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FROM CHURCHES TO TINDUMBA

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ONE positive development so far in the country’s efforts in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic is the increased daily screening and testing, and recoveries.

The testing gives us a slightly better picture of just where we are with the rate of infection which is unrelenting in its climb, albeit at a slower rate over the past two weeks. We’ve moved from an average seven per day to about four per day despite the increased testing.


Also encouraging is the increased rate of recovery of our COVID-19 positive patients. From being a country with the slowest recovery rate, we now have the sixth best recovery rate in SADC following the 97 recoveries from 217 cases with only two deaths since the outbreak hit Eswatini. This is a 44.7 per cent recovery rate which is slightly above the global rate of around 39.7 per cent from the 5 085 504 cases and 2 021 666 recoveries reported as of yesterday morning.


Concerned


We should be concerned though, that Eswatini has the third highest infection rate per million people in Southern Africa after South Africa and Mauritius respectively, as of Thursday morning, according to Worldometre COVID-19 data.


One can’t say much for anything else in our learn-as-we-go strategy marred by mixed messages and confusion each week. Things are likely to get more entangled after the World Health Organisation (WHO) threw a herb in the mix of debates over the best possible solution to overcoming the outbreak.


WHO has opened its arms to calls for research into traditional medicines as possible treatment for COVID-19. This stance was prompted by Madagasca President Andry Rajoelina, whose country has produced an organic herbal drink called COVID-Organics (CVO) and touted it as a successful treatment of symptoms from patients infected by COVID-19. Several countries and individuals have begun placing orders with Madagasca and Eswatini is expecting a few bottles of the mixture that has such a sting it could turn Africa against the West politically as the world races to find a vaccine. The key ingredient is the plant Artemisia annua (sweet wormwood), which experts say is used in medicines by clinicians in hospitals around the world to treat malaria.


Coughs


A relative of this plant is Artemisia afra (African wormwood), which is known locally as Umhlonyane and has often been used to treat coughs and flu.

A mad-rush to uproot the now much sought after plant has ensued, presenting another headache for government. In some areas, community police have been deployed to save what’s left of the flu-herb which is legally protected under the Flora Protection Act 2000, even though nobody has been charged yet. The penalty for large cultivation of the plant carries a fine of up to E2 500.


The Eswatini Institute for Research in Traditional Medicine, Medicinal and Indigenous Food Plants (EIRMIP) is currently in the process of researching the plant and we look forward to its findings which are key, especially because very little is being said about the side effects. Improper use of the plant as a remedy could cause vomiting, restlessness, tremors, convulsions and damage to the liver according to the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI).


Many Africans, emaSwati included, may not heed this warning if it has western tags attached to it following a massive drive to discredit a possible western vaccine through claims that it would be part of a covert attempt to poison and wipe out the African population.


Remedy


However, the traditional remedy faces the same conundrum. If and when our traditional healers (tinyanga) dance well in their tindumba and produce a remedy that works, the Christian fraternity will preach against it. They have come out to say this form of treatment involves consulting ancestors, a practice that is against the Christian faith. So what will government recommend?
Your guess is as good as mine given its unwavering support for the church, what with Prime Minister Ambrose Dlamini coming out to defend the increase of numbers in church.


At least he owned up to the decision - whether good or bad - and was willing to put his head on the block to defend it. I don’t agree with his logic but the debate continues on Monday. It is Parliament’s call at the end of the day, but too much time is being wasted discussing churches instead of safely opening up car washes, electronic shops and salons - at least periodically - to save jobs.


When the PM returns to Parliament on Monday, he should also come with a briefcase full of transparency on the use of public funds. Cabinet seems reluctant to disclose businesses that are being used as quarantine centres citing requests for confidentiality. This is nonsense and corrupt. If these businesses are more concerned about reputation, then they should simply stay away from public funds that have to be accounted for to the public.

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