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  • Christine Chumbler
    Malaria drug offers new hope Scientists are reported to have developed a cure for malaria that has been successfully tested on monkeys. A team of researchers
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 15, 2002
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      Malaria drug offers new

      Scientists are reported to have developed a
      cure for malaria that has been successfully
      tested on monkeys.

      A team of researchers discovered a drug which
      stops the disease from spreading by preventing
      malaria parasites from reproducing.

      The disease is one of
      the most prevalent and
      deadly in the world,
      affecting about half a
      billion people each year,
      according to the World
      Health Organisation

      The new vaccine could be available for testing
      on human beings within about two years,
      reports the American journal Science.

      Until now, most anti-malaria drugs have only
      had limited effectiveness and new strains of
      the disease have developed which are
      resistant to treatment.

      The team of European and South African
      scientists said the new drug, called G25,
      completely cured monkeys infected with the
      disease in laboratory experiments.


      Malaria is transmitted to victims by
      blood-sucking mosquitoes.

      Microscopic parasites
      enter the victim's
      blood stream and liver,
      where they multiply,
      before entering red
      blood cells.

      There they continue
      to reproduce, burst
      the blood cells and
      infect more red blood
      cells in an ongoing

      The parasites can
      eventually kill 70% of
      blood cells, causing anaemia, coma and death.

      G25 blocks the parasites' ability to multiply in
      the blood cells by preventing it from making
      protective membrane, crucial to the parasites'
      life cycle.

      Team leader Dr Henri
      Vial, from the French
      National Centre of
      Scientific Research, said
      the new drug killed all
      the parasites within two

      Other studies suggest
      that the parasite failed to develop resistance
      to the new drug, even though researchers
      encouraged it to do so.

      Malaria kills almost 3m people, mostly in Africa
      and Southeast Asia, each year, according to
      WHO figures.

      One of the main drawbacks to G25 is that it
      has to be injected, although tablet form should
      be available within two years.

      "For people from Africa or from Asia it is more
      safe to take the drug orally," said Mr Vial.

      Mr Vial said that while it worked well, G25 was
      not the definitive cure and work was already
      under way to develop an improved version.


      EU monitor stripped of
      Zimbabwe visa

      Zimbabwe has withdrawn the tourist visa it
      granted to the head of the European Union
      team sent to monitor next month's presidential

      The move raises the
      possibility that the EU
      will impose sanctions
      against the government
      of President Robert

      Zimbabwe has granted
      accreditation to about
      30 EU monitors, but had
      refused to include the Swedish head of the
      team, Pierre Shori, because it accuses Sweden
      - and five other EU members - of bias.

      Sweden's Foreign Minister Anna Lindh said
      Zimbabwe had revoked Mr Schori's visa
      because he had made political statements.

      Ms Lindh warned that if Mr Schori were
      expelled, it would create a very serious

      Key condition

      The acceptance of EU electoral observers was
      a key condition laid down by Brussels for the
      avoidance of targeted sanctions against
      leading members of the Zimbabwean

      If implemented, the
      sanctions would
      include a travel ban on
      Mr Mugabe, his family
      and close associates,
      a freeze on any assets
      they might hold in EU
      member states, and a
      suspension of
      long-tem development

      The EU members have
      also said they will
      impose those
      sanctions if they believe that the voting has
      not been free and fair, or if media coverage of
      it is restricted.

      A report is being prepared for a meeting of
      foreign ministers in Brussels next Monday, and
      it is thought a decision could be taken then.

      President Mugabe is expected to face his
      toughest challenge in his 22 years in power in
      the 9-10 March poll.

      International pressure on Zimbabwe to allow
      observers has grown as human rights groups
      have warned of a "climate of fear and terror" in
      the run-up to the elections.

      On Wednesday evening, dozens were reported
      injured when self-styled war veterans and
      ruling party supporters rampaged through
      Zimbabwe's second city of Bulawayo.


      Zimbabwe reporter
      feared for life

      Leading Zimbabwean journalist Basildon Peta
      has said he will not return home until he is sure
      of his safety.

      Mr Peta, who is the local correspondent of the
      British newspaper, The Independent, fled to
      South Africa on Thursday night, after attacks
      on him in the state-controlled media.

      Mr Peta also writes for
      Zimbabwe's Financial
      Gazette and heads the
      country's union of

      After arriving in South
      Africa, Mr Peta told the
      BBC that the level of
      vilification and number
      of threats to which he
      had been subjected in Zimbabwe's
      state-controlled media had become

      "There was no doubt my life was at risk," he
      said, adding that he would rather be regarded
      as a living coward than a dead hero.

      He said that he and his family have come
      under sustained intimidation for the past two
      years; that envelopes full of bullets were left
      on his doorstep, and that he received so many
      phone calls in the middle of the night
      threatening him with death that he eventually
      disconnected his line.

      Media campaign

      On Wednesday, Zimbabwean television
      devoted the first 13 minutes of its main news
      bulletin to reports about Mr Peta, accusing him
      of lying about the details of his recent
      overnight detention in a Harare prison.

      The Independent
      website said Mr Peta
      took an evening flight
      out of Zimbabwe on
      Thursday to join his
      wife and young child
      already in exile.

      "There has been a big
      attempt to try to
      destroy me
      completely. I will go
      back as soon as I feel
      it is safe, possibly
      before the election,"
      Mr Peta said.

      The Independent said Mr Peta had been the
      victim of an erroneous report by the Media
      Institute of Southern Africa (Misa) alleging
      that he had spent less than five hours in
      custody, rather than the 15 hours he actually
      spent in a police cell.

      The false report was exploited by the
      authorities to vilify him, The Independent said,
      adding that the journalist's name last year
      topped a Zimbabwean security service hit list.

      After emerging from detention in Harare on 5
      February, Mr Peta stressed that he would not
      be bowed by Zimbabwean President Robert
      Mugabe's administration.

      "I will continue as I have always done," he told
      BBC radio.

      Row over media bill

      The Zimbabwean Government has denied new
      laws were designed to stifle opposition in the
      run-up to next month's presidential elections.

      The Independent said
      Mr Peta had faced
      charges of failing to
      notify authorities
      about a demonstration
      against a controversial
      new media bill, but
      these had been
      dropped, according to
      his lawyer, Tawanda

      Mr Peta was the first
      journalist to be
      detained under the
      Public Order and Security Act, just days after
      it came into effect.

      If convicted, he could have been sentenced to
      two years in jail, the newspaper said.

      The law, passed earlier this month, makes it a
      crime to criticise or ridicule President Mugabe
      and prescribes the death penalty for acts of
      "insurgency, banditry, sabotage or terrorism".


      Tricks, lies and videotape

      Mugabe*s opponent is accused of plotting murder, but it appears to be a smear


      In a no expenses spared dirty tricks operation, the Zimbabwean government
      allegedly hired a dubious Canadian *political consultancy" that secretly filmed
      opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai using the word *eliminate" in connection with
      President Robert Mugabe.

      The tape formed the key element of a 50-minute documentary produced by
      Australian television station SBS, which claimed that Tsvangirai asked a Canadian
      company, Dickens and Madson, to arrange Mugabe's assassination.

      According to Dickens and Madson's chief executive Ari Ben-Menashe, who was
      once employed as a junior officer in Israeli intelligence, his contact in the
      Zimbabwean government was Security Minister Nicholas Goche.

      Ben-Menashe claimed that his Montreal-based firm was approached last year by
      someone acting on behalf of Tsvangirai to help the Zimbabwe opposition party, the
      Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). He described the firm as a *political
      consultancy" and said he had known Mugabe for some time.

      In a statement, the company said its senior staff had *extensive contacts" with
      *intelligence agencies around the world".

      Time magazine has called Ben-Menashe a *veteran spinner of stunning-if-true-but
      yarns". He has been ruthlessly attacked in Newsweek and The Wall Street Journal.

      He was also the main source of allegations made in 1991 by an award-winning
      journalist, Seymour Hersh, about the late Robert Maxwell, Mirror Group journalists,
      the abduction of the Israeli nuclear whistle-blower Mordechai Vanunu, and assorted
      arms deals.

      Ben-Menashe first came to light when he was acquitted by a New York federal jury in
      1990 of charges that he had illegally sold Israeli-owned C-130 Hercules aircraft to
      Iran. The sale, he said, was part of a United States-sanctioned deal to win the
      release of American hostages.

      Asked how SBS got hold of the Tsvangirai video, Ben-Menashe replied: *That is
      neither here nor there."

      The tape was also given to the Zimbabwe government, probably in January,
      according to award-winning SBS film-maker and journalist Mark Davis who produced
      the documentary for the current affairs show Dateline.

      Tsvangirai had three meetings with Dickens and Madson, the first in London at the
      insistence of a Rupert Johnson, well known to the MDC, who had been approached
      by the Canadian company that said it wanted to represent the MDC in North America
      as it had good contacts in the White House.

      Tsvangirai believed the meeting would
      focus not only on fund-raising, but on
      political lobbying. Also present was MDC
      secretary general and constitutional
      lawyer Professor Welshman Ncube. They
      recall the meeting involved scenario
      planning, including discussions about
      Zimbabwe's military.

      Tsvangirai said on Wednesday that
      Ben-Menashe claimed to have good
      contacts with military officials and key
      government ministers.

      The Canadian company claim Tsvangirai asked them , at this first meeting, to be
      contracted to assassinate Mugabe. Both Tsvangirai and Ncube deny this as
      *absolute rubbish*. However, Tsvangirai said the MDC did contract Dickens and
      Madson to undertake political lobbying in North America.

      The second meeting, also held in London, was secretly recorded by Ben-Menashe.
      Tsvangirai attended the meeting on his own and again the meeting involved scenario
      planning, discussing every eventuality, including a coup d'état and the possibiliy of
      hat Mugabe being killed in the event of one taking place.

      The third meeting took place in Montreal in December and was filmed using a
      surveillance camera because, Ben-Menashe said, he was horrified at Tsvangirai's
      plans to assassinate Mugabe, and/or stage a coup d'état and needed proof of the

      During the interview it is clear from the transcript that Ben-Menashe is putting leading
      questions to Tsvangarai. The subsequent conversation is disjointed. Finally
      Tsvangirai uses the word *elimination". At no time does he talk about a plot to
      assassinate Mugabe, nor does he talk of any plan to stage a coup, although he
      makes reference to the military and allegedly uses the word *eliminate" again.

      Furthermore, there is no evidence in the transcript that Tsvangirai hired the company
      to assassinate Mugabe, there is only the word of the three employees of the
      company in the pay of the Zimbabwe government.

      Tsvangirai said that Ben-Menashe had told him that as a political consultant he had
      dealings with Mugabe and was frustrated when he discovered the old man would not
      exit the arena.

      Tsvangirai also said he was told by Ben-Menashe that Mugabe had *stashed
      US$400-million away".

      *I remember being surprised when they said if Mugabe didn't go quietly, they would
      make other arrangements, or words to that effect."

      On Wednesday Tsvangirai said he was so irritated by the way Ben-Menashe steered
      the conversation that he walked out on them. By mid-December, after doing some
      checks on Ben-Menashe, the MDC says it severed its contract with Dickens and
      Madson and through its internal network was informed that the company was
      handled by Goche, and senior government spokesman George Charamba.

      Neither man answered his telephone when called for comment.

      At the time of going to press the Mail & Guardian had not seen or heard the tape.
      The Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation will air it on Friday evening.

      Davis ruled out the possibility that the tape had been tampered with, or edited, before
      being given to him, and said *it would stand up to any scrutiny".

      Davis's programme does, however, include an interview with Tsvangirai during which
      he dismisses any possibility of the MDC planning any attempt on Mugabe's life.

      Davis would not say who gave him the tape until he had cleared it with his *sources",
      nor would he say when he was given it, but he did not deny that it came from
      Dickens and Madson. He said he did not know whether the Zimbabwean government
      knew he had the tape when it granted him * a white, Western journalist * an
      interview with Mugabe, when all others journalists had been refused access to him.

      In a telephone interview on Thursday, Davis said the tape was not his only proof but
      that he had three witnesses, including Ben-Menashe, prepared to swear in court that
      they heard Tsvangirai ask them about assassinating Mugabe.

      Davis said he agreed that Ben-Menashe's word might not be credible in some
      circles, adding: *If you say I have been had, I will sue you."

      Davis's trip to Zimbabwe was his first, and he was both naïve and ignorant, according
      to a producer hired by him for the day.

      An international television editor has said: *I have a programme on my computer and
      could, if I wanted to, make anyone say almost anything. It is certainly not costly,
      and a company with so-called intelligence links could do it easily and it would pass
      all sorts of tests."

      During the taped interview Ben-Menashe is shown saying: *The MDC represented by
      the top man who's sitting here right now commits to, let's call it whatever you want to
      call it, the coup d'état or elimination of the president."

      Ben-Menashe adds: *OK, Mr Mugabe is eliminated. Now what?"

      Alex Legault, also from Dickens and Madson, asks the man identified as Tsvangirai:
      *Are you in a position to ensure a smooth transition of power?"

      The man replies: *I've no doubt about it."

      The footage is apparently of such poor quality that no one at the meeting can be
      identified, although Davis says there is no doubt that the black man in the
      sequences is Tsvangirai.

      Additional reporting by Richard Norton-Taylor and Andrew Meldrum in Harare

      -- The Mail&Guardian, February 15, 2002.


      And, with a slightly different point of view, the BBC version:

      Mugabe 'elimination'
      plot thickens

      A Canadian firm linked to the discovery of an
      alleged opposition plot to assassinate
      Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has said
      it felt "morally compelled" to expose the

      The plot was allegedly
      uncovered with the
      release of grainy video
      footage, purporting to
      show opposition leader
      Morgan Tsvangirai
      discussing Mr Mugabe's

      Mr Tsvangirai has vigorously dismissed the
      charges as a crude smear campaign designed
      to discredit him ahead of Zimbabwe's upcoming
      presidential election.

      But political consultancy Dickens & Madson,
      which says it was approached first by Mr
      Tsvangirai, said it felt it had to turn evidence
      of the plot over to the Zimbabwean

      Company President Ari Ben Menashe,
      reportedly a former Israeli intelligence agent
      with long-standing links to the Mugabe
      government, has denied the video was part of
      a sting operation aimed at discrediting Mr

      Controversial figure

      The footage, allegedly filmed in Montreal last
      December, is of such poor quality that it is
      impossible to identify anyone beyond doubt.

      Australia's SBS Dateline programme said it
      showed a meeting between representatives of
      the political consultancy and a man described
      in the film as "the MDC's top man".

      In it, the figure said to
      be Mr Tsvangirai
      describes the
      procedure in the
      country immediately
      after "the head of
      state has been

      Mr Ben Menashe, a
      controversial figure
      linked in the 1980s to
      the Iran-Contra arms
      scandal, has said he
      believes Mr Tsvangirai
      did not realise that he
      had already worked as a lobbyist for Mr

      "So he knocked on the wrong door," Mr Ben
      Menashe told Britain's Daily Telegraph

      In a statement, the company said Mr
      Tsvangirai made an approach through an
      intermediary, "knowing of the extensive
      contacts Dickens & Madson principals have
      with various intelligence agencies around the

      But once he had filmed proof of what Mr
      Tsvangirai was allegedly asking for, he went to
      the Zimbabwean authorities.

      "Dickens & Madson felt itself morally compelled
      to assist the embattled people of Zimbabwe
      and their President Robert Mugabe," the
      statement said.

      Although Zimbabwe's government-owned
      Herald newspaper reported the story on its
      front page, no legal action has so far been
      taken against Mr Tsvangirai.

      Assassination talk

      Mr Tsvangirai's MDC party said in a statement
      that the assassination story was similar to
      numerous other baseless stories put out at the
      instigation of the ruling Zanu-PF party.

      MDC chief spokesman Welshman Ncube, said
      the meeting did take place, but only after the
      company had approached Mr Tsvangirai, calling
      for an urgent meeting to discuss policy issues.

      Mr Ncube confirmed that two meetings had
      taken place in London before the Montreal
      meeting, which was filmed.

      But talk of assassination was entirely initiated
      by Mr Ben Menashe, he said.

      News reports have made much of Mr Ben
      Menashe's colourful past as a notorious figure
      in the world of espionage and arms dealing.

      He was arrested in 1989 for allegedly selling
      aircraft to Iran, but was later acquitted.

      He has also accused the Israeli intelligence
      agency, Mossad, of murdering press tycoon
      Robert Maxwell.


      ONE hundred of the world's top
      photographers will descend upon
      Africa on February 28 to take
      photographs of the vast continent
      to be published in a book entitled
      "A Day in the Life of Africa,"
      organisers said on Thursday.
      From the Congo river to Morocco
      and Rwanda, the photographers
      will attempt to capture a day in the
      life in the continent's 53 countries.
      The photographs will be compiled
      in a book, Internet site, and
      travelling exhibition -- the
      proceeds from all of which will go
      to fighting Aids in Africa. More
      than 10 Pulitzer Prize winners,
      dozens of photographers and
      photojournalists from the Magnum
      agency and AFP and 20 African
      photographers number among the
      100-person team. - AFP
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