Global development

‘We forget our troubles’: crystal meth use rises during lockdown in Zimbabwe……

This should shock and frighten every Zimbabwean of every religion, race and rank in life. Everyone knows someone in Zimbabwe who has a loved one, friend or neighbour with problems of addiction. While the drug dealers boast about good business, a whole generation is at risk. This does not only affect them, it affects families and communities. It increases crime and suicides, not to mention eventual death. Nothing good comes from this. Hope is lost, love for oneself is lost, recovery is practically non existent. This is NOT one families problem, it’s an entire countries problem. There should be no such thing as silence, shame or fear to speak up about it. Dealers should be dealt with accordingly. So heartbreaking.

(Name and address supplied)

Harare’s drug dealers say business is booming as more young people, some at school, use mutoriro

A dirt road in a shanty town outside Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare. Years of high youth unemployment has seen more young people turn to drugs such as crystal meth.
A dirt road in a shanty town outside Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare. Years of high youth unemployment has seen more young people turn to drugs such as crystal meth. Photograph: Cynthia Matonhodze/Guardian

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About this contentNyasha Chingono

 in HarareTue 16 Mar 2021 09.00 GMT

Inside a tiny room in Kuwadzana, a township in Harare, Solomon Sigauke* and his friends talk animatedly about football and listen to loud music. The misty vapour from the crystal meth fills the room as they take turns on a fluorescent pipe.

Sigauke, 25, has no cigarette lighter so he is improvises, holding a burning candle while his friend Kudzo puffs the smoke from the burning substance, known locally as mutoriro. .

It is 7pm in Kuwadzana, about nine miles from Harare’s central business district, where many youths have ventured into illicit and dangerous drugs such as mutoriro, with the numbers rising as the lockdown cut them off from jobs and their usual social lives. 

Known scientifically as methamphetamine, crystal meth is a highly addictive stimulant used for its powerful euphoric effects.

Sigauke demonstrates the process of decrystallising the white chemical into a brown smoking smear. The curved pipe is made from fluorescent tubesfrom disused energy-saver lightbulbs that are cleaned and sold to drug users for $1.

As he exhales a cloud of the toxic smoke, his friends burst out laughing at Sigauke’s drooling face. “You should be careful not to ingest the smoke because it causes stomach-ache,” Sigauke explains.

We live in a world of our own

‘Solomon Sigauke’

Although the drug has been used in Zimbabwefor some years, its use has grown in the townships as the economic crisis grips the country, leaving few job prospects for its young people. Zimbabwe has nearly 90% unemployment, with young people worst affected.

“This drug will just make you get into another zone altogether; we can spend the whole night talking and enjoying ourselves. We live in a world of our own and can even forget about our daily troubles,” Sigauke says.

He adds that as schools have closed because of the Covid pandemic, teenagers are now joining their ranks.

“These days you find little girls taking the substance. Most of them are coming here to smoke this thing. At 1am, you will find most kids flooding the streets smoking meth – it’s like you are watching a movie. These children have become wild,” Sigauke says.

A gram of crystal meth costs $12 – a steep cost for most users in the townships and equivalent to a week’s rent on a room in a township. The drug-pushers have taken advantage of the use of foreign currency as legal tender in the country to milk the drug-thirsty market. One supplier explains that crystal meth is smuggled into the country through Zimbabwe’s porous borders with South Africa.

A child scavenges for plastic waste and cardboard for resale in the Harare township of Warren Park. Zimbabwe’s economic crisis means there is no treatment for most drug addicts.
A child scavenges for plastic waste and cardboard for resale in the Harare township of Warren Park. Zimbabwe’s economic crisis means there is no treatment for most drug addicts. Photograph: Aaron Ufumeli/EPA


“If I had money, I would buy it every day,” Sigauke says.

Mbare, the oldest and one of the most populous suburbs in Harare, is notorious for drug abuse. “Blah” Bullet sells crystal meth there. He says the market is growing fast, explaining that before it had only been youths in the affluent suburbs who could afford it, but now young people are turning to the drug in townships, where there is little else on offer.

Bullet makes $200 a day from his sales, which have grown since the start of the lockdown in Zimbabwe last March, and has a network of drug spots around the city where he also sells other drugs such as cannabis, as well as prescription drugs that commonly misused such as codeine, the cough syrup Broncleer, which contains codeine, and pills that are usually prescribed to combat mental illness.

Despite the prohibitive costs, many addicts find a way to fund their insatiable appetite by selling their possessions, while others are driven to steal.

Sigauke was thrown out of his parents’ home last year after selling their electrical appliances. His addiction has led to frosty relations with his father, his friend Marlon Muchaka, 24, says.

“His father does not want to see him. He almost reported Solo to the police because of his behaviour,” Muchaka says .

“There are people who say this drug is dangerous, but people continue to use it because it is not that deadly. I left other drugs because they do not give me the satisfaction I need,” Sigauke says.

“Sometimes I find myself getting agitated and angry – I do not like the way I feel but it is the drug. I find myself saying things I regret. I am just a free-spirited person when I am intoxicated,” he says.

I can work all night without even dozing … But I don’t advise the young ones to get this drug

‘Donald Mabhuku’

“My sleeping patterns have been disturbed by this drug. Last year, due to excessive use, I failed to sleep for a week and by the time I finally slept, it took me two days to wake up. My landlord thought I had died inside my room. That is when I was advised to take it slow,” Sigauke says.

Donald Mabhuku*, 29, is a security guard living in the Harare township of Highfield. He says the drug helps him stay awake during his night shifts.

“I like this stuff, it just does it for me. I can do my work all night without even dozing. It is good if you want to do something productive with your time. But I do not advise young ones to get this drug,” he says.Advertisement

An emaciated Mabhuku has experienced extreme weight loss since he started using the drug two years ago. “I lost a lot of weight due to excessive use of meth; it was bad but now that I am getting used to it, I am regaining my weight. But eating is still a problem. Most people lose weight because of lack of sleep,” he says.

A street in Kuwadzana. Crystal meth used to be only found in more affluent suburbs but has spread to the townships.
A street in Kuwadzana. Crystal meth used to be only found in more affluent suburbs but has spread to the townships. Photograph: Cynthia Matonhodze/Guardian

Smoking crystal meth comes with its own culture and has its own slang, and is often associated with Zimdancehall music.

“We have our own language here. Our language is like reverse words, so that no one else understands what we are talking about,” Mabhuku says.

Natasha Chipendo* is also addicted to crystal meth and has ran away from home. The 22-year-old has tried to quit in the past. “I just find myself going back to it,” she says.

With many young people battling drug addiction, the health system has been found wanting. Zimbabwe’s hospitals cannot treat addicts and the few rehabilitation centres are expensive. Peace Maramba, an expert in mental health, says the lack of public rehabilitation centres has worsened drug-induced mental health issues in the country.

“In Zimbabwe we do not have rehabilitation centres in government institutions. It is unfortunate that mental health has been neglected for long but I am glad that through funds from the World Health Organization there is hope that we can help more people,” Maramba says.

He says accessing any mental health services is prohibitively expensive for young people from the townships, and blamed the use of illicit substances on peer pressure and Zimbabwe’s unrelenting economic problems. 

While rehabilitation is achievable for drug addicts, Maramba says most drug users often relapse when they have nowhere to go but back to the shanty towns where the peer pressure they faced before remains along with the same daily problems.

* Names have been changed. 

A Japanese shrub’s unique foliage arrangement leads botanists to rethink plant growth models

Aloe Spirals
The spiral pattern of an Aloe polyphylla plant at the University of California Botanical Garden. (Stan Shebs via Wikicommons under CC BY-SA 3.0)

JUNE 6, 20193140540

To the untrained eye, plants may appear to grow rather impulsively, popping out leaves at random to create one big green jumble. Take a closer look, though, and you’ll find that a few curiously regular patterns pop up all over the natural world, from the balanced symmetry of bamboo shoots to the mesmerizing spirals of succulents.

In fact, these patterns are consistent enough that cold, hard math can predict organic growth fairly well. One assumption that has been central to the study of phyllotaxis, or leaf patterns, is that leaves protect their personal space. Based on the idea that already existing leaves have an inhibitory influence on new ones, giving off a signal to prevent others from growing nearby, scientists have created models that can successfully recreate many of nature’s common designs. The ever-fascinating Fibonacci sequence, for example, shows up in everything from sunflower seed arrangements to nautilus shells to pine cones. The current consensus is that the movements of the growth hormone auxin and the proteins that transport it throughout a plant are responsible for such patterns.

Leaf Arrangements
Leaf arrangement with one leaf per node is called alternate phyllotaxis, whereas arrangement with two or more leaves per node is called whorled phyllotaxis. Common alternate types are distichous phyllotaxis (bamboo) and Fibonacci spiral phyllotaxis (the succulent spiral aloe), and common whorled types are decussate phyllotaxis (basil or mint) and tricussate phyllotaxis (Nerium oleander, sometimes known as dogbane). (Takaaki Yonekura under CC-BY-ND )

However, certain leaf arrangements continue to stump popular models for plant growth, including the Douady and Couder equations (known as DC1 and DC2) that have dominated since the 1990s. A team led by University of Tokyo researchers studying a shrub known as Orixa japonica found that earlier equations couldn’t recreate the plant’s unusual structure, so they decided to rethink the model itself. Their updated model, described in a new study in PLOS Computational Biology, not only reproduces the once-elusive pattern, but it also may describe other, more common arrangements better than previous equations, authors say.

“In most plants, phyllotactic patterns have symmetry—spiral symmetry or radial symmetry,” says University of Tokyo plant physiologist Munetaka Sugiyama, senior author of the new study. “But in this special plant, Orixa japonica, the phyllotactic pattern is not symmetric, which is very interesting. More than 10 years ago, an idea came to me that some changes in the inhibitory power of each leaf primordium may explain this peculiar pattern.”

Botanists use the divergence angles, or angles between consecutive leaves, to define a plant’s phyllotaxis. While most leaf arrangement patterns keep a constant divergence angle, the O. japonica shrub, which is native to Japan and other parts of East Asia, grows leaves in an alternating series of four repeating angles: 180 degrees, 90 degrees, 180 degrees again, then 270 degrees.

 Orixa Japonica
An Orixa japonica shrub with the various divergence angles of the leaves visible. (Qwert1234 via Wikicommons under CC BY-SA 4.0)

This pattern, which the researchers dubbed “orixate” phyllotaxis, is not just a onetime anomaly, as plants from other taxa (like the “red-hot poker” flower Kniphofia uvaria, or the crepe myrtle Lagerstroemia indica) alternate their leaves in the same complicated sequence. Because the leaf arrangement pops up in different spots on the evolutionary tree, authors concluded the similarity came from a common mechanism that warranted further study.

After testing the Douady and Couder equations with different parameters, the authors could produce patterns that were close to the alternating orixate arrangement, but none of the simulated plants matched perfectly with the O. japonica samples they dissected and studied. So the team built a new model by adding another variable to the Douady and Couder equations: leaf age. Former models assumed leaves’ inhibitory power stayed the same over time, but this constant was “not natural from the viewpoint of biology,” Sugiyama says. Instead, Sugiyama’s team allowed for the possibility that the strength of these “keep-away” signals changed over time.

The resulting models—which the team refers to as expanded Douady and Couder models, EDC1 and EDC2—succeeded in recreating, through computerized growth, the intricate leaf arrangements of O. japonica. Beyond this feat, the expanded equations also produced all the other common foliage patterns and predicted the natural frequencies of these varieties more accurately than previous models. Especially in the case of spiral-patterned plants, the new EDC2 model predicted the “super-dominance” of the Fibonacci spiral as compared to other arrangements, while previous models failed to explain why this particular shape seems to appear everywhere in nature.

“Our model, EDC2, can generate orixate patterns in addition to all major types of phyllotaxis. This is clearly an advantage over the previous model,” Sugiyama says. “EDC2 also fits better to the natural occurrence of various patterns.”

 Orixa Japonica Model
Leaves on an Orixa japonica branch (upper left) and a schematic diagram of orixate phyllotaxis (right). The orixate pattern displays a peculiar four-cycle change of the angle between leaves. A scanning electron microscope image (center and bottom left) shows the winter bud of O. japonica, where leaves first begin to grow. Primordial leaves are labeled sequentially with the oldest leaf as P8 and the youngest leaf as P1. The label O marks the shoot apex. (Takaaki Yonekura / Akitoshi Iwamoto / Munetaka Sugiyama under CC-BY)

The authors can’t yet conclude what exactly causes leaf age to affect these growth patterns, although Sugiyama speculates that it may have to do with changes to the auxin transport system over the course of a plant’s development.

Such mysteries could be solved by the “push and pull” between computational models and lab experiments, says Ciera Martinez, a computational biologist who was not involved in the study. The authors’ model provides an exciting step toward a better understanding of phyllotaxis and leaves room for other botanists to fill in the gaps with plant dissection and analysis.

“With models, even though we might not know the exact mechanism yet, we are at least given powerful clues on what to look for,” Martinez says in an email. “Now we just have to look closer at the molecular mechanisms in real plants to try and discover what the model predicts.”

Leaf Growth Gif
A top-down view of leaf arrangement patterns in “orixate” phyllotaxis as new leaves (red semicircles) form from the shoot apex (central black circle) and grow outwards.(Takaaki Yonekura under CC-BY-ND)

Sugiyama’s team is working to refine their model even further and get it to generate all known phyllotactic patterns. One “mysterious” leaf pattern, a spiral with a tiny divergence angle, still evades computational prediction, although Sugiyama thinks they’re close to cracking the leafy code.

“We don’t think our study is practically useful for society,” Sugiyama says. “But we hope that it will contribute to our understanding of the symmetric beauty in nature.”

Maddie Burakoff

Maddie Burakoff is an editorial intern with Smithsonian magazine. She is currently a junior at Northwestern University, where she studies journalism and Spanish.

M A Philips

Common sense warned, but Blake was bewitched by the depth that shone from charcoal eyes laughing up at him. His heart creaked, rusty and neglected. Hungry for love.

She thrilled him like sweet red wine. His ears thundered while painted lips brushed at his reserve. Blake bent to kiss her ebony hair that fell against cool pale skin.  He needed her. When she wound her arms around his waist the mogul was lost.

A full moon lined their beckoning – Blake felt her skirt fluttering over impatient desire. Their lips clung in whispered promises and sun-drenched storms. Francesca Hunter arched her back in delight. A purr rippled through her brilliant plan. 

She felt Blake tremble and smiled like a Cheshire cat. The Blake Ascot Empire was hers. Her silver painted toes curled in anticipation.  Pool Secretary was for misfits and girls without ambition.

Eyes were watching from the open doorway.  They were not as alone as Francesca thought.  There was someone else writing the end to this saga.  He was about to make Francesca pay for her foul schemes.  He stretched his crooked neck then gazed at his wife.  His back hurt like a bugger but his eyes unconsciously darkened at the treachery of His dear devoted wife. He smiled.  Blake Ascot would conquer her trickery – he would ensure it.  Mr Ascot was too naïve, and it made him easy prey for unscrupulous women. It had to end. He deserved true love; a sacred union that would be applauded; one God would smile on, and he knew that he had the power to alter Blake’s fate.  It felt good to write life into a seemingly hopeless setting.

Francesca Hunter had brought him hell but that’s exactly where she was going.  She had no idea that he knew of her deception.  All sweet as honey.  Oh yes, he knew for some time already that he had married a conniving gold digger who had plans to worm her way into the Ascot mansion.  She thought he had untold riches, only to find that he was an executive not the owner.  She had taken 3 years of his life and stepped on it as if it was nothing! She laughed in the face of his success.  She wanted more.  The night air gave just enough breeze to cool his excitement.  He flexed his stiff fingers.  Black Ascot’s victory was certain.  

His fingers curled around the 48, beads of sweat mocking his cool reserve.  

“It’s 2am Jarrod”.  Stella ‘s husky voice brought the 48 down with a bang. “You’re going to wear yourself out; time to close that laptop and put that story on hold – even authors have to sleep”.  The 48 was lowered, and for the moment Francesca Hunter was saved from death.  Jarrod turned to his sleep-induced wife.  Her ebony hair falling against cool pale skin.  He smiled as he watched her slumber away. 

“Stella, I was about to kill Francesca Hunter, you saved her yet again”.  Stella smiled a knowing smile.

©   M.A  Phillip

Charlene McCullagh – Author/Artist

Beyond the bridge, the city bids us another goodnight with no promise to return to how it used to be…its autumn now, so darkness comes earlier…everyday the sun says goodnite, sometimes quietly behind the clouds or other times with a majestic display of colour across the sky… today it’s an orange and yellow, golden blast that streaks across the skies after a heavy storm… breaking through the dark menacing clouds and the heavy energy of covid fears and conspiracies … the city in the skyline stands tall, silent sentinels side by side, each distinctive in their unique shape…streets sparkle with silver and gold, after been washed clean by the rain, the colours dance on the window panes…from a distance the dark brooding city is momentarily lit with bronze and gold and copper…so still the city continues to slumber, corporate buildings standing quiet and empty for so long…But wait, look over here on this side of the bridge…food shops spill out with fresh vegetables from afar, and exotic sweet smelling fruit. Romanian, Polish, Greek delicatessens side by side with Albanian and Somalian male only coffee shops, Turkish barbers and takeaways, in-between Indian shops stuffed with everything a bazaar or souk would have…all sorts of things, if you follow the road over the bridge…this vibrant street full of chatter and characters isn’t locked down completely…Buses flash by full and the central line is full…everyone masked and silent, watching each other warily…thinking about two meters, but once on the tube it’s more like twenty centimetres…got to get to work… there’s no suits and heels insight, briefcases replaced by tool bags,high vis. hard boots or trainers …the ones who keep the city going…the ones that have to make the new normality work…sleeping city when will you awaken because we haven’t slept say the slumped sleepy bodies in the seats, as the train rattles and shakes at high speed into the city…brakes squealing in protest into the station, getting the masked passengers to their destinations…back and forth…to and fro…lockdown…

Scores witness the procession of the late Harare socilite Genius “Ginimbi” Kadungure in Harare yesterday. – Picture: Believe Nyakudjara

Scores witness the funeral procession of the late Harare socialite Genius “Ginimbi” Kadungure in Harare yesterday. — Picture: Believe Nyakudjara

Ivan Zhakata
Herald Correspondent
Thousands of mourners yesterday lined the streets of Harare to get a glimpse of the flamboyant funeral cortège, as the body of the late businessman and socialite Genius “Ginimbi” Kadungure was taken to his Domboshava house where hundreds more lay in wait.

The streets of central Harare were jam packed with curious onlookers as the body of Ginimbi was taken from a city funeral parlour to his Dreams Nightclub on Kwame Nkrumah Avenue before it was taken to his home where it lay in state overnight ahead of burial today.

Ginimbi, who died in a horrific car crash along Liberation Legacy Way on Sunday morning, along with three friends, will be buried in a mausoleum at his imposing mansion.

Activities in Harare city centre came to a halt as thousands of people gathered outside Doves Funeral parlour to pay their last respects to the socialite.

Malawi’s constitutional court judges have won the 2020 Chatham House Prize in recognition of their ‘courage and independence in the defence of democracy.

The Chatham House Prize is an annual honour awarded to
the person, persons or organization who are deemed by the institute’s members to have made the most significant contribution to the improvement of international relations in the previous year.

At a time when standards of democratic governance are under threat not only in Africa, but in many democracies, Malawi’s constitutional court judges set an example for their peers across the world by upholding the centrality of the rule of law and separation of powers.

The 2019 Malawi presidential election result was overturned after a panel of five High Court judges identified ‘widespread, systematic, and grave irregularities’ in the polls and called for fresh elections.

Despite high-level bribery attempts and threats, Justice Healey Potani, Justice Ivy Kamanga, Justice Redson Kapindu, Justice Dingiswayo Madise and Justice Michael Tembo – who arrived in court under armed escort and wearing bullet-proof vests – delivered their 500-page ruling which upheld the constitution and defended citizens’ democratic rights in the most difficult circumstances.

While some African countries have made important progress in the consolidation of democracy, this is now under threat as the pandemic creates space for authoritarian opportunists. The Malawi ruling is unprecedented in a country where past elections have been marred by irregularities, electoral fraud and violence. The judges successfully asserted their independence in the face of significant pressures and the power of incumbency.

Dr Robin Niblett, Director of Chatham House, said: ‘This is a historic moment for democratic governance. The ruling by Malawi’s constitutional court judges is not only crucial for rebuilding the confidence of Malawi’s citizens in their institutions, but also for upholding standards of democracy more widely across the African continent.’

There could be no more special way to mark Chatham House’s Centenary than by recognizing the commitment of these brave individuals to the cause of accountable governance and the justice that this affords to all.Dr Robin Niblett, Director of Chatham House

Malawi’s constitutional court judges will be presented with the Chatham House Prize later this year, with a formal ceremony due to take place in 2021.

The Chatham House Prize is voted for by Chatham House members, following nominations from the institute’s staff.

The Chatham House Prize was launched in 2005. Previous recipients of the Prize include Sir David Attenborough and BBC Studios Natural History Unit, the Committee to Protect Journalists, Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos, president of Ghana John Kufuor, Médecins Sans Frontières and Melinda Gates, co-founder of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

By Leticia Morta

The saying goes, “you can choose your friends, but you cannot choose your family”.
You become a member of a family at your birth and should you not be raised by one who is not of your “blood”, you still belong to a unit and you are part of it whether it is of your own choice or not!
Being part of a family that is pretty “mixed up” does not mean you do not belong. You still go back to its home address and sleep under the same roof. At the end of the day, you choose to belong or stray from it…

  • blood runs thicker, than water
  • got your back in times of trouble
  • tell you as it is, no pretence
  • is a lifetime commitment
  • has history you can be proud of or be ashamed of…the choice is yours!
    What is the world doing to family units? Sends messages through media that goes on the lines of “make love, not war” or quite the opposite, “make war and not love” – confusion!
    Peace, hope and love, should be part of every family, no matter what differences an individual may have. There is always the need to touch, taste, feel, hear and smell. When one remembers one’s family, all senses come into play…brings back bitter sweet memories, of where you come from!