HomeOpinionTowards biodefence and strategy: Part Two …policy to tackle biological threats

Towards biodefence and strategy: Part Two …policy to tackle biological threats

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By Mupakamiso Makaya and Tapiwa Bere

EVERY nation has friends and adversaries.

A friend is a potential enemy and an enemy a potential friend; it has been established since time immortal.

For Zimbabwe, it is has been a different story.

We have our all-weather friends and those who swear to see us suffering. 

This article is not about defining who is for us and who is against us; the holy scriptures tells us that, by their workings shall we see them. 

There is a possibility that those who wish for our downfall might consider a biological approach to further afflict us. 

Currently, studies have shown that about 200 viruses or bacteria that can be used as weapons exist — and cholera is among them.

Geostrategic adversaries require a systematic biodefence strategy.

Those who imposed illegal and diabolical sanctions, and those who justify their illegal imposition, are our nemesis while those who condemn sanctions are our friends and their loud voices spoke on October 25 and continue to speak.

Biological threats are national security threats and a global security threat.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa, as a listening President, took heed of the need to deal with biological threat hence his demonstration for pushing for legislation in the 10th Parliament business.

Once it becomes a law, the Bio Warfare Act will enhance national security by providing apparatuses apposite to detect, intercept, respond and obstruct biological warfare or biological terrorism as well as other naturally occurring biological flare-ups.

Fears of biological radicalism of biological warfare are growing each day. 

Let ‘preparedness’ be our collective motto!

It is envisaged the act should respond to dualistic perceived threats — from outsiders and from insiders. 

Within the realm of biosecurity, the legislation ought to make it unbreakable for States, terrorists, extremist groups and lone-wolves to acquire dangerous biological materials while protecting biological research facilities from inside threats, such as disgruntled employees and people with a rancour against biological research.

The envisioned Act should make Zimbabwe sufficiently prepared to contend with emerging biosecurity threats in a world that is unconventional, intersected, mutually dependent and sometimes inimical.

In dealing with twin threats highlighted above, the Act should tighten screws against malfeasance by constriction controls of specific dangerous pathogens and toxins as well as regulation on their storage and usage.

The commitment and political will by President Mnangagwa for the formulation of an Act that deals with biological threats is a national security strategy that fosters a co-operative approach to global health security.

The COVID-19 pandemic exposed weaknesses in healthcare systems across the globe, thus legislative strategies will scale up the state of preparedness.

Previous bioterror incidences perpetrated by the Rhodesian government, dense population and good-natured climatic conditions of Zimbabwe, make it vulnerable to bioterrorism threats, hence laws and policies should be in place to counteract such incidences and make Munhumutapa (Zimbabwe) a bioterror free nation.

The threat of bioterrorism is escalating due to rapidly growing biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry, therefore, there is need to strengthen the laws and regulations on biosafety and to speed up efforts to counter the outburst of infectious disease or a biological attack.

Global health security, with biodefence, has been raised to novel status and in view of that, there is need to have a national health security thinking.

The administration of President Mnangagwa has been consolidated and has hit the ground running on making Zimbabwe’s health security second to none.

Archaeologically and medically, epidemics and pandemics of infectious diseases have caused more deaths than wars

The Bio Warfare Act will addresses gaps in public health decision-making, momentous advancement, investigation of infectious diseases and disease prevention.

For a full-bodied efficiency mechanism in state of preparedness, there is need for Zimbabwe to have biodefence, biowarfare, biosecurity and bioethics policy. The need for both an Act and a policy is that the law in question should give effect to the policy intent while perpetuating legal and constitutional principles. Since health threats are dynamic, it will enable policy practitioners to deal with policy issues that may result in changes to the law, including changes to health regulations and other legislative instruments, whether focal or trivial.

The propagation of biological threats has become one of the most noteworthy security concerns in Zimbabwe and elsewhere. 

Zimbabwe and the world at large have had gaps in the current policy to tackle broader issues related to rising biological threats, hence the necessity to fill in the gaps.

This is the right moment for a biodefence strategy that has been provided by COVID-19 which made it possible for identification of critical gaps in preparedness.

All biological hazard preparedness and the Bio Warfare Act should establish a standardised and interconnected system that promotes both public health and security as well as creating all-inclusive medical countermeasures.

On February 14 2020, just three weeks after the Wuhan lockdown in China, President Xi Jinping said at a conference: “We should incorporate biosecurity into the national security system, systematically plan the national biosecurity risk prevention and control system, and comprehensively enhance the national biosecurity governance capability. 

We should promulgate the biosecurity law as soon as possible, and accelerate the construction of national biosecurity laws and regulations and the guarantee system.” 

The conference was held at the 12th Session of the Central Committee for Deepening Reform of the Communist Party of China, with the theme: ‘Improving the system and mechanism of major epidemic prevention and control, and improving the national public health emergency administration system’.

We also, in Zimbabwe, should have the urgency to promulgate our own Bio Warfare Act with Zimbabwean characteristics meeting international best practices; and this calls for dialogue, not the dialogue that is misleadingly preached by merchants and hatchets of regime change. 

This dialogue is Zimbabwe’s strategic dialogue on biosecurity and should also be at regional level.

If not prepared, biological agents cause mass destruction. 

In our next instalment, we are going to focus on proposed nodal Ministries and Government agencies that will be responsible for bioterrorism or bio warfare.

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