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To Read Again

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‘Close that door. Please.’

A door banged shut. Sethunya returned her focus to the book she was reading, flipped back a few pages to find her place, but just as soon as she had found it she heard a door open again.

She closed her eyes and tried to remember something she had read about staying calm. She instructed herself to shut out the sound of the door’s creaking hinges as a breeze nudged it almost-closed, and then back open again.

But when the door bounced against the doorframe and creaked open once more, it set off a pounding in her head.

She could not hold herself. ‘Kgaola mogatla!’

A stifled giggle. Quick footsteps. A door closed.

All festive season long, she had repeated other instructions, automaton-like: ‘fill the ice tray before putting it in the freezer; don’t leave the tap dripping.’

The last Sunday of the year, she attended the all-day church service but as soon as she had arrived home she felt the angst building at the sight of the house lit up like a night train.

‘Why the bloody hell are all the lights on?’ She had immediately felt remorseful. Not after a whole day spent in prayer.

When the kitchen door opened for the fifth time, she did not speak. She breathed in deeply, then out again.

She got up from where she sat under the morula tree, whose sprawling branches created shade from the sun.

She had brought the sapling with her when she was transplanted from her mother’s home to her husband’s house with instructions to create a home of her own.

As she closed the kitchen door, she thought back to when she was a fresh newlywed, summoned by her aunts and uncles, and her husband’s aunts and uncles, who had gathered to hear her explain why the village was whispering that she was threatening to leave her new home.

Even in her own head it had sounded petty to include reasons like a door left open, a tap left dripping, empty ice trays, as evidence for why she could no longer bear to stay. No.

Not when other wives told stories of house salaries being drunk at the local shebeen, black and blue eyes and such.

How could she confess that she was afraid of the recurring dream that denied her sleep?

That she feared she was becoming her father’s sister, the one whose mouth looked like she was sucking on a lemon.

In the years that had gone by, she had stooped to pick up stray toys in the passage.

She stopped complaining about the toothpaste cap discarded on the rumpled bathroom mat.

She combed out the strands of hair left entangled in the brush, drained forgotten dirty bathwater.

Specks of coffee dirtying the white sugar no longer infuriated her, nor did cigarette butts tossed into the vegetable patch.

She collected them all to deposit in the bin, together with the almost-full beer cans forgotten on the armrest of the sofa.

She Doom-sprayed the cockroach scurrying across the dishes left to overnight in a sink almost overflowing because of a tap not shut tight.

She hid her favourite chocolate in her handbag, where no one could find it.

She stayed aloof from the perennial flow of strangers in and out of the house.

She measured her life in anniversaries, each year commemorated with a lavish celebration attended by friends and relatives.

Their smiling faces filled her photo albums. And each day concertinaed into the next day, the next day into the next.

Until one morning, she decided. Despite that warning of doom years ago shared by her father’s sister at the dawn of her new life: that the sun would surely set in the east if she ever left her new home, Sethunya folded a few clothes and book into the tiny suitcase she had arrived with that morning so long ago.
She left.

In the morning after that recurring dream, she woke to find herself in a strange room.

She rushed out of bed, to fling open the windows of the room and gaze at the morning sky.

In the east, the sun was rising. She remembered then and smiled.

Then she made herself comfortable on the unfamiliar bed, pulled out her book from her bag and began to read from page one.

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Elephant mortality in Okavango rises to 110, Anthrax ruled out

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Wildlife and National Parks department has ruled out Anthrax as a killer disease for elephants along some villages in the Okavango delta.

As of Friday last week, at least 110 dead elephants were discovered in areas of Seronga, Gunotsoga and Eretsha in the past three weeks and were suspected to have died from Anthrax.

However the Anthrax laboratory tests have come back negative, leaving the government departments searching for more answers. 

“Laboratory results have ruled out Anthrax and we are awaiting more results,” explained regional Wildlife coordinator in Maun, Dimakatso Ntshebe.

Ntshebe said his department through the help of veterinary department services are still conducting further tests to find out whether or not this mysterious disease is not a result of poisoning.

The disease according to Ntshebe causes the giant’s front legs to weaken and therefore the unwell animal walks in uncoordinated manner and ultimately drops to its death.

“We don’t know what could be the cause of this disease but we are working around the clock to find out and hopefully work on the cure,” added Ntshebe.

Some samples are to be sent to South Africa for further testing. “We could have taken other samples to the neighbouring Zimbabwe, but because of COVID-19 that brought everything to almost a standstill, we could not send them,” Ntshebe explained before adding that, “before coronavirus outbreak, Botswana and Zimbabwe were in talks and have entered into some agreements including exportation and importation of certain medications, but we have not yet concluded the matter regarding samples, that is why we have not been able to send samples to Zimbabwe.”

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SADC Executive Secretary disturbed by obstacles in movement of goods

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The Executive Secretary of SADC, Dr Stegomena Lawrence Tax, has cautioned member states that any lack of cooperation among then during the COVID19 era has potential to reverse the gains made in the last decades.

Addressing a virtual SADC Council of Ministers meeting this week, Lawrence Tax said that the regional ministers approved Guidelines on Harmonization and Facilitation of Movement of Essential Goods and Services across borders early April. 

She said that whilst the guidelines have played a critical role in facilitation of movement of essential goods, there are notable obstacles that have been noted by the Secretariat.

The obstacles include non-compliance/non recognition of regional legal frameworks; uncoordinated operations at the port of entry among border agencies; lack of harmonization and synchronization of policies and procedures among, and between member states; unilateral decisions outside agreed framework; as well as different approaches to deal with epidemiological challenges,” she said. 

She added that; “all these are resulting in increased cost of doing business, and negatively affecting the implementation of national and regional programmes”.

She advised that there is need to have measures, and coordinated approach in place since the region is in a post lockdown period since the transportation of non-essential goods and services will be resuming.

Lawrence Tax added that COVID19 is a global pandemic and that the SADC regional approach should expand to COMESA-EAC-SADC tripartite and eventually to other continental blocs.

“The Secretariat is already working with COMESA and EAC, specifically, in terms of harmonizing and synchronizing regulations and procedures for movement of goods and services under the Tripartite arrangement. We need to move in unison and avoid unilateral decisions, specifically with regards to cross border movement of goods and services,” she said.

According to the Executive Secretary, the regional office has already conducted a socio-economic impact analysis of COVID19 on the region and the results have shown that the pandemic will impact negatively across many socio and economic sectors.

“The decline in the global economy is projected to lead to a decline in commodity prices, increase in debt and significant contraction of the SADC economies in 2020. This will reverse the gains on industrial development and trade that the region has made in the last couple of years,” Lawrence Tax said.

On the flip side,  the region’s International Cooperating Partners have made pledges to mitigate the impact of COVID19 pandemic on its economy. 

“To date, the Secretariat has secured Euro 7.3 million from the German Government; Euro3.6million from European Union, Euro 190,000.00 under the GIZ/Africa Union Commission, whereas the African Development Bank (AfDB)  has considered a support UA 7 million. Engagements with the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) are also at an advanced stage,” the Executive Secretary said.

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