Malawi’s Survey Confirms AstraZeneca Vaccine Efficacy

In Malawi, a survey by the Ministry of Health to help ascertain the efficacy of AstraZeneca vaccine has shown its effectiveness in fighting the coronavirus. The survey was based on current hospital admissions of COVID-19 patients across the country.

The preliminary results of the findings released Saturday were based on COVID-19 admissions between June 26 and July 8 of this year.

These results show that over 80% of 227 COVID-19 patients admitted during the period were those not vaccinated.

And those who have only had one AstraZeneca jab were 12% while those fully vaccinated only accounted for 4%.

The secretary of the Ministry of Health, Dr. Charles Mwansambo, says it’s still too early to measure the effectiveness of the AstraZeneca vaccine based on these findings.

“We are still vaccinating more and presently our vaccination status is still low. But what we have found out so far is that the majority of those that are coming in those that are not vaccinated,” he said.

However, he says the findings would help end fears and doubts some Malawians had over the vaccine, which prevented them from getting vaccinated.

Malawi has currently vaccinated about 400,000 people of the 11 million needed to reach herd immunity.

“So we encourage more people to come for vaccination because obviously this is strongly putting a case for vaccination. So I encourage citizens to make sure that they come for vaccination,” said Mwansambo.

In May, Malawi destroyed about 20,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine which had expired.

The incineration was largely because many Malawians were reluctant to be vaccinated over concerns on the vaccine’s safety and efficacy.

Lydia Kamwana, a baker in Blantyre, said the survey is a wake-up call to her.

“I haven’t been vaccinated,” she said. “I really wanted to go for the jab but then I was so scared. And when I saw those findings, the results are making sense and I am convinced I will get the jab once the vaccine is in stock.”

Maziko Matemba is the national community ambassador for health in Malawi. He welcomes the survey findings but he says the government is now responsible to ensure it has enough vaccine for its people.

“As you know, this is one or less than one percent of the population which has been vaccinated. So the bigger population is not well vaccinated,” he said.

However, Mwansambo said Malawi is expected to receive a donation of 192,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccines Thursday to restock its vaccination centers, which ran out of vaccine mid-June.

Source: Voice of America

South Sudan’s Liberation Struggle Supplanted by Autocracy

Ten years after gaining independence, some South Sudanese say their struggle for liberation has been supplanted by an autocratic system of government led by the nation’s ruling party, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM).

Many of them complain about a lack of freedom to exercise their rights. They accuse the SPLM and President Salva Kiir of doing very little to protect open political space. They and some analysts also blame the SPLM party for a power struggle that turned into a five-and-a-half year civil war.

Deng Mading, the acting SPLM information secretary, admits some in the party’s leadership helped plunge the country into conflict but does not think the SPLM as a whole is to blame for South Sudan’s current rash of problems.

“I will argue that the individuals’ behavior within the SPLM brought a problem into SPLM as an institution,” he told “South Sudan in Focus,” “but the SPLM as an institution on the other side of the argument, it is still like it was in 1983.”

As the SPLM came into power, according to analyst Bobova James at the Juba-based Institute for Social Policy and Research, it knew little about how to establish functioning government structures.

“Then individuals who are actually the leaders within the SPLM took that as an advantage to begin doing things in South Sudan the way they would like,” James told VOA’s “South Sudan in Focus.” He asserts that “If we have leaders who do not understand the democratic rule of law and governance processes, such leaders cannot even be able to introduce some of those processes within a government.”

James decried the level of politicization that has gripped not only the national government in Juba, but also has filtered down through the system.

“At the state level, we have these SPLM structures that once you become a governor of a state and then therefore you become the chairperson of the SPLM; once you become a commissioner of a county, you become the chairperson of the SPLM [there]. There is a lot of ambiguity. There is a lot of illegality within the SPLM itself.”

Freedom of expression is enshrined in the 2012 Political Parties Act and the country’s transitional constitution. Despite those declarations, the government’s various security organizations do not allow opposition politicians to speak openly, said Albino Akol Atak, a senior member of the African National Congress (ANC).

For example, he said, parties are not allowed to hold political rallies.

“If I am trying to conduct, let’s say, a public rally,” Atak told VOA, “the authorities will come in, everybody will want me to get permission from him and this permission is even restricted. I will be asked, ‘What are you going to present in this public rally?’ If this topic is contrary to what they believe, then I will not be given that permission to conduct a public rally.”

In a report released earlier this year, Human Rights Watch documented a number of incidents carried out by National Security Service officers that included the detention of Moses Monday, director of the Organization for Non-Violence. Monday was detained because his organization erected billboards that demanded financial transparency in government spending.

The report also said security officers detained a political activist identified as Kanybil Noon and held him without charge for 117 days. It said Noon was released on condition that he stop criticizing the government.

While defending his party, SPLM’s Mading said that, to ensure good governance, SPLM has committed itself to implementing the 2018 revitalized peace agreement. He said free and open elections are critical to achieving that goal.

“After the elections, people of South Sudan will judge because we need to give people of South Sudan a voice and make your government to be legitimate,” he said.

South Sudanese youth rights activist Wani Stephen Elias also wants people to be able to safely express their opinions.

“Much space should be given for citizens,” he said, “to express their interest in terms of the governance, how they want corruption to be tackled, how education should be, how the health system is they want it to be, then how road infrastructure, leadership and transparency in terms of decision-making process.”

South Sudanese singer Okuta Ciza Malish, 34, popularly known by his stage name Silva X, said that as his country marks a decade of freedom, it is time for its leaders and their government to renew their commitment to the values that drove their struggle for freedom.

“May this 10th anniversary bring us peace, love, unity and freedom and really good security,” he said. “Let’s hope it becomes a restarting point for us to reflect on everything that we did in the past — good or bad — and put a possible way forward that will help every citizen in this country.”

Source: Voice of America

Dozens Arrested in South Africa Riots Following Zuma’s Imprisonment

Protests against the jailing of former South African president Jacob Zuma spread from his hometown to the country’s main economic hub of Johannesburg Sunday.

Shops in Johannesburg were looted overnight and a section of the major M2 highway was closed as some protests turned violent.

Police say 62 people have been arrested in connection with riots since Zuma was imprisoned last Wednesday.

The body of a 40-year-old man has been recovered from one of the shops that was set on fire over the weekend, according to police.

President Cyril Ramaphosa called for calm Sunday, urging protesters to demonstrate peacefully.

“People have been intimidated and threatened, and some have even been hurt,” Ramaphosa said.

Zuma is serving a 15-month sentence for contempt of court after he failed to testify while being investigated for corruption during his term as president from 2009-2018.

Protests began immediately following his arrest last week in his home province of KwaZulu-Natal.

Shops in KwaZulu-Natal as well as the Gauteng region, where Johannesburg is, will remain closed Monday for security reasons, Agence France-Presse reported.

Zuma has denied allegations that widespread corruption took place under his leadership, and he refused to participate in an inquiry that began during his final weeks in office.

He has also challenged his current sentence, arguing in part that he will be at risk of catching COVID-19 while imprisoned. A court is expected to hear his challenge on Monday.

Zuma, a prominent anti-apartheid fighter, remains popular despite the allegations of corruption.

Source: Voice of America