Opinion

Zim’s high cancer and HIV-Aids rates should be treated as a national security issue

I AM AFRICAN 

Baffour Ankomah

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For readers who may be joining this column for the first time, we have been discussing over the past three weeks a revelation made in February 2019 by a former apartheid-era operative, Alexander Jones, who disclosed live on camera, in the recently-released documentary, Cold Case Hammarskjöld, that he and his colleagues at the South African Institute of Maritime Research (SAIMR), which masterminded coups and other violence across Africa in the 1970s and 80s, deliberately spread the HIV virus in the Southern African region to wipe out black people.

In discussing Jones’ astonishing revelation, I have gone back to another revelation made by a white South African, Ben Geer, who fought for Ian Smith’s government against the black nationalists in Rhodesia.

In his 1997 book titled “Something More Sinister”, Geer made the startling revelation that when he visited the USA in late December 1979, a former American soldier told him that he [the American soldier] had been one of a contingent of US troops en route from Vietnam who had been actively deployed in the Rhodesian independence war.

“They were given no reasons for being in Africa,” Geer reports. “Engaging the local militia [ZANLA], and having killed a number of persons on their march over a number of days to the coast, they were picked up by the US navy and shipped home. The soldier was not aware of any further involvement in Rhodesia by the US. What were they doing there?”, Geer asks, and goes on to reveal that the Rhodesian government operated a Biological Warfare Unit during the independence war.

It is the connections between this Biological Warfare Unit and South Africa’s Chemical and Biological Warfare (CBW) programme nicknamed “Project Coast” (which was headed by Dr Wouter Basson) and its connections with America’s and Britain’s CBW programmes, and their deadly consequences to black Africans in the Southern African region, are what I have laboured over the past three weeks to analyse.

The poison keeper

Though without having any hard evidence, Geer uses circumstantial evidence to speculate that Ian Smith’s sudden U-turn on black majority rule in Rhodesia in 1976 had sinister undertones. Geer allows his readers the luxury to read between the lines the fact that Smith’s about-turn was to cover up the sinister CBW experimentation that Rhodesia, South Africa, America, Britain and their allies had done on black people in the Southern African region.

So to prevent the black nationalists from winning the independence war militarily and then discovering the sinister CBW experimentation, and the hullabaloo that would naturally ensue, the Americans, Geer speculates, came up with their proposals for black majority rule in Rhodesia and used South Africa (Rhodesia’s “mother country” at the time) to force Ian Smith to accede to the American proposals.

Now let’s join the dots: Apart from Alexander Jones’s recent confession of deliberately spreading HIV-Aids in the region to wipe out black people, Dr Dan Goosen, the first managing director of the Roodeplaat Research Laboratories, the South African Defence Force (SADF) front company in the north of Pretoria where SA’s CBW programme was based, told the court that tried Dr Basson (from October 1999 to April 2002) that: “There are many people who think Basson was a war hero because he killed the blacks big time.”

There were many revelations made in that court by the 200 State witnesses who testified against Basson, that Project Coast had done “research into a race-specific bacterial weapon; a project to find ways to sterilise South Africa’s black population; a discussion of deliberate spreading of cholera through the water supply system; large-scale production of dangerous drugs; the fatal poisoning of anti-apartheid leaders, captured guerrillas and suspected security risks; even a plot to slip thallium – a toxic heavy metal that can permanently impair brain function – into Nelson Mandela’s medication before his release from prison in 1991.”

The BBC investigative journalist, Tom Mangold, reported in his 1999 book, Plague Wars: The Terrifying Reality of Biological Warfare”, that: “At times, [Basson] was a medical researcher – that worked well enough, in 1984, to persuade the Centres for Disease Control in Atlanta [USA], to send eight shipments of Ebola, Marburg, and Rift Valley viruses to South Africa (and thus to Roodeplaat).”

The American magazine, The New Yorker, also quoted Basson as having modelled Operation Coast on the American CBW programme, “which he first managed to penetrate in the early 1980s. He also had great success, by his own (and his military superiors’) account, penetrating the CBW programmes of Britain and the former Soviet Union … Basson claims to have gained entrance to world-renowned CBW facilities as Fort Detrick in Maryland [USA], or Porton Down [UK] and energetically expanded his work as he went along.”

The American proposals

There is one very important fact that we should all remember as we journey together through this column: In essence, Zim got black majority rule because the Americans asked for it. Can you believe it? Yes, Ian Smith’s sudden U-turn on black majority rule came about as a result of America’s “proposals” carried to South Africa in September 1976 by Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. Smith acknowledges this in his 1997 memoires, “The Great Betrayal”. He says: “We talked over lunch, and the consensus was that the offer [Kissinger’s proposals] seemed to be the least of the various evils facing us.”

The question therefore is: Why would the Americans ask for black majority rule in Rhodesia and not include South Africa which had an even dire white rule at the time? And why would PM Vorster enthusiastically take up Kissinger’s proposals and force Ian Smith to agree to them when SA itself had no such black majority? After Zim’s independence in 1980, it took 14 long years for black majority rule to be achieved in SA. So what lay behind Vorster’s haste in Zimbabwe? Was it merely to divert attention from SA’s problems and buy it more time? Or was there more to it?

Ben Geer tries to connect the dots by saying in his book: “There are the incidents surrounding this period which deserve closer scrutiny and other questions which remain unanswered. When considering the vastly superior military strength, wealth and resources of Rhodesia and South Africa, there appears to have been no valid reason for them having relinquished power to their ‘black’ enemies. Why did both white governments capitulate?”

Geer goes on: “Undisclosed talks between Henry Kissinger and Ian Smith took place in South Africa on 18 September 1976. What transpired so that, in a space of hours, the Rhodesian prime minister did a complete volte-face on his stance against black majority rule?

“Kissinger made one serious gaffe during [the] negotiations with Ian Smith. He kept on making references to ‘our own intelligence’ services in Rhodesia. Officially all ties with the US had ceased in 1969. By the continual mention of their presence [in Rhodesia], Kissinger embarrassed the CIA who had told the US President and the State Department that they had been withdrawn. What was the CIA doing [in Rhodesia in 1976]? What was behind [the CIA director] William Colby’s resignation and his involvement with the [Rhodesian] Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO)?”

Geer then turns his attention beyond Rhodesia and asks: “[The British prime minister] Harold Wilson suddenly resigned in 1976. What was the reason behind his resignation?” In September 1978, Voster resigns from the South African premiership and in June 1979 from the presidency. What was behind his resignation?”

Geer goes on: “When William Colby, the DCI [Director of Central Intelligence] of the CIA, exposed its activities and assassinations to a congressional hearing, as a result of the Watergate scandal which had uncovered operations by US intelligence, the CIA was publicly claimed to be an agency ‘out of control’. Colby was dismissed by President Ford, and George [H.W] Bush, the first politician [DCI] appointee, was installed in January 1976.

“Bush was given the express task of ‘keeping a lid on’ the CIA’s affairs – these were not for the public domain. The following year the Republicans lost the election and the new President Jimmy Carter immediately removed George Bush from office after only 50 weeks and 4 days in the job. What lay behind Bush’s appointment that was so important that it had to be covered up in 1976?”

The killing spree

The Rhodesian Bush War, Geer says, “lasted 13 years and claimed 30,000 lives (no account is made here of the combined loss of life as a result of all the white racist regimes in Southern Africa). Why the change of heart on their racist polices? A cover-up or something more sinister?”

He goes on: “The Rhodesian security forces operated a Biological Warfare Unit during the Bush War. Why? The continued annihilation of villages and refugee centres in Mozambique by the Rhodesian security forces – with no consideration given to innocent civilians, the elderly, women and children – seems incongruous with their Christian ideals. Why was the war protracted and these atrocities committed after agreement had been reached on Kissinger’s proposals?

“Numerous true incidents … such as the account of Operation Eland when, in August 1976, the Selous Scouts attacked the ZANLA base at Nyadzonya, Mozambique, and reportedly killed 340 ‘terrorists’ and 30 Frelimo soldiers. The UN later claimed the majority of the victims were refugees and not soldiers.

“The offensive military operations undertaken by the Selous Scouts were accompanied by specific orders to take captive and bring back hospitalised patients from ‘terrorists’ bases in Mozambique during the raids – for interrogation!

“This seems strange in the extreme, whereas there were over 1,000 healthy persons at Nyadzonya camp at the time of this attack who could have been taken for interrogation. Why were the Selous Scouts instructed to take captive diseased or injured persons from the hospital, where it would clearly be impossible to identify their military rank or, indeed, assess whether they were civilians rather than soldiers?”

Here Geer insinuates that the “diseased or hospitalised patients” were subjects of secret contamination or experimentation by operatives of the Rhodesian Biological Warfare Unit (BWU) and, after Ian Smith suddenly agreed to Kissinger’s proposals, Salisbury had to remove the evidence of contamination by eliminating the hospitalised patients before any word got out.

Geer further reveals that: “The Selous Scouts, however, did not comply with this directive [the specific orders to take captive and bring back hospitalised and diseased patients from ZANLA bases in Mozambique]. It was said a chance tracer ignited the grass roof [of the hospital] and all the patients were burnt to death. Were [the Selous Scouts] aware of the risks of infection from any captives or did they simply ignore the order that jeopardised the safety of the mission as this suggests?

“Another equally strange event was the Karima village massacre in Rhodesia, near the border, which was described by the media as a ‘mysterious incident’. In the evening of 12 June 1975, the Rhodesian security forces opened fire on a gathering of men, women and children. A Rhodesian government communiqué denied their involvement and said that only 20 people had been killed – by black terrorists!

“The Rhodesian security forces removed all the bodies and told bereaved relatives that the corpses had been burned on a hill a few kilometres away. Later, the security forces returned and insisted on supervising the burial of the ‘blood-soaked clothing’ that remained behind. What lay behind the callous and unexplained incident?”

Geer continues: “The Rhodesian security forces had a policy shortly after UDI whereby they released certain captive terrorists who were returned across the border into neighbouring countries to their comrades, purportedly to try to convince them to lay down their arms. Is this a plausible explanation?”

Dates of interest

Geer then turns his attention to important and controversial “dates of interest” in the annals of both Rhodesia and South Africa.

“February 1975: Two hitchhikers travelling through Zimbabwe near the Mozambique border are infected with the Marburg virus. One subsequently dies in Johannesburg. This is the first outbreak of Marburg disease on record in Africa. The case is well documented.

“21 November 1977: Rhodesian security forces raid two ZANLA bases in Mozambique killing over 1,200 people in Tembue and Chimoio camps – again, including women and children. Several air and land strikes are launched by the Rhodesian security forces against the main ‘terrorist’ bases in Mozambique. The inhabitants of several other villages and camps are annihilated and the bodies buried in mass graves.”

Five months later, in March 1978, a transitional government is sworn in, in Salisbury, ending white minority rule in Rhodesia. So what explanation is there for the killing spree that followed Ian Smith’s agreement with Kissinger’s proposals? Something more sinister?

Geer thinks that the involvement of the USA and Britain in the CBW shenanigans in Southern Africa was not incidental; hence they had to put pressure on Smith to capitulate so that the evidence could be completely eliminated before the nationalist forces became triumphant in the independence war.

Which brings me to a very important matter: Zimbabwe today is known for its high cancer and HIV-Aids rates. Ministry of Health figures show that over 5,000 new cancer cases are diagnosed (all types) in Zimbabwe annually and over 1,500 deaths occur per year.

“Experience has, however, shown that this is just the tip of the iceberg as many cancers are not captured by the routine National Health Information System because the patients do not present for treatment, or some deaths are not registered,” says the 2014-2018 National Cancer Prevention and Control Strategy (NCPCS).

The NCPCS acknowledges that, “the number of people developing cancer is expected to increase due to HIV & AIDS and other infections, unhealthy lifestyle choices and an ageing population. Most of the common cancers in Zimbabwe are infection associated even though cancer itself is not infectious.”

Worse, “despite the high prevalence of HIV-associated cancers and other infection-related cancers,” the NCPCS says, “there is no integration of HIV & AIDS, STI and cancer control programmes.

“Additionally, and despite great progress in reducing HIV prevalence in recent years, Zimbabwe remains one of the countries most heavily burdened with HIV with an adult prevalence of 15%. The large number of people living with HIV results in an even higher number of people who will develop cancer in Zimbabwe.”

This is very worrying. So my question is: Has anybody considered if Zim’s unusually high cancer and HIV-Aids rates have their roots in the pre-independence CBW experimentation and the deliberate spreading of HIV-Aids in the country and the subregion?

Shouldn’t Zim, therefore, treat the high cancer and HIV-Aids rates as a national security issue so that more resources can be concentrated on getting to the bottom of what is happening in order to devise an appropriate response?

At the moment, as the NCPCS disturbingly admits: “There is no integration of HIV & AIDS, STI and cancer control programmes, despite the high prevalence of HIV-associated cancers and other infection-related cancers.”

This is a recipe of a future disaster of gargantuan proportions.

 

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