“To let things slide for the sake of peace and friendship when a person has clearly gone wrong, and refrain from principled argument because he is an old acquaintance, a fellow townsman, a schoolmate, a close friend, a loved one, an old colleague or old subordinate. Or to touch on the matter lightly instead of going into it thoroughly, so as to keep on good terms. The result is that both the organisation and the individual are harmed”. p. 31 Chairman Mao.
The above statement by Mao urged me to respond to statement made by Mr Pilane and the letter submitted by his party to the Registrar of society. I listened to Mr Pilane’s interview on radio and also read a letter submitted by his party. Mr Pilane’s interview raised many issues, notably; 1) that UDC is an electoral arrangement and not a political party, 2) the Constitution submitted by comrades Boko and Saleshando is not the proper one (unlawful), and the proper one is that produced by constitutional stream, 3) big brother mentality, 4) the BNF Conference resolutions at Rakops have no bearing in UDC, 5) the UDC Congress was a gathering of friends and 6) that the operational of Constitution of UDC is the one registered on the 23rd August 2012. These are some of the issues he discussed on the 18th July 2018 at Duma Fm.
I now wish to respond accordingly and put to rest a lot of misleading statements made during the said interview. I state from the onset that, I was a member of the Constitutional stream under the UDC banner. I also want to concede upfront that the operational Constitution of UDC is the one registered on the 23rd August 2012 until the Registrar of Societies approves the one submitted by Presidents Boko and Saleshando. I will start with the genesis of the UDC Constitutional amendment and thereafter deal with Pilane’s misleading statements.
GENESIS OF UDC CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS
It is imperative to state that UDC NEC agreed in February 2016 or thereabout that the operational constitution be amended and set up terms of reference with the following objectives:
A constitution that is simple, clear and practicable, and conducive to cultivating an efficient, effective and excellent political entity and organisation. Conceive, crystalize and draft a comprehensive constitution of the UDC that is a significant improvement of the current one. Advance a revised constitution that is conducive to the ideals and values of the UDC over the long term, one that will stand the test of time.
The said UDC NEC meeting also resolved that the draft constitution be completed by 15th May 2016 whilst final draft was envisaged to be ready by 30th August 2016 and UDC Constitutional Congress was envisaged to be in September 2016. Unfortunately, the constitutional congress did not take place in September 2016 since the Constitutional stream completed its work on the 15th October 2016 with referrals to the Main Negotiating Team (MNT) to resolve differences arising from the Constitutional stream. Having outlined the background information, I now refute Mr Pilane’s misleading statements one by one.
IS UDC NOT A POLITICAL PARTY?
Mr Pilane contends that UDC is not a political party but an electoral arrangement. The million dollar question that springs to fore is, what is a political party? According to Pilane, an electoral arrangement is not a political party. I beg to differ. Any political formation be it an alliance, merger, coalition or whatever nomenclature it uses to label itself, as long as it contests for the assumption of state power, is a political party.
Section 150(2) of the Electoral Act (cap.02:09) clear states that a political party may apply through its leader or secretary for registration of a symbol to be used by it at elections. The High Court interpreted section 148 (predecessor to section 150(2) above) and held that only political parties (apart from Independent candidates) register to contest state power not non-political formations [see BPP v BAM & others (2002)2 BLR 333 at 340].
Article 3.3 of the Constitution of UDC registered in 2012 clearly states that UDC is a political party. It provides thus; “The Umbrella shall contest elections as a registered political party drawing its electoral support from all sections of the society of Botswana”. The same provision still exists in the Constitution submitted by UDC President and his Vice-President Saleshando and it exists in the one registered by BMD. To this end, Pilane misled Batswana by saying UDC is not a political party and I am at lost what he wanted to achieve by that statement.
WHICH UDC CONSTITUTION AMENDMENT IS VALID?
This question arises from the fact that Pilane said he does not recognise the one submitted by UDC President and his Vice-President, comrade Saleshando, thereby claiming that his, is the legitimate one. There is a reason why Pilane wants a draft rejected by the Constitutional stream. The reason is, he conveniently appointed himself First Vice-President. That is where his interest lies.
Pilane’s interest in his so-called Constitution is captured by Article 8.1(b) of the draft submitted by his party to the Registrar of Societies on the 18th July 2018, which reads that; “the person who, for the time being, is the President of the BMD shall be the First Deputy President of the UDC responsible for Administration and Management and shall be the First Vice-President of the Republic of Botswana when the UDC is in power”.
In the interview Pilane misleadingly said that the constitution of Constitutional stream is the valid one because all four parties accepted the draft whilst the one submitted by comrade Boko and Saleshando is unknown to him. Pilane statement is far away from the truth. The truth is that the final meeting of the UDC Constitutional stream was held in Francistown on the 15th October 2016. From UDC, only BPP and BNF attended and Pilane did not attend and none from BMD attended the said meeting. BCP was duly represented.
In the said meeting BCP and UDC were deadlocked on the issue of staffing of UDC NEC as well as who should be First Vice-President of UDC and the State upon assumption of power. It is imperative to state that the issue of two Vice- Presidents was mooted by BNF representatives during their consultation with the Secretary General in order to break deadlock. Each party Representatives were permitted to seek guidance from their principals on the deadlock.
Upon reporting back, BPP, BNF and BMD agreed on the principle that they be two Vice- Presidents. BCP representatives rejected the proposal of Two Vice- Presidents. Similarly, BCP, BNF and BPP agreed that there were two Negotiating parties, being UDC and BCP, whilst Pilane made it clear that they were four (4) political parties and he represented BMD not UDC.
His reasoning was, if he accepted that the negotiations were between BCP and UDC that would mean that BCP would have half of the positions in UDC NEC as well as constituency allocations. The BCP denied his exposition and explained that it only applies to UDC Presidency but he maintained his stance nonetheless.
After protracted persuasions and prodding, members of the Constitutional stream agreed at Francistown that we were deadlocked and we could not agree on the composition of the Executive of the structure of UDC+ at party level and the composition of the Executive arm at National level upon assumption of power. At Francistown, the Constitutional stream agreed that Nelson Ramaotwana of UDC and Martin Dingake of BCP should author a referral to the Main Negotiating Team capturing the areas of disagreements. We did author a referral, of which its main theme was shared in what’s up group of the Constitutional stream. The said referral was signed by Ramaotwana and Dingake.
For avoidance of doubt, the BCP never supported the creation of two Vice-Presidents at UDC and State levels. The Constitutional stream resolved as follows in relation to the creation of two Vice-Presidents;
“We were also not agreeable on whether or not we should have two (2) Vice-Presidents. The BCP is against the creation of two Vice-Presidents at both party level and national level. For the longest time, as a party, they have taken the position that BDP Government has been creating positions for its members without any justification. In any event, under the current constitutional dispensation, there is only one Vice-President, who by law is entitled to take over the Presidency in the event of inability of the President to discharge his functions.
The UDC representatives say it is logically sound to cede the Vice-Presidency to the BCP in view of the fact that the BCP has ceded the Presidency to the UDC. However, the UDC suggested that in light of the sentiments expressed by the BMD to the effect that it is not willing to concede the running mate-ship of UDC to the BCP, there is need to consider the feasibility of two Vice- Presidents at National Level.
Given the legal hurdles of having two Vice-Presidents at National level, it was agreed that the matter is sensitive to warrant a discussion in the presence of the BMD, which at the last meeting they weren’t, and had asked that the meeting proceed. Given the sensitive and the BMD absence then, the UDC collective then present, thought a referral was best. A referral was therefore agreed upon”. In light of the above referral by the Constitutional stream, it is clear that Pilane once more fed Batswana with misleading tales to suit his ambition- First Vice-Presidency.
It is clear that the BCP at the Constitutional stream rejected the notion of two Vice-Presidents. After referral to the Main Negotiating Team (MNT), our draft was improved by removing plus (+), Secretary General Post. The MNT also added Congress as a structure. The Presidents of BCP and UDC also debated the feasibility of two Vice- Presidents and BCP compromised by allowing it for progress sake.
The above explanation takes me to the next issue raised by BMD objection to the Registrar of Societies dated 18th July 2018, especially paragraph 16 thereof; which reads thus;
“The only new constitution of the UDC which was negotiated and unanimously agreed by the Constitution Stream and improved by the Upper Negotiating Body comprising equal representation of all 4 parties is the only one we accept as legitimate and as worthy of approval and registration by the Registrar. We attach that Constitution hereto”.
I have already demonstrated the debates and disagreements of the Constitutional stream above and there is no need to repeat same here, save to say the BMD letter is fallacious. The Constitution submitted by BMD at the Registrar of Societies is exactly the same with the one, the Constitutional Stream disagreed about. No improvements are contained in BMD constitution as submitted at the Registrar of societies, except the absence of plus (+) in the name UDC. What a disgrace?
The BMD conveniently omitted to state that the Main Negotiating Team included the UDC Congress as the Supreme Body and same was discussed and agreed to by the Presidents of UDC and BCP. BMD also conveniently omitted to tell the nation that the process started at streams, through MNT and ended with UDC and BCP Presidents. This then takes me to confidently answer the question, which constitution is valid? The answer is, the one submitted by Boko and Saleshando on the 13th July 2018.
REASONS WHY BOKO AND SALESHANDO’S CONSTITUTION IS VALID
When negotiations were commissioned in August 2016 at Oasis Motel, all four parties agreed that the negotiations were between BCP and UDC.
All four parties agreed that there were three layers, commencing with streams, through MNT and at the apex being BCP and UDC Presidents.
All four parties agreed that the main purposes of streams were to gather data to enable MNT to speedily conclude talks.
It was also agreed that where the streams were deadlocked there should refer the matter to MNT and in turn if MNT was deadlock, it would refer the matter to UDC and BCP Presidents for finalisation and/or resolution.
In this vein, the constitutional stream disagreed and deadlocked and referred the matter to MNT. MNT as the main negotiating team, had power to overhaul, what the lower stream proposed and in this case, it included Congress as a structure of UDC.
The Presidents of BCP and UDC also agreed on two Vice-Presidents of equal status as announced by comrade Nehemiah Modubule late last year in a UDC Press conference addressed by Presidents of UDC and BCP, in the presence of BMD and BPP.
The final product of the constitution of UDC is what BCP and UDC Presidents agreed upon and same was tendered to UDC NEC and in turn UDC NEC convened UDC congress to settle the draft once and for all.
Again Pilane and his BMD submitted a constitution that was rejected by the constitutional stream, MNT and Presidents of BCP and UDC. To say Pilane’s draft constitution was the correct one is a fallacy? Assuming I am wrong; is there any other authoritative source that backs up my explanations above. Before, I deal with authoritative sources, let me bring to your attention another BMD and Pilane’s fallacies as contained at paragraph 11 of their letter dated 15th July 2018 submitted to the Registrar of societies on the 18th July 2018 which reads;
“In addition to that, the new constitution which they claim is of the UDC is unknown to the BMD, the BMD has not participated in its preparation, the BMD now knows but does not agree with what it contains, the BMD does not know who prepared it and on whose instructions, the BMD does not agree to the approval and registration of that constitution by the Registrar, and the BMD opposes the approval and registration of that constitution”.
Is it correct to say that the BMD does not know who prepared it? What a joke? Comrade Modubule sat in the MNT where it was agreed to remove first and second Deputy President and replaced same with just two Vice-Presidents of equal status. An addition of Congress as a structure was also made by MNT. The said agreements were then submitted to the BCP and UDC Presidents to endorse and they did not agree to them.
Any doubting Thomas is referred to the report of the BNF President delivered to the BNF Central Committee on the 16th January 2018, which report covers all processes from streams up to the BCP and UDC Presidents, especially paragraphs 19-27 thereof. The said paragraphs are surmised as follows:
“When all lower stages of the process were concluded all matters from these were referred to the Presidents who were to meet and render their final decisions on all matters and aspects of the process. The meeting of the Presidents was held in Francistown and were attended primarily by the UDC President for the one part and the BCP President, for the other part.
The President of UDC brought along … the then President of BMD as well as the President of BPP. No agreement could be reached at that meeting. The UDC then convened its NEC to discuss the developments. At this meeting all the outstanding issues were resolved by the UDC NEC and contact was made with BCP immediately to seal the agreement and it was duly sealed. … at the stage at which we are, the report of the Transition Team has been submitted to the Presidents who have discussed it generally and have moved the NEC to convene a Constitutional Congress to extensively discuss and settle the Constitution before submitting it to the Registrar of Societies for Registration. The Congress will be held on the 23rd February 2018 in Gaborone”.
The answer as to who gave instructions is contained in Boko’s report. UDC NEC concluded all outstanding issues and negotiation with BCP was sealed by the UDC President and BCP President. The instruction came from the said two Presidents as mandated by their respective parties, namely, UDC and BCP. Having debunked Pilane and BMD fallacies, I now turn to refute another fallacy relating to the status of UDC Congress held on the 23rd February 2018.
The 490-hectare campus researches the world’s deadliest pathogens, including Anthrax (in 1944, the Roosevelt administration ordered 1 million anthrax bombs from Fort Detrick), Ebola, smallpox, and … you guessed right: coronaviruses. The facility, which carries out paid research projects for government agencies (including the CIA), universities and drug companies most of whom owned by the highly sinister military-industrial complex, employs 900 people.
Between 1945 and 1969, the sprawling complex (which has since become the US’s ”bio-defence centre” to put it mildly) was the hub of the US biological weapons programme. It was at Fort Detrick that Project MK Ultra, a top-secret CIA quest to subject the human mind to routine robotic manipulation, a monstrosity the CIA openly owned up to in a congressional inquisition in 1975, was carried out. In the consequent experiments, the guinea pigs comprised not only of people of the forgotten corner of America – inmates, prostitutes and the homeless but also prisoners of war and even regular US servicemen.
These unwitting participants underwent up to a 20-year-long ordeal of barbarous experiments involving psychoactive drugs (such as LSD), forced electroshocks, physical and sexual abuses, as well as a myriad of other torments. The experiments not only violated international law, but also the CIA’s own charter which forbids domestic activities. Over 180 doctors and researchers took part in these horrendous experiments and this in a country which touts itself as the most civilised on the globe!
Was the coronavirus actually manufactured at Fort Detrick (like HIV as I shall demonstrate at the appropriate time) and simply tactfully patented to other equally cacodemonic places such as the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China?
THE FORT DETRICK SCIENTISTS’ PROPHECY WAS WELL-INFORMED
About two years before the term novel coronavirus became a familiar feature in day-to-day banter, two scientist cryptically served advance warning of its imminence. They were Allison Totura and Sina Bavari, both researchers at Fort Detrick.
The two scientists talked of “novel highly pathogenic coronaviruses that may emerge from animal reservoir hosts”, adding, “These coronaviruses may have the potential to cause devastating pandemics due to unique features in virus biology including rapid viral replication, broad host range, cross-species transmission, person-to-person transmission, and lack of herd immunity in human populations … Associated with novel respiratory syndromes, they move from person-to-person via close contact and can result in high morbidity and mortality caused by the progression to acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS).”
All the above constitute some of the documented attributes and characteristics of the virus presently on the loose – the propagator of Covid-19. A recent clinical review of Covid-19 in The Economist seemed to bear out this prognostication when it said, “It is ARDS that sees people rushed to intensive-care units and put on ventilators”. As if sounding forth a veritable prophecy, the two scientists besought governments to start working on counter-measures there and then that could be “effective against such a virus”.
Well, it was not by sheer happenstance that Tortura and Bavari turned out to have been so incredibly and ominously prescient. They had it on good authority, having witnessed at ringside what the virus was capable of in the context of their own laboratory. The gory scenario they painted for us came not from secondary sources but from the proverbial horse’s mouth folks.
CDC’S RECKLESS ADMISSION
In March this year, Robert Redfield, the US Director for the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), told the House of Representatives’ Oversight Committee that it had transpired that some members of the American populace who were certified as having died of influenza turned out to have harboured the novel coronavirus per posthumous analysis of their tissue.
Redfield was not pressed to elaborate but the message was loud and clear – Covid-19 had been doing the rounds in the US much earlier than it was generally supposed and that the extent to which it was mistaken for flu was by far much more commonplace than was openly admitted. An outspoken Chinese diplomat, Zhao Lijian, seized on this rather casual revelation and insisted that the US disclose further information, exercise transparency on coronavirus cases and provide an explanation to the public.
But that was not all the beef Zhao had with the US. He further charged that the coronavirus was possibly transplanted to China by the US: whether inadvertently or by deliberate design he did not say. Zhao pointed to the Military World Games of October 2019, in which US army representatives took part, as the context in which the coronavirus irrupted into China. Did the allegation ring hollow or there was a ring of truth to it?
THE BENASSIE FACTOR
The Military World Games, an Olympic-style spectrum of competitive action, are held every four years. The 2019 episode took place in Wuhan, China. The 7th such, the games ran from October 18 to October 27. The US contingent comprised of 17 teams of over 280 athletes, plus an innumerable other staff members. Altogether, over 9000 athletes from 110 countries were on hand to showcase their athletic mettle in more than 27 sports. All NATO countries were present, with Africa on its part represented by 30 countries who included Botswana, Egypt, Kenya, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
Besides the singular number of participants, the event notched up a whole array of firsts. One report spelt them out thus: “The first time the games were staged outside of military bases, the first time the games were all held in the same city, the first time an Athletes’ Village was constructed, the first time TV and VR systems were powered by 5G telecom technology, and the first use of all-round volunteer services for each delegation.”
Now, here is the clincher: the location of the guest house for the US team was located in the immediate neighbourhood of the Wuhan Seafood Market, the place the Chinese authorities to this day contend was the diffusion point of the coronavirus. But there is more: according to some reports, the person who allegedly but unwittingly transmitted the virus to the people milling about the market – Patient Zero of Covid-19 – was one Maatie Benassie.
Benassie, 52, is a security officer of Sergeant First Class rank at the Fort Belvoir military base in Virginia and took part in the 50-mile cycling road race in the same competitions. In the final lap, she was accidentally knocked down by a fellow contestant and sustained a fractured rib and a concussion though she soldiered on and completed the race with the agonising adversity. Inevitably, she saw a bit of time in a local health facility. According to information dug up by George Webb, an investigative journalist based in Washington DC, Benassie would later test positive for Covid-19 at the Fort Belvoir Community Hospital.
Incidentally, Benassie apparently passed on the virus to other US soldiers at the games, who were hospitalised right there in China before they were airlifted back to the US. The US government straightaway prohibited the publicising of details on the matter under the time-honoured excuse of “national security interests”, which raised eyebrows as a matter-of-course. As if that was not fishy enough, the US out of the blue tightened Chinese visas to the US at the conclusion of the games.
The rest, as they say, is history: two months later, Covid-19 had taken hold on China territory. “From that date onwards,” said one report, “one to five new cases were reported each day. By December 15, the total number of infections stood at 27 — the first double-digit daily rise was reported on December 17 — and by December 20, the total number of confirmed cases had reached 60.”
TWO CURIOUS RESEARCH HALTINGS
Is it a coincidence that all the US soldiers who fell ill at the Wuhan games did their preparatory training at the Fort Belvoir military base, only a 15-minutes’ drive from Fort Detrick?
That Fort Detrick is a plain-sight perpetrator of pathogenic evils is evidenced by a number of highly suspicious happenings concerning it. Remember the 2001 anthrax mailing attacks on government and media houses which killed five people right on US territory? The two principal suspects who puzzlingly were never charged, worked as microbiologists at Fort Detrick. Of the two, Bruce Ivins, who was the more culpable, died in 2008 of “suicide”. For “suicide”, read “elimination”, probably because he was in the process of spilling the beans and therefore cast the US government in a stigmatically diabolical light. Indeed, the following year, all research projects at Fort Detrick were suspended on grounds that the institute was “storing pathogens not listed in its database”. The real truth was likely much more reprehensible.
In 2014, there was a mini local pandemic in the US which killed thousands of people and which the mainstream media were not gutsy enough to report. It arose following the weaponisation at Fort Detrick of the H7N9 virus, prompting the Obama administration to at once declare a moratorium on the research and withdraw funding.
The Trump administration, however, which has a pathological fixation on undoing practically all the good Obama did, reinstated the research under new rigorous guidelines in 2017. But since old habits die hard, the new guidelines were flouted at will, leading to another shutdown of the whole research gamut at the institute in August 2019. This, nonetheless, was not wholesale as other areas of research, such as experiments to make bird flu more transmissible and which had begun in 2012, proceeded apace. As one commentator pointedly wondered aloud, was it really necessary to study how to make H5N1, which causes a type of bird flu with an eye-popping mortality rate, more transmissible?
Consistent with its character, the CDC was not prepared to furnish particulars upon issuing the cease and desist order, citing “national security reasons”. Could the real reason have been the manufacture of the novel coronavirus courtesy of a tip-off by the more scrupulous scientists?
President Mokgweetsi Masisi may have breathed a huge sigh of relief when he emerged victorious in last year’s 2019 general elections, but the ultimate test of his presidency has only just begun.
From COVID-19 pandemic effects; disenchanted unemployed youth, deteriorating diplomatic relations with neighbouring South Africa as well as emerging instability within the ruling party — Masisi has a lot to resolve in the next few years.
Last week we started an unwanted cold war with Botswana’s main trade partner, South Africa, in what we consider an ill-conceived move. Never, in the history of this country has Botswana shown South Africa a cold shoulder – particularly since the fall of the apartheid regime.
It is without a doubt that our country’s survival depends on having good relations with South Africa. As the Chairperson of African National Congress (ANC), Gwede Mantashe once said, a good relationship between Botswana and South Africa is not optional but necessary.
No matter how aggrieved we feel, we should never engage in a diplomatic war — with due respect to other neighbours— with South Africa. We will never gain anything from starting a diplomatic war with South Africa.
In fact, doing so will imperil our economy, given that majority of businesses in the retail sector and services sector are South African companies.
Former cabinet minister and Phakalane Estates proprietor, David Magang once opined that Botswana’s poor manufacturing sector and importation of more than 80 percent of the foodstuffs from South Africa, effectively renders Botswana a neo-colony of the former.
Magang’s statement may look demeaning, but that is the truth, and all sorts of examples can be produced to support that. Perhaps it is time to realise that as a nation, we are not independent enough to behave the way we do. And for God’s sake, we are a landlocked country!
Recently, the effects of COVID-19 have exposed the fragility of our economy; the devastating pleas of the unemployed and the uncertainty of the future. Botswana’s two mainstay source of income; diamonds and tourism have been hit hard. Going forward, there is a need to chart a new pathway, and surely it is not an easy task.
The ground is becoming fertile for uprisings that are not desirable in any country. That the government has not responded positively to the rising unemployment challenge is the truth, and very soon as a nation we will wake up to this reality.
The magnitude of the problem is so serious that citizens are running out of patience. The government on the other hand has not done much to instil confidence by assuring the populace that there is a plan.
The general feeling is that, not much will change, hence some sections of the society, will try to use other means to ensure that their demands are taken into consideration. Botswana might have enjoyed peace and stability in the past, but there is guarantee that, under the current circumstances, the status quo will be maintained.
It is evident that, increasingly, indigenous citizens are becoming resentful of naturalised and other foreign nationals. Many believe naturalised citizens, especially those of Indian origin, are the major beneficiaries in the economy, while the rest of the society is side-lined.
The resentfulness is likely to intensify going forward. We needed not to be heading in this direction. We needed not to be racist in our approach but when the pleas of the large section of the society are ignored, this is bound to happen.
It is should be the intention of every government that seeks to strive on non-racialism to ensure that there is shared prosperity. Share prosperity is the only way to make people of different races in one society to embrace each other, however, we have failed in this respect.
Masisi’s task goes beyond just delivering jobs and building a nation that we all desire, but he also has an immediate task of achieving stability within his own party. The matter is so serious that, there are threats of defection by a number of MPs, and if he does not arrest this, his government may collapse before completing the five year mandate.
The problems extend to the party itself, where Masisi found himself at war with his Secretary General, Mpho Balopi. The war is not just the fight for Central Committee position, but forms part of the succession plan.
If we are to go by what I can term as conventional wisdom, the coronavirus arose in China’s Hubei province in the city of Wuhan. According to the WHO, the Chinese government filed the country’s first confirmed Covid-19 case with the international health regulator on December 8, 2019, with the first case outside of China’s boarders reported in Thailand on January 13, 2020.
We now know, however, courtesy of a paper in The Lancet that was authored by doctors from Wuhan’s Jinhintan Hospital, that the first such case was logged on December 1. We have also come to learn that in point of fact, the first patient, the so-called Patient Zero, may have presented with the as yet unfathomed Covid-9 symptoms in a public health facility on November 17. This is according to a report in the South China Morning Post, which claims to have seen classified medical government reports.
The Post report says nine cases of Covid-19 sufferers, aged between 39 and 79, were attended to during the month of November alone and that a total of 266 people officially had the disease by December 31st. Clearly, the disease had been sedately circulating for some time before it exploded towards the end of the year considering that a great number of people do not present symptoms at all.
Yet the fact the disease was first announced in China and even laboratory-spawned in that country does not necessarily mean China was its veritable place of origin. It almost certainly had multiple origins and may have occurred much earlier in other places on the globe.
AMERICA’S FLU ILLNESS TSUNAMI
Unbeknownst to much of the world, Covid-19 struck in Europe and the USA about the same time it did so in China, if not much earlier, it has now emerged. This is not tabloid hogwash or simply idle gossip folks: it was reported by the highly estimable news outlets such as NBC News and The New York Times. Even Newsweek, which along with Time magazine constitute America’s leading two weekly political magazines, was adamant that the coronavirus outbreak must have occurred as early as September 2019 and that Wuhan was possibly not its birthplace as such. For some reason (or is it for partisan reasons?), the globally renowned broadcast media networks like CNN, BBC, and Sky News have chosen to self-gag on the matter.
If there’s one disease which is so notoriously recurrent and even death-dealing in the US, it is influenza – commonly referred to as the flu or common cold. Here in Africa, flu is no much of a big deal: it is so mild I personally do not know – nor have ever heard of – a single one person who died of flu. In the US, flu is some menace. For instance, in the 2017-18 season, over 61,000 deaths were linked to flu, and in the 2018-19 season, 34,200 succumbed to the disease. Every year, 10 percent of the US population, or 32 million people, contract flu, though only about 100,000 end up being hospitalised anyway.
In the US, the flu season ordinarily runs from October to May, straddling three of the country’s four-season set, namely fall (September to November), winter (December to February), and spring (March to May). The disease is particularly widespread in 16 states. Last year, the winter flu season began atypically early and with a big bang that had never been seen in 15 years according to a December 6, 2019 report by Associated Press (AP), a wire news agency. By the beginning of December or thereabouts, 1.7 million flu illnesses, 16,000 hospitalisations, and 900 flu-related deaths had taken place.
The Centre for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) put the number of people already dead from flu-related illnesses as of mid-March 2019 at between 29,000 and 59,000. This was in addition to the misery of hundreds of thousands of flu-related hospitalisations and millions of medical visits for flu symptoms that have raged in the course of the season. Some hospitals in New Orleans have reported the busiest patient traffic ever at their emergency departments.
Health authorities in Louisiana, which was the first to be impinged, said flu-like illnesses began to rocket in the month of October. Said the AP report: “There are different types of flu viruses, and the one causing illnesses in most parts of the country is a surprise.” Dave Osthus, a flu statistician at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, was quoted as saying, “This could be a precursor to something pretty bad. But we don’t know what that is.” Well, maybe we can venture an answer to the conundrum: the flu situation was exacerbated by the coronavirus.
THE CASE OF A NEW JERSEY MAYOR
The story of Michael Mellaham, the mayor of the New Jersey city of Belleville, has been widely reported in the Western world, albeit in the comparatively fringe media houses primarily lest the finger of indictment shift from China to the US. Sometime in November last year, Mellaham came down with an ailment that presented with Covid-19-like symptoms such as aches, high fevers, chills, and a sore throat, the latter of which went on for a full month. Right at the onset of his diseased condition, Mellaham went to see his doctor, who told him not to worry as it was little more than flu and would peter out in a matter of days. The illness lingered for much longer though he at long last fought it off. It was the sickest he had ever been in his adult life.
In April this year, Mellaham took a Covid-19 test and he was found not with Covid-19 per se but its antibodies, which crystal-clearly evinced he had the disease at some stage in the recent past. This is what he told China Global Television Network (CGTN) in May: “We’re told that they (people with Covid-19-like symptoms) don’t have the flu. They just have bronchitis. They just have a bad cough or it’s a bad cold. I think that we just weren’t expecting Covid-19 then, so therefore the doctors didn’t know what to call it or what to expect.”
Of the credibility of the test he took, known as IgM (Immunoglobulin M Test), the first antibody a body makes when it fights a new infection, Mellaham said, “The IgM is the more recent antibody, which would have shown that that antibody is more recent in my system, that my body more recently fought the coronavirus.”
The first publicly admitted case of coronavirus-triggered morbidity in the US was announced in January this year and involved a Californian who had recently returned from Wuhan, but as Mellaham pointedly put it, “that doesn’t mean it wasn’t here (on US soil) before that”.
SUDDENLY “MANY PIXELS”
On May 7, 2020, The New York Times reported of two men aged 57 and 69 who died in their homes in Santa Clara, California, on February 6 and 17 respectively, and this was 23 days before the US announced its first Covid-19 fatality in Kirkland, Washington, on February 29. Their demise was attributed to flu post-mortem but it later emerged that they had been victims of the novel coronavirus. Since they had never travelled outside their community for years, they must have contracted the disease within the locality.
The Santa Clara county’s chief medical office Sarah Cody said the deaths of the two was probably the tip of the iceberg of unknown size. Dr Jeffrey Smith, the Santa Clara county executive, he too a medical doctor, opined that the coronavirus must have been spreading in California unrecognised for a long time now.
Indeed, if we take stock of the fact that passengers on board the Grand Princess cruise ship, which departed California on February 11, developed Covid-19 whilst on board, the odds certainly are that Covid-19 hit much earlier in the US than it hit the headlines. As Cody pointedly put it, “We had so few pixels you could hardly pick out the image. Suddenly, we have so many pixels all of sudden that we now realise we didn’t know what we were looking for.”
THE FRENCH CONNECTION
In Europe, a radiology research team at the Albert Schweitzer Hospital in Colma, France, has traced the first Covid-19 case in that country to November 16, 2019 according to reports by NBC News and The New York Times. The researchers came to this finding after examining 2500 chest X-rays taken from November 1, 2019 to April 30 this year.
French authorities declared the first Covid-19 case on January 24 having detected it in three nationals who had recently been to China, though it has now transpired that whilst one finger was point to China, four were point back at France itself.
It came to light last month that a sample taken from a French patient with pneumonia on December 27 subsequently tested positive for the coronavirus. “There’s no doubt for us it was already there in December,” Dr Yves Cohen, head of intensive care at the Avicenne and Jean Verdier hospitals in the northern suburbs of Paris, told The New York Times on May 4 this year. “It is quite possible that there were isolated cases that led to transmission chains that died down.”
Weighing in on the matter too, Michel Schmitt, who led the Albert Schweitzer Hospital research, said, “The testimonies are really rich; they show that people felt that something strange was going on, but they were not in a capacity to raise the alarm.”
THE CAMBRIDGE AND UCL FINDINGS
Meanwhile, two independent research projects by two of Britain’s premier institutions of learning have turned up evidence that Covid-19 was in Europe as early as the third quarter of 2019. Following a study to understand the historical processes that led to the Covid-19 pandemic, the University of Cambridge found that the coronavirus outbreak appears to have started between September 13 and December 7 in 2019.
The University College London’s Genetics Institute (UCL) analysed genomes from the Covid-19 virus in over 7,500 people and deduced that the pandemic must have started between October 6 and December 11 in 2019. The UCL team analysed virus genomes, using published sequences from over 7,500 people with Covid-19 across the globe. Their report, titled HYPERLINK “https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1567134820301829” \l “s0045” \t “_blank” Emergence of Genomic Diversity and Recurrent Mutations in SARS-CoV-2, was published in the May 6, 2020 edition of the journal Infection, Genetics and Evolution.