deaths so far among its 200 million population. The U.S. records that many deaths every two or three days.

The low numbers have Nigerians like Opemipo Are, a 23-year-old in Abuja, feeling relieved.

“They said there will be dead bodies on the streets and all that, but nothing like that happened,” she said.

On Friday, Nigerian authorities began a campaign to significantly expand the West African nation’s COVID-19 immunisation. Officials are aiming to inoculate half the population before February, a target they think will help them achieve herd immunity.

Oyewale Tomori, a Nigerian virologist who sits on several WHO advisory groups, suggested Africa might not even need as many vaccines as the West. It’s an idea that, while controversial, he says is being seriously discussed among African scientists — and is reminiscent of the proposal British officials made last March to let COVID-19 freely infect the population to build up immunity.

That doesn’t mean, however, that vaccines aren’t needed in Africa.

“We need to be vaccinating all out to prepare for the next wave,” Salim Abdool Karim, an epidemiologist at South Africa’s University of KwaZulu-Natal, who previously advised the South African government on COVID-19, said.

“Looking at what’s happening in Europe, the likelihood of more cases spilling over here is very high.”

Afghanistan
COVID-19 cases have been few and far between in Afghanistan. (AP)

The impact of COVID-19 has also been relatively muted beyond Africa in poor countries like Afghanistan, where experts predicted outbreaks amid ongoing conflict would prove disastrous.

Hashmat Arifi, a 23-year-old student in Kabul, said he hadn’t seen anyone wearing a mask in months, including at a recent wedding he attended alongside hundreds of guests. In his university classes, more than 20 students routinely sit unmasked in close quarters.

“I haven’t seen any cases of corona lately,” Arifi said.

So far, Afghanistan has recorded about 7,200 deaths among its 39 million people, although little testing was done amid the conflict and the actual numbers of cases and deaths are unknown.

Back in Zimbabwe, doctors were grateful for the respite from COVID-19 — but feared it was only temporary.

“People should remain very vigilant,” warned Dr Johannes Marisa, president of the Medical and Dental Private Practitioners of Zimbabwe Association.

He fears another COVID-19 wave would hit Zimbabwe next month.

9. Chile

The most vaccinated countries on Earth

“Complacency is what is going to destroy us because we may be caught unaware.”

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Court Orders Ex-CZI Boss Zizhou To Pay US$180 000 For Sexual Harassment – New Zimbabwe.com

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By Mary Taruvinga


FORMER Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) chief executive Farai Zizhou has been ordered by the High Court to pay his ex-personal assistant Rita Marque Mbatha US$180 000 damages for sexual harassment.

This follows a spirited fight by Mbatha over the past two decades after she was sexually harassed by Zizhou during her time of employment with the CZI.

Mbatha had claimed US$500 000 from both Zizhou and CZI. However the law suit against the CZI is yet to be finalised.

She worked at the CZI between 2002 and 2003 and Zizhou made sexual advances to her.

In delivering his judgment, High Court judge, Justice Martin Mafusire said he was impressed by how Mbatha pressed on against all odds.

She said  Mbatha, now an International Alliance representative, and human rights advocate was a strong woman who had fought for justice.

“The matter has had a long and turbulent history. Mbatha says the wheels of justice have turned ever so slowly for her. There can be no denying that. She has been to this court. She has been to arbitration,” the judge said.

“She has been to the Supreme Court. She is back to this court. She strives for closure. Any lesser mortal would probably have given up. Plainly, the Mbatha is no lesser mortal. Her tenacity and fighting spirit have moved mountains. She is still fighting. This judgment only settles her case. The other half still continues.”

Mbatha alleged sexual harassment of female employees at CZI was rampant, and said Zizhou was the sole culprit.

“The sexual harassment was over some nine months. It started when she was still on probation. She got employed by the second defendant in September 2002.

“She got fired in July 2003. It was an unfair dismissal. The first defendant (Zizhou) engineered it all. He schemed it. She had reported him for sexual harassment. He took revenge.

“The charges were inappropriate touching, unwelcome offensive jokes, invitation by innuendo to an inappropriate sexual relationship, receiving offensive telephone messages, receiving pornography on the computer, an attempt to kiss by force, causing an injury on the thigh in the process of resisting,” reads the judgement.

According to electronic messages submitted during the application, Zizhou pestered Mbatha to give in to an affair despite the fact that they were both married.

“Rita, I have used the above caption just in case. Please delete completely immediately after reading. Look at the time I am sending this note-just to show you I could not sleep before writing this note to you Rita.

“I love you very much and wish you could be mine. When I am taking a bath with Clara I always pretend it’s you. The torture is unbearable. It hurts me that when I touch your lovely hand you cringe and ask me to stop. Do I repulse you? I desperately need to kiss you,” Zizhou wrote in an email to Mbatha.

“Shamwari if I do get dismissed, it will be because I would like to do whatever I can for the person I care for most, you. Right now I am under pressure to balance the budget of CZI.

“You have just completed your probation and according to CZI rules, you are not eligible for the general increase for permanent staff, but the small adjustment that is in your appointment letter, I am bending the rule for you.

“Please hold on tight to me – if we crash – we crash together. I am awarding you the same percentage increase as everybody else. I am defending it against the treasurer this morning. Doing so will cost CZI an extra $3 million in employment and other costs for the three people involved.

“The others are lucky to be associated with you. This will wipe out the surplus we were going to make after selling the Land Rover. The treasurer had made his recommendations following the rule and I have asked Venek to make the changes before he comes for the final meeting this morning.”

Zizhou added: “I feel guilty as it is not right to expropriate you from your husband but unfortunately… Please God help me on this one as it has been giving me sleepless nights. You are the love of my love. I will do anything for you.”

The arbitral tribunal in March 2014 found Mbatha was unfairly dismissed and sexually harassed by Zizhou. Psychiatric reports obtained from Mbatha’s doctors noted that she was severely traumatised by the experience.

Justice Mafusire ruled Mbatha suffered severe posttraumatic stress disorder as a result.

“This condition manifested almost immediately after the abuse. She experienced recurrent involuntary and intrusive memories of the traumatic event. Her pain was acute, with chances of recovery rated as being very poor. Treatment would be extensive and indefinite.”

“She suffered physical and emotional pain, which scarcely suppressed anger. During the counselling sessions, she would lose track of her answers midway through and would ask that questions be repeated,” reads the judgment.

“Before the incident, she was engaging, outgoing, and loved reading. She had a good sense of humour. All that is gone. She experiences recurrent nightmares. Her sleep is broken most nights. She has lost all confidence in herself. There was another kind of collateral damage. She says her marriage broke up, largely because of the change in her personality.

“She says the situation was further compounded by the defendants’ conduct after her unfair dismissal. She could not secure alternative employment thanks to the defendants’ negative testimonials to her potential prospective employers. The plaintiff’s case seems such a textbook case. Manifestly, no amount of money seems adequate enough to compensate for her loss,” the judge said.

“The sexual harassment was persistent. There has never been an apology.

“Taking all factors into account, it is considered that the proper level of damages for the sexual harassment perpetrated by the first defendant upon the plaintiff during the period of the plaintiff’s employment with the second defendant from September 2002 to June 2003 is US$180 000, or the equivalent thereof in local currency, convertible at the inter-market bank rate at the time of payment.

“The first defendant shall pay the plaintiff the amount aforesaid together with interest at the prescribed rate from the date of this judgment to the date of payment. The first defendant shall pay the plaintiff’s costs of suit.”

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Civil servants get forex bonuses, decry high bank charges – The Herald

The Herald

Africa Moyo-Deputy News Editor

Civil servants’ representatives are generally excited that their members have started withdrawing their US dollar bonuses, but are upset that some banks are deducting significant bank charges despite the instruction that such accrued charges should not be deducted from bonuses.

These are bank charges of anything between US$100 and US$200 on accounts that were opened last year when Government was paying its workers a cushioning allowance in foreign currency. 

The account holders then retained the accounts although there was no money in them and the banks continued to levy charges, only collecting these when the bonus money arrived.

The levying of accrued bank charges is despite communication from the Ministry of Finance to the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe last week that there should be no backdating of bank charges. 

In an interview yesterday, Zimbabwe Teachers’ Association (Zimta) chief executive officer Dr Sifiso Ndlovu said while their members were getting their US dollar bonuses, the charges needed to be removed altogether since the forex bonus is a once-off cushion from President Mnangagwa.

“What I have gathered is that a number of banks have released the US dollars and people are getting it,” he said.

“But I heard that some of the money has been chewed by bank charges, which I think should not be an issue since this was a once-off payment. The bank charges are the downside to the excitement we have over the US dollar bonuses.

“The Finance and Economic Development Minister (Professor Mthuli Ncube) said he would look into the issue of bank charges and we duly call upon him to do so, so that civil servants take home all their money.” 

Permanent Secretary for Finance and Economic Development Mr Mr Guvamatanga last night said the ministry sent communication to the Reserve Bank last week directing that banks should not backdate bank charges.

Mr Guvamatanga

“Some of the foreign currency accounts were opened last year when Government was paying some US dollar incentives to civil servants.

“The accounts remained open and since then, they have been accruing bank charges. Now, some greedy banks want to backdate the charges to last year, but we have directed them not to backdate the charges,” said Mr Guvamatanga.

He added that some banks were lying to their clients that they had not yet received foreign currency from the Reserve Bank, for as yet unknown reasons.

A comprehensive statement on the payment of US dollar bonuses is expected from the Ministry of Finance today. 

Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Minister Professor Paul Mavima told The Herald last night that the payment of US dollar bonuses was on-going although some employees have challenges with their foreign currency accounts.

Prof Mavima

“By and large, the withdrawal of US dollar bonuses is going on smoothly,” said Prof Mavima.

“But I have to say that the demand for cash is quite high and you see long queues for cash at banks. However, this is a good challenge.

“We urge banks to avail as much cash as possible to civil servants at one go, so that they minimise the number of times that people go to the bank to save transport costs.” 

President Mnangagwa decided on a once-off payment of US dollar bonuses for civil servants and Government pensioners to cushion them from the fluctuating exchange rates, which eroded the value of their earnings.

Government says paying bonuses in US dollars was ideal to ensure that they don’t take their earnings to the parallel market to buy forex, a move that would erode their earnings.

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RTG subsidiary creates revenue streams for social influencers – NewsDay

BY WINSTONE ANTONIO
GATEWAY Stream, a subsidiary of the Rainbow Tourism Group (RTG), yesterday launched a platform that will enable social influencers to monetise their brand equity on the Gateway Stream platform.

The Gateway Stream is Zimbabwe’s one-stop online marketplace with nine sub-applications across a diverse range of products, services and experience.

Through the Gateway Stream Social Influencer, artists will be issued with an account and a promo-code and they will be able to sell all products found on the Gateway Stream platform and earn a commission from the sales.

In his address at the launch, RTG group chief executive Tendai Madziwanyika said they aimed to help social influencers exploit the valuable asset they had, that is, access to markets, in a way that ensures that they monetise their brand equity.

“Social influencers have what corporates want, a defined market and reach, which they access in an effective, cost-effective way,” he said.

“Through the Gateway Stream Social Influencer, artists will be able to sell a diverse product range found on the Gateway Stream platform from groceries, hardware, clothing, hotel accommodation, adventure activities, food and drink, and short-term insurance and earn a commission from the sales.”

Madziwanyika said it was time for social influencers to make money from their brands using music and entertainment as a hook.

“The sky is the limit for opportunities which our local social influencers can explore on Gateway Stream.

“Imagine just converting 1% of their following. They will be well on their way to becoming millionaires.”

Gateway Stream general manager Taremeredzwa Chipepera said so far they had registered over 30 social influencers, ranging from musicians to comedians.

“Instead of being just brand ambassadors for different companies, they can earn passive and perpetual income directly from their networks,” he said.

“This initiative is a mutually beneficial partnership that will drive traffic and sales volumes on the platform.

“We are driven by the desire to help social influencers gain greater value from their social networks.”

He said a follower of the social network would quote the promo-code when processing a booking or making a purchase on Gateway Stream.

“Once a member completes a purchase by way of payment, the agreed commission level for the specific product category will be credited to the social influencer’s account.

“The more sales the social influencer makes, the more money they stand to earn,” he said.

Chipepera said Gateway Stream was working on the development of a portal which would enable social influencers to have backend access where they can load their products, view transactions under their promo-code, track their commission and request pay-outs from their account.

“Besides the products on the platform, social influencers can also have an opportunity to brand and sell their own memorabilia such as clothing lines, perfumes, et cetera on the Gateway Stream platform,” he said.

  • Follow Winstone on Twitter @widzoanto

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