By Mupakamiso Makaya and Tapiwa Bere

’ONCE beaten twice shy’ or ‘Chakatanga ndochakachenjedza’ , so the adage goes. 

We, in the motherland, are not ignorant of the devices of our nemesis, hatirare nezamu mukanwa.

According to Field Marshal Viscount Montgomery in one of his war memoirs: ’’A mass detailed lessons will always emerge from any battle.” 

The liberation struggle has taught us that Rhodesians and their local malcontents and their international war criminals will never change their diabolical spots and genocidal intents — we forgive but don’t forget.

The COVID-19 pandemic was a bundle of lessons.

It demonstrated the need for biodefence.

What is alarming to hear is that some countries continue to develop biological weapons in deliberate violation of the 1972 Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC). That treaty is still in force today; it vetoes the development, production and stockpiling of biological weapons.

Biological terrorists and biowarfare operators never play fair; they strike when least expected. Oftentimes their attacks are disguised as naturally occurring biological incidents. Therefore, it is instructive to remain prepared and vigilant.

According to Centres for Disease Control in the US, cholera is in Class C of biological warfare (and that’s a story for another day).

There are always geostrategic considerations when one is crafting a biological defence strategy. There are good reasons to be concerned about known adversaries, and friends’ work in biotechnology that could be used against us and our allies in a crisis or conflict. For that to happen, the intelligence machinery in every country should be at the forefront in biodefence.

When COVID-19 wreaked havoc in the world, national medical intelligence of different nations were toiling to identify the exact origins of the SARS-COV2 (COVID-19) virus that first fulminated in China. 

Biological espionage is proliferating, thus the need to neutralise the deluge and develop counter-measures.

Section 224 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe spells out the establishment of the intelligence services; it is the trend world over that the Ministry responsible for intelligence or any other intelligence branch of government be equipped and empowered with the responsibility to assess the motivations, intentions and capabilities of non-State actors and foreign countries about biological issues, to avoid analytical shortcomings.

A unit that deals specifically with medical intelligence should be set up — if in existence, it should be broadened in responsibility to analyse potential biological and other weapons of mass destruction threats.

As far as the proliferation of biological weapons is concerned, the medical intelligence unit should monitor relevant developments and research undertakings as well as seemingly suspicious procurement endeavours. 

Biological defence will, by design (if expansively crafted), extinguish and render ineffective the biological fiery darts, lies, tricks and every iota of stratagems of potential enemies and actual enemies of Dzimbahwe. 

In pursuance of a full-bodied biodefence and strategy creation of a National or Bio-surveillance Mill Centre, it is proposed that that bio-surveillance centre be housed or be within the Ministry responsible for State security. By definition bio-surveillance is identified as a systematic, continuous process of data mining and interpretation of that data for the customers of information (policy makers); it is the vehicle for early warning and situational awareness about biological incidents.  

The proposed Zimbabwe Bio-surveillance Mill Centre (ZBMC) could be an asset for the medical intelligence fraternity and epidemiological services units. This is because it is designed to track and characterise biological events using open source information and virtual and non-virtual data sources. 

The centre should play co-ordination and information sharing capability with other players in biodefence. The all-embracing goal or goals proposed to be attained are not limited to data mining, data integration, interpretation of data, birthing information, churning medical information into foresight as well as supporting any established interoperability bureaucratic structure. To consumate its operational goals, the Bio-surveillance Mill Centre has to co-act, collude and conspire with other Ministries, agencies as well as regional and international recipients who have either the constitutional mandate, international obligation or legal jurisdiction over biodefence.

Section 219 of the supreme law of Zimbabwe spells out the functions of a police service as preservation of internal security in Zimbabwe, protection and securing of lives and property. Biowarfare and bioterrorism are threats to the internal security of Zimbabwe, thus the above-mentioned functions make the police service an important player in biodefence and strategy. 

Proliferation of terrorism in general and bioterrorism in particular calls for the establishment of a research institute on bioterrorism/bio-extremism. The proposed institute or academic wing should have objectives that include progressing pertinent knowledge (that is biotechnology and developmental biology) and scientific research on terrorism and extremism in a constabulary (policing) context; providing scientific consultation and assistance to other stakeholders in biodefence and strategy entities; and systematic conversion of knowledge from the scientific community to the police service.

In the face of acts of terrorism of any nature, the need for a Joint Terrorism Deterrence Centre (JTDC) is ever present. The JTDC is proposed for the methodical daily information exchange and common analyses and threat assessments as well as projection of criminal behaviour that manifests in terror individuals and groups and the co-ordination of tangible counter-terrorism activities between biodefence partners. 

Biodefence and strategy, as highlighted in previous instalments, is an interdisciplinary effort and exercise, hence it is projected that a conglomeration of experts converge under one canopy as an early warning fraternity, thus Expert Web on Biological Dangers name is proposed. The Expert Web should aim to launch an all-inclusive, nation-wide framework for the emergency management of large-scale biological incidents. 

The goal is to outline responsibilities, operational values and best practices that contribute to improved and rationalised collaboration amid involved actors on all administrative levels. The interoperability web covers various facets of biological risk management, such as detection, diagnostics, clinical dimensions, risk communication, decontamination and personal protective equipment, which are addressed in specific working groups. 

Ministries responsible for primary, secondary, higher and tertiary education, have been identified as players in biodefence, the responsibility of the above academic guilds lies in science and innovations. 

An Agency of Science and Innovations that will put disciplines of academics is proposed herein that will be responsible for estimating advances in science and technology. The agency is proposed to ensure biological security and counteracting terrorism. 


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