Laziness Helped Lead To Extinction Of Homo Erectus

New archaeological research from The Australian National University (ANU) has found that Homo erectus, an extinct species of primitive humans, went extinct in part because they were ‘lazyR…

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Original Child Bomb

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Why We Need Virtue Education – OpEd

By Josh Herring* Since time immemorial, the Western tradition has considered true education to encompass not just instruction in a given subject matter but the cultivation of students’ virtue. Aris…

Source: Why We Need Virtue Education – OpEd

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Breast Cancer: Advice from Mum ‘You must be positive’. The Will. Chapter 10.

3rd July 2018:  Time again to attend Oncology at St. Vincent’s Private Hospital, Dublin 4.  Mum was constant in her advice which was based on over 60 years practicing as a doctor (GP) that the only way you can deal with a cancer diagnosis is to be positive.  My Mum was acutely aware of my mental health history and how it had caused much illness and anxiety in my life.  A wise doctor who I meet out walking and of the same age as my Mum gave exactly the same advice – the message is the importance of being positive at all times when you have cancer  Thankfully there is a good team around me.  I regularly attend my psychiatrist, John Cooney, my GP Dr Peter Cahill and the constant in my life which helped me most when phobias and anxieties made interaction so difficult, Boots Pharmacy, Upper Baggot Street, and especially Seana.  Khalida and other members of the staff are also aware of my complex health need and are able to negotiate on my behalf to ensure that I have my medications in a blister pack, that I am reminded every three months to get my prescription and since I have been diagnosed with cancer, they have been exceptional in how they have helped me cope with the medications especially during the period I was receiving chemotherapy.  I must also add that Professor Crown, Professor Armstrong and the Oncology team, especially the nurses assigned to my case every three weeks have been professional, kind and caring.

Maria was the nurse assigned for the 3rd July visit.  She took my bloods and waited the return results before giving me the Herceptin infusion.  Thankfully there was no problem finding a vein.  The usual filling in of the chart was completed and I added that my hands had developed an orange colour, as a symptom.  Maria had never heard of this and I explained that I had checked up with Dr Google (she was not impressed with this) and I told her about my kidneys working at 70% and that orange hands can relate to this.  It was decided that the bloods would check up on the kidneys and later on after I had met with Professor Crown, Maria asked me if I had mentioned the matter to him and then she told me my kidney bloods were normal.  I was asked if I wanted to meet with Professor Crown and I said yes.  I then went to the corridor where people sat waiting to be called into see him.  I was prepared with my list (not my bucket list yet).  I started the conversation by congratulating him.  I had a little piece from the Irish Examiner newspaper dated 15th June 2018 which he read.  His humility explained this was a new venture:  The details

Professor John Crown has been appointed chief medical officer with OncoMark at NovaUCD, the producer of a prognostic assay for early stage breast cancer.  A consultant medical oncologist at St Vincent’s hospital, he has published in clinical and translational breast cancer research.  He graduated from UCD Medical School 1980.  He trained in general medicine in Dublin and London.  He trained in oncology in Mount Sinai Hospital, and became a specialist in breast oncology in Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Centre, New York.  He has led St Vincent’s oncology programme and was founding chair of the Irish Cooperative Oncology Research Group.

Having followed Professor Crown on Twitter long before I ever met him, in fact when he was in the Senate, I am including NovaUCD with Twitter as its entree to what NovoUCD is about. Twitter @NovaUCD and @ProfJohnCrown

Diagnosed with cancer – the unknown prevails leaving you vulnerable beyond comprehension (except for depression which I personally have found a far more harrowing burden to experience) than this diagnosis of breast cancer.  To read the above piece about Professor John Crown re-iterates that Ireland has some of the most qualified professionals in medicine and we should never lose sight of what this means to Ireland as a country.

The list:– I started with the orange hands.  Professor Crown did not dismiss it but professionally examined both sides of my hands and checked my eyes.  He was satisfied that nothing was wrong and that maybe I was eating too many carrots!  I then mentioned about my cholesterol being high and that it was recommended I start on Statins.  I explained I did not want another medication and feared that once taken I had to continue for life.  He reassured me many people take Statins and there are no real consequences to fear.  He said to consult with my GP.  The outcome is I am going to be taking Statins also.  The next question was about “Dense Breasts” – something I had found out about on the Twitter.  Again, reassurance.  This is relevant younger patients.  As for the lower back pain, I don’t need medications, it is more and ache and relates to being tired so this concluded the list.  I spoke with the Nurse who shares the office with Professor Crown, I explained I met Elinor and was really delighted that this was her final day.  I explained I had known Elinor since she was a young child and that she stayed with me in Zimbabwe, a long time ago, in what I call another life.  There is no need for Professor Crown to remember my name because he knows that communication will be a constant via the Twitter machine so he ends the conversation always with I will see you on Twitter.

There is something so grounding about Oncology.  You are encouraged not to seek out other people with cancer and there is a good reason.  The short period of time in Oncology, there are a few opportunities when you get to talk to other patients.  What you very quickly realise is that cancer is not simple, it cannot be cured, it can go into remission and you will meet some patients who have had remission for twelve years only to wake up one day and find the cancer has returned

The woman in the chair next to me was 75 years old; she had an operation three weeks prior to this visit and was due for another operation in the lymph glands in the next few weeks.  She and I do not know her name had a 12 year remission.  The woman I met while sitting in the corridor awaiting my visit to Professor Crown had gone for her 12 year check-up only to find that there was more breast cancer; but this time in the other breast.  The significance of this is that it makes me think I am destined to the remainder of life as a neurotic thinking that every ache, pain, skin change, headache, is that cancer is prowling and tumours are lurking looking for opportunities to manifest yet again.

This week I met with Dr Cooney, Psychiatrist; I explained about the Oncology psychologist at St Vincent’s Private Hospital on the advice of the Oncology nurse.  It was decided by both me and the psychologist that I had what I call the Groundhog day routine and that it worked to such a degree that I forget that I even have cancer each day.  Dr Cooney reviewed the medications and as Dr Martin said to me when he met recently ‘you are doing so well, make sure you keep taking the medications and especially the lithium’, it was decided to maintain the medications and add statins.   My next appointment is scheduled for November 2018.  I am confident if there is any crisis period for me I will have the back-up from Dr Cooney and I am aware that he understands totally the complications of being bipolar with traumatic brain injury and acute anxiety and now being treated for breast cancer.

The Will?  The Will to live – I have written about this in the past. Then there is the Last Will and Testament.  I can clearly return to my leaving certificate year in 1976, a year of turbulence and fear.  The fear was the secret that could not be discussed but the fear that said be brave, be a confidante to each parent but never to both because in unison was not possible.  My memory is like this.  Dad was no doubt doing his house calls and we were returning from Dunshaughlin, our nearest village, where Dad could buy his miniature Schimmelpennick cigars (Mrs Murphy always made sure to have them in stock for him and of course his newspapers, magazines, and on rare occasions she had his favorite Heinz tomato soup).  The dispensary system of medicine meant a considerable amount of driving and in those days dispensary doctors called to people in their houses because most people did not have a car.  I worried a considerable amount about my father’s health and I could see that he was troubled but there was nothing I could do to change his life but that did not stop my relentless worrying, which in retrospect I understand was an extreme anxiety disorder that should have treated.  It was a fine day and we were driving towards Dunshaughlin, Dad was driving his blue Audi car XAI 661 which he was so proud of, an indication of a prosperous ascent from being a publican’s son to being a doctor.  As we passed Murnane’s (1963 Dr Murnane retired and my father was appointed to the dispensary practice and the dispensary residence at Belper, Tara, Co. Meath) Georgian house on the main road, my father turned to me and said it was time for him to make a will.  I can remember the panic this instilled in me and I recall vividly pleading with him to forget making a will and what it implied as he was young and he was not going to die.  Yes, he did die in October 1977 and he did not leave a will and testament.  This meant he died intestate.  One Third would pass to his children and two thirds to his wife.

The Will 2018:  Let me sum it up in a brief sentence.  I being one of 2 children, the eldest, according to my Mum’s solicitor, am not entitled to view it.  KT encouraged me to get a solicitor to act on my behalf.  Three letters from him, a phone call, eventually this week (7 months since my Mum passed away) my Mum’s solicitor wrote to me stating that he was under no obligation to provide me with the will but that he was making a concession.  I am excluded in that a Trust will protect me for 20 years. I have said before that my Mum met me each week at the Westin hotel, near Trinity College Dublin, and that I was not invited home for over many years.  Perhaps Rose knew best because her decision was made long ago and she did not want me to recall what was once my home and haven in times of deep depressions.  Her home passes in its entirety to my brother from whom I am estranged.  So like my memories of recent times; all that is of my pre-accident memory of my home, is swept away with the dash of a pen and a signature that says ‘you need no memories of your home, of your Father, or of me.  It then goes on to say in 20 years time, if you happen to be alive, no provision is made for you, it is my son and his five children.

Liz a family friend, again from another life, passed away 1st October last year.  The strange thing is I had a list and Liz was first on my list to make contact with but I am such a procrastinator, I have failed over decades to keep in contact with old friends. My mum knew Liz since she was a small child and it was only a matter of time when we would both meet up with her but alas this did not happen.  Today I met with Paul, Liz’s husband, who so kindly came to the rescue on January 1st 2018 and brought me to my Mum’s funeral.  Kindness is so important and Paul through the decades I have known him remains kind.  We talked about mourning and the stages of grief.  I always believed that part of the grieving process of a child for their parent or a wife or husband in respect of each other, is to have access to their personal belongings so that if they choose they can give items of sentiment to friends and family or just immerse oneself in their reality of the now and reminisce and cry and this is what about mourning the life of a parent.  Paul spoke so affectionately of a gift he bought for Liz of long sleeved gloves and a handbag; he had given to this to a lifelong friend of Liz, only last weekend.

24th July 2018:  2 pm I arrive at Oncology.  It was busy.  I felt relieved that this time I had no list of questions and that apart from fatigue, I was engaging in a positive way with life in general.  I even lost a little weight now at 78.  Hopefully this will continue. Professor Crown met with me and he is pleased with my progress.  I have started on statins and notified them but completely forgot to mention that I had the cervical cancer result as normal.  It was a busy day for the medical team.  A few of us started discussing hair.  One woman wore a wig; another woman her hair was long and had grown back – me I am still wearing a hat although my thin hair is re-appearing and now covers my whole head but there seems to be little growth yet that would suggest going to a hairdresser.  All went well.  There was no difficulty finding the vein and Donna (from Donegal) with such a positive attitude was my nurse for the Herceptin treatment.

26th July 2018:-  As I am writing I am listening to the powerful voice of Ella Fitzgerald which takes me away from dwelling on a situation over which I have no control and back to what is important and that is maintaining the Will to Live.  Curiousity and being stubborn are two traits that are deep down within my being.  I continue relentlessly to seek answers and of course Google and now I have discovered Google Scholar; these provide endless connections and possibilities.

Neuroscience is forever seeking and finding answers and today a TED talk led me to what could be a very valid reason for why a person who sustains a traumatic brain injury would try to describe to people that they have no imagination.  Today, I know Aphantasia was name chosen and defined in 2015.  This is of major significance to me because I am aware that I once used to visualise and most definitely had an imagination but became extremely frustrated after traumatic brain injury blaming memory deficits for removing the ability to imagine.  Absolutely unknown to me, the condition Aphantasia was named in 2015 by Professor Adam Zeman Exeter University, UK.     Daily I listen to TED talks or TEDMED and thankfully today on a random selection in my virtual world of reality I was introduced to this remarkable young woman Tamara Alireza who explains what this condition now named Aphantasia is and which in my case, 20+ years on from when I fractured my skull, makes me so relieved that it is not a craziness in my head but a reality that I can learn to work around and accept.   Now there is a sound reason to review deficits and a good place to start is why I am so afraid of the dark and the answer to this is apparent (I can’t visualise images; not even for counting sheep) My mind needs to be engaged during the day because I can’t day dream.  I need sleeping tablets at night having spent day reading, writing or engaging with Google.  Twitter has been an essential component of helping me cope with memory deficits and lack of holding an image in my ‘mind’s eye’.  Now I know what this condition is and it is yet another component part of the traumatic brain injury.  I have made contact with Professor Adam Zeman.

I suppose it is a social activism or willingness to engage in the everlasting search for answers that is my driving force and having had very deep depressions and generalised anxiety states, I need prompts to state life is not just one black hole when your eyes are closed and there is no other world to engage with or in.  I have written so many emails to minsters, senators, organisations, concerning mental health, suicide, social injustices, politics over the past 2 decades and I can reassure you on my gratitude list at night I am so thankful the traumatic brain injury happened at that time in my life when I knew how to use the computer and then all I have had to do is adapt and engage.  Twitter is my daily engagement with augmenting my memory and making it possible for me to have conversations with a little knowledge about the news in the world around us; it basically up-skills those memory deficits to engagement within the day in world affairs.

Another neuroscientist who I greatly admire, Oliver Sacks, who sadly passed away30th August 2015, from metastases of liver cancer but thankfully he lived to his early 80’s.  Again this man explored the brain and much of his research involved music and images. I would highly recommend his interviews on youtube; his books and for people who are facing a terminal cancer, I would suggest reading his letter in the New York Times

To quote a wise medical veteran with cancer:-

I feel a sudden clear focus and perspective.  There is no time for anything inessential.  I must focus on myself, my work and my friends.  I shall no longer look at “NewsHour” every night.  I shall no longer pay any attention to politics or arguments about global warming. 

This is not indifference but detachment – I still care deeply about the Middle East, about global warming, about growing inequality, but these are no longer my business; they belong to the future.  I rejoice when I meet gifted you people – even the one who biopsied and diagnosed my metastases, I feel the future is in good hands.

I cannot pretend I am without fear.  But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude.  I have loved and have been loved; I have been given much and I have something in return; I have read and traveled and thought and written.  I have had an intercourse with the world, the special intercourse of writers and readers.

I have to say that if face a similar diagnosis and imminent passing; I hope these are the words on my “In Remembrance” card.

The Will to live takes on another meaning in the light of the scandal that is to engage Dr Gabriel Scally in the Scoping Inquiry which has been postponed in finding why women were not notified about cervical cancer smear test results.  Dr Vicky Phelan could have decided to take the silence choice as to the settlement of her case against but she recognised the negligence and as a person felt she had a duty to other women who received incorrect readings in their cervical smears and now there are over 200 women awaiting financial settlements.  The Government acted in haste and said these vulnerable and sick women would be granted mediation and the appropriate settlement yet each week we hear a new name of a woman battling the lawyers









Reminders to write about:-

Gratitude list

Jordan Peterson Clinical psychologist Youtube

Factfulness by Hans Rosling.  A quote for u for HOPE “Thank you industrialization. Thank you steel mill. Thank you power station. And thank you chemical processing industry that gave us time to read books.” Hans Rosling


Conclusion:  One year is 12 chapters and enough time is given to writing about cancer and time to engage in yet another phase of my life going forward.

Maura Collins

The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.

Copyright: Elisabeth Kubler-Ross Family Limited Partnership.










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JB O’Hagan dies

Source: JB O’Hagan dies

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Cancer: Last year I received a letter from BreastCheck setting up an appointment. BreastCheck is Ireland’s National Breast Screening Programme. Diagnosed with breast cancer and still undergoing treatment (operation, chemotherapy radiation and Herceptin infusion) leads me to an exploration of the advantages of screening. Chapter 9

My education about cancer came early in life.  I grew up in a rural dispensary practice, a large Victorian house, with no central heating, on 5 acres with out-houses where workmen used to live to tend to the horses in the days before cars.  I arrived at Belper in 1963 at age 5 years and a few weeks later my brother Shane was born.  The house was in three sections, the back section which had its own avenue, the middle section and the front section which also had its own avenue.  Belper had a gatehouse which was called the dispensary which was a two roomed house which was only used on a Monday and Thursday morning for routine dispensary patients.  In those days, there were limits to transport, many people had no access to cars.

Ireland in the 1960’s, 1970’s was becoming more prosperous so one moved from having a practice that consisted of patients in receipt of medical cards to an an ever increasing number of private patients hence the medical practice was carried out in the main house.  The only suitable room for a surgery was the room in the middle section of the house where the stairs was and the hall was large enough for a waiting room.  Our playroom with the TV was upstairs so this meant we intermingled on a full time basis with patients and their families either meeting them in the car park area or in the hall.  In those days surgeries could go on until midnight and it did not end there, night calls for horrendous car accidents marked each week.  Both parents being doctors meant that practice continued 7 days a week.  Children soak up so much of their environment, my Dad used to call me rabbit ears because I constantly picked up on what I was probably not supposed to listen to and I was constantly looking for answers.  My Dad was a well read man so the post would deliver the British Medical Journal; Time magazine, the Irish Medical Times and these always caught my interest.  I never really managed to read ordinary children books.  I got bored.  I was never a diligent student, too much worry, fear replaced that spirit of altruism that is needed for the profession; anyway I never got the school grades.

I recall so many patients who had cancer; the discussions at meal time would often be stark.  Someone would have arrived at surgery and an immediate call would be made to the  relevant Consultant’s office in Dublin to get an urgent appointment as soon as possible.  You knew the warning signs and I really did hate to hear the words ‘they opened  and closed’ the no hope story.  For weeks my father or mother would call each day to see the patient diminish in health and to support the family knowing their loss.  Now it is me and I am asking if I did not have the breast screening last year, would I be idling around thinking I was tired but not realising I had cancer in my left breast.  I have to say I did say to my mother that I would just let it go its own way and she looked at me in horror and said untreated cancer is an awful way to end life – she had seen so much of it in her own life, her mother lived only a few weeks having been diagnosed with leukaemia at the Royal City of Dublin hospital, Upper Baggot Street.  I know her Uncle Donny died from cancer; as did her Uncle Bobby.  Aunt Molly lived on Waterloo Road and my Mum recalled vividly her battle with throat cancer and the impact it had on her.  Cancer and imminent death is something we are told can be avoided but do we really know if this is true?

A conundrum or so it seems and my personal experience of why silos develop in the HSE (Health Service Executive) system in Ireland.  I have been called for the BreastCheck free service at St Vincent’s University hospital every 2 years (age range 50-69).  Every two years BreastCheck Merrion Road, Dublin  4, administratively proactive, send out a letter informing me that I have an appointment.  As this is part of a no charge screening process, I decided with the encouragement of my partner KT, that I would attend.  I am not so courageous when it comes to the CervicalCheck and by co-incidence (having confirmed this with KT today) I have never received a letter from them to attend an appointment. I have been remiss and only recently decided to check up why I had not been informed by the National Screening Service about the CervicalCheck option.  They confirmed my details and were aware I had never had a smear test under their CervicalCheck provision.  They gave me a code number and now I await the results of the smear test, the result will be posted to me.  In relation to colorectal cancer, when I reach 60 years old, I am told that the postal service within one week will deliver a test kit.  It is hard to imagine that I would be registered for BreastCheck and registered for CervicalCheck yet never called for this, but called for BreastCheck.

The National Screening Service (NSS) encompasses:

  • BreastCheck – The National Breast Screening Programme,
  • CervicalCheck – The National Cervical Screening Programme,
  • BowelScreen – The National Bowel Screening Programme and Diabetic RetinaScreen – The National Diabetic Retinal Screening Programme.

Cancer screening is under attack in Ireland because of the lacunae of human nature and the failure of the professionals in charge of the National Screening Service to pass on earlier results of cervical checks to service users which if known earlier, may have altered the progression of the cancer.  The fear is that the National Screening Service is now under threat of at least 200 medical negligence claims where errors occurred.  The problem for screening for cancer is that if too many people take successful medical negligence claims and massive awards are granted, this could cancel its very existence.

It is time to get perspective and where best to start but by going to that stage beyond and based on my childhood experience of looking at medical magazines from both the UK and America.  I will start by checking out what happens in America at one of its leading hospitals and my choice is Memorial Sloan Kettering hospital to see just how important it is for screening to take place.   Medical professionals encourage patients not to refer to Dr Google but sometimes there are patients who want to know as much as they can comprehend.  It may not change the outcome but it satisfies their curiosity and stops them excessively fretting or worrying.   Secondly I will review the Christie  hospital (Manchester) ranked as one of the most advanced and technological cancer hospitals in the UK and in the world.

The above two links provide in depth information about screening which can be compared with the website of the National Screening Service.  My opinion based on my experience is that in my case the mammogram located cancer and without the check I would have have neglected any signs or non symptoms therefore I advocate that people engage with what is provided for free by the National Screening Service or if they have private health care that they avail of screening that is covered by their payments to the private health care providers.

June 12th 2018 is World Empathy Day and it is my next appointment at St. Vincent’s Private hospital for Herceptin infusion.  I have to say there is no place more humbling than walking up three flights of stairs, turning right to doors that automatically open and let you in and soon you know you are in Day Care Oncology.  As a young person I recall a long walk and conversation with my cousin Jerry Kelly, who was a missionary priest in South Korea.  We walked for miles and I recall him saying you will find life hard; you have too much empathy.  I did not understand then what Jerry was really saying but as life moves on through the decades and you find yourself less sensitive to each event, based on the fact that you don’t remember what previously would have made you so sad, you understand what empathy means.  Empathy is powerful but it is essential to understand what it really means and how to establish boundaries that protect you from people who will take advantage for their own gain.

Empathy Day and where best to be but in the company of capable medical staff, nurses and ancillary staff, people who really do care about people.  There is youth and enthusiasm which leads towards hope and in an Oncology environment, this is essential.  Rachel was my nurse for the day.  Kindness is so powerful and being in a chair beside the Nurses’ Station I could observe the chemistry of a team working with conviction, professionalism, empathy and regard for all who were been treated for cancer in the Oncology unit today and every day.  Rachel went through the checklist, she took my bloods and when the results were returned she started the Herceptin infusion.  Professor Crown said “we” were making progress.  I had the opportunity to ask about the importance of screening and he said that screening did not apply to all cancers but it did to BreastCancer CervicalCheck and Bowel which is what is provided by the National Screening Service in Ireland and The Christie hospital in Manchester.  KT prompted me to ask how many more sessions with Herceptin and Rachel told me that it was Professor Crown’s decision but that it usually was for 12 months after the last session of chemotherapy.  I then asked if I would be recalled to BreastCheck and Rachel said no that when the Herceptin treatment stops then Professor Crown would order a CT scan.

Another world, another life.  I had not seen Elinor on this visit.  I was walking down the stairs and strangely thinking about her when there she was, looking well, and near the end of her treatment.  It was lovely to see her smile.  She has three small children and it is so very important that her treatment is effective.  She was returning from her CT scan.  As a child she was all that empathy is about.  She had a particular love for her pony Patch.  Elinor and her Mum visited me in Zimbabwe in the 1990’s when she was just starting into her teenage years.

KT phoned me many times and had told me to make sure to get a taxi but that was not to be today so I got the bus and it was just as well I did otherwise I would not have met my dear gentleman doctor, Martin Callinan, dapper dressed as ever and visiting his wife in hospital.  We chatted and he spoke about his early days studying medicine in the 1950’s and working in the cancer hospital in Hume Street and  how times have changed for patients with cancer, in his life time.  Martin is everything to me that a general practitioner should be, a man with empathy yet firm, an ability to diagnose and refer promptly.  It was Martin and his wife Geraldine who noticed a significant change in my health in 2009; and although retired from medicine, told KT to immediately take me to A&E in Tallaght; as it turned out I was extremely ill, I was lithium poisoned.

Martin possibly was in college at the same time as my Mum but I don’t think they knew each other.  I had always hoped my mum would leave Co. Meath and return to Dublin 4 where she lived until her twenties; she went to the Sacred Heart school in Leeson Street; and then to College of Surgeons; she lived in Dublin at spent her holidays in Co. Clare.  Now this can never be.  All I know is thoughts come hither and thither through my mind these days and I am sad for the years that could have been but were lost.  It is a great comfort to know over the last few years I met with Mum weekly and that I had met her, by chance, because KT spoke to her and asked her to meet me on Christmas week, so I saw her the Monday before the massive stroke ended her life, years before she expected to leave this earth.

As time passes, I realise that being a doctor, she was hiding her concern about me and the breast cancer especially as her own Mum died from leukaemia.  Each week she would bring little gifts, reminiscent of my childhood, and now I have them including the rug, teddies, and a rose from a dress she bought me when I was 6 years of age, they are now around my bed.  I have no access to her home since Mum passed away; nor for 12 years before that, so I have no inclusion in that part of her life which would allow me to grieve.  Acrimony and bitterness prevail yet again in my life; it is the legal profession who gain.  I know the stages of grief but I haven’t reached anger or repressed anger ie  what some people call depression.  I can say there is a sense of freedom from worry and concern about what would happen to my Mum if she became ill or incapacitated.  The house, my Mum’s home, was broken into recently, but thankfully due to vigilant neighbours and the fact that my Mum was not there, she was fortunate with little stolen.  However, it made me worry that there would be another attempt to break in and that my elderly Mum would be harmed.   It must have also caused her some concern.  My Mum never had a break-in before in her life time.  My Mum’s choice to remain in her home, a large house, with an electronic gate in a rural location was a constant source of worry for me.  I could not have lived there.

Vivienne Starr, the Optician phoned KT to say the test for Glaucoma was a normal reading; such a relief.  Then it was time to get the results of my bloods from Dr Cahill, again KT phoned him to renew my three monthly prescription and get a form for my bloods.  The previous set of bloods were normal but cholesterol still remains high and I need to focus on diet or worse again go on statins medication; I want to avoid taking any further medications so I will have to focus on my diet and avoid ice cream and other delights which raise cholesterol.  All I am awaiting now are the results from CervicalCheck.

Eilish O’Regan, Health Correspondent, Independent newspaper, reports that there could be delays of up to 12 weeks due to the surge in demand for screening in the wake of the CervicalCheck scandal.

The Government was forced to offer free retests after many women became concerned about the accuracy of their result.  It followed revelations about mistakes involving 209 women who developed cervical cancer….

The Well Woman centre has all its tests (now doubled circa 300 per week) carried out at the Coombe Hopsital which is contracted by CervicalCheck to do the work.

Dr Gabriel Scally, who is conducting the scoping inquiry into the CervicalCheck scandal, has recommended clearer information for women on the limitations of testing.  This will emphasise the failure rate involved in screening, which can lead to unavoidable failures.

The 209 women at the centre of the scandal were given the wrong tests results as a result of an error rather than a test failure.

In future women will be asked to sign a consent form which will state clearly that there will be full disclosure in the event of any error or missed diagnosis for any reason.

As I have written before that as I passed Meagher’s Chemist on Upper Baggot Street I saw the sign for the Well Woman Centre, I called in and spoke to the receptionist and as the doctor had the time, she carried out the CervicalCheck that day.  I have never used the CervicalCheck service before because they never notified me by post and sadly there are others who fall into this category too.

Enough nostalgia and back to what is reported in the media over the last few weeks that may be of significance.  The stage is set for a scoping inquiry led by Dr Gabriel Scally.  A very brave and altruistic Vicky Phelan had the capacity and motivation to sue the HSE and Clinical Pathology Laboratories Inc. after receiving incorrect test results.  Vicky is now on Pembroizumab since April (her third dose) and her Consultant Mr David Fennelly has confirmed that there is a shrinkage of her tumours.  Mr Fennelly said to her “You don’t realise how big this is for cancer and cancer patients”.

Every year approximately 300 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer and 90 die from the disease.  Other people screened are treated for pre-cancerous changes.  It is important to note that since CervicalCheck began it has detected over 50,000 pre-cancerous changes in women without any symptoms, as well as over 1,200 cancers.  Eilish O’Regan, Independent article 14th June 2018.

Juliana Adelman dated 14th June 2018 Irish Times article under the heading ‘Cervical Cancer screening is far from perfect’  outlines the history of the Pap smear which is used by Cervical Check.  To quote as follows:

The problem of false negatives is not new, but is part and parcel of the complexity and ambiguity of the test.

According to Monica Casper and Adele Clarke, the Pap smear “has become the most widely used and entrenches cancer-screening technology in the world”.

History:  The Pap smear is named after Dr George Papanicolaou, a Greek doctor working at Cornell University Medical centre in the early 20th century.  His research involved the reproductive cycle of guinea pigs in 1917 by removing a few cells from the cervix and examining them under the microscope.  He then took a swab of his wife, certain staff and patients.  It was 1940 when the medical community accepted Dr Papanicolaou’s test as an effective way of detecting very early cancer or pre-cancer.  To take the swab is the simple part.  To read the results takes time and expense and must be done by a Cytologist.

The classifications for observed cell changes are difficult to define clearly and have changed over time.  Despite the cost and complexity, women in the US began to demand the smear be used as a screening tool because of its potential to save lives through early detection.

The marketing strategy for screening placed responsibility on women to be alert to signs and to act accordingly.  This would mean that medical science had the opportunity to cure them.  It was frowned upon if a woman was diagnosed at Stage IV when she had the opportunity of having cervical smear tests on a regular basis.  Women must acknowledge and be aware of the fact that screening is imperfect.

18th June 2018: a week without any treatment or appointments.  The mood is low recently and it is hard to be motivated even with my rigid daily routine.  Thankfully today provides a reason.  Cancer medications can interfere with neurogenesis in the hippocampus deep within the brain and this talk with some 5.6 million hits is a must for anyone who may feel low, or who are experiencing what they call “chemo brain.”  It is an excellent Ted talk by Sandrine Thuret: ‘You can grow new brain cells.  Here’s how – Ted talk 8th October 2015.…

At all times there is a need for different perspectives and I have to say a recent article by the Irish Examiner columnist, Victoria White, is worth reading.…/victoria-white/cervicalcheck-is-a-political-football-bei…  You are given the opportunity to explore the one sided narratives that have consumed our media of recent times.  I will quote as follows:

The Government is frightened because Vicky Phelan won an award of £2.5 million against Clinical Pathology Laboratories, where her cervical smear test was misread.

Four cases relating to incorrect smear results have already been listed to come before the High Court, with many more potentially waiting in the wings.  Emma Mhic Mathuna is seeking “exemplary and aggravated damages”… What the Government really fears is the voice of a dying woman blaming them for their plight.

Why did the Government not repeat that cervical smear testing programmes have an incorrect reading rate of about 30%; and that it was an issue about open disclosure.

…this is what we need to understand as arising from this crisis.

The women most failed by the State in the diagnosis of cervical cancer are the hundreds who contracted it in the 20 years it took to establish a screening programme after the UK and similar jurisdictions had established one.

Orange hands  I noticed them but just thought it was that it was due to peeling oranges which I eat on a daily basis.  No matter how often I washed my hands, the orange colour remained.  Then someone said to me about the orange colour of my hands and again I explained it was peeling oranges and never thought anything more about them.  Then when KT asked me about my orange hands and asked why I had not checked it out, I thought it was time for Dr Google and yes this is on my list when I attend Oncology next Tuesday 3rd July.  Orange hands, the graphic on the computer replicates exactly what I had (not at present but several weeks ago).  It is a medical condition and it needs to be assessed by the professionals.  As I have only 70% kidney function (a result of Lithium poisoning) and orange hands can be related to renal problems; I will write a note in my diary and ask Professor Crown when I meet him on Tuesday.

My hair is beginning to grow again; it is very fine and I still need to wear my hat.  There is always hope and for this reason I am going to refer to an article written by Professor Crown (unfortunately there is no link from the Irish Daily Mail so I will highlight some of the relevant points) and maybe in time the link will be made available.

“Ireland’s best-known oncologist delivers an impassioned plea for a new approach” by Professor John Crown.  The heading states “A new drug has had a huge effect on Vicky Phelan’s cancer.  So shouldn’t all patients like her receive it too?

I would say yes, because we know that in Vicky Phelan’s case, since the administration of Pembrolizumab since April, the tumours are shrinking.  This is a new immunotherapy drug which was made available to Vicky Phelan via the public health service.  Professor Crown advocates that this now be made available to all women with cervix cancer who might benefit from it.  At present they cannot access it.

Pembrolizumab is from a new class of drugs that have revolutionised the therapy of several cancers.  There are now about half a dozen similar drugs in advanced stages of development or, in some cases, already in use.  They are superior to older treatments for melanoma, lung, kidney, bladder and some other cancers.

Process relating to the introduction of new drugs.  The first hurdle is the need to get regulatory approval, which is a determination by an expert government agency that the drug actually works and is safe.  In the US this is done by the FDA  They have granted such an approval for Pembrolizumab for some patients with advanced cervix cancer which deteriorated despite anti-cancer treatment.  In Ireland and other European countries, this type of regulatory approval is no longer done at national level but by a pan European entity called the European Medicines Agency

If the new drug has high efficacy and safety, it is probable that it will be approved.  The second hurdle concerns cost.  The question is who pays?  In this case the decision for reimbursement is nationally determined therefore it is the National Centre for Pharmaeconomics (NCPE) who determines.  The drug company determines the price for the drug.  As Professor Crown writes:-

While the NCPE takes much criticism for ‘denying’ drugs for cancer, cystic fibrosis and other illnesses, it must be acknowledged that this process is not easy.  Every euro that is spent on a new cancer drug is a euro that is not available for others desperately needed activities in the health service….In Ireland not unlike the UK Ireland would now be considered as a ‘low access’ country.

Professor Crown quite rightly suggests that putting a tax on cigarettes and tobacco and even tanning parlours.  Such a tax could be used to pay for these expensive drugs.  I would add that cigarettes are possibly over taxed in this country causing smuggling or people returning from holidays stocking up on cigarette supplies which are so much cheaper than the £12 for 20 in Ireland.  There needs to be an allocation of funding from taxing items which are known to cause cancer but loopholes need to be avoided also.  Professor Crown refers to this as a ‘Hypothecated tax’

Where is the equality?  If these drugs are made available to Vicky Phelan, why not other women with a similar diagnosis but without private health cover?  To further quote Professor Crown:-

It might offend civil servants and other purists of taxation theory but this revolutionary step would make the drugs available to the thousands of patients who need them today, without diverting health care resources from other areas that desperately need them.

Another month is ending and next week will be the start of a new Chapter.  Living as I do in what I call Upper Baggot Street Village, I feel included and privileged.  28th June 2018 and it was time to meet my good friend Joe again for a chat at Insomnia coffee shop.  I must have been early because I had the opportunity to read the Irish Independent newspaper and therein was the supplement from Media Planet – Irish Cancer Trials httpL// If you scroll down there is a PDF link to access the supplement.  As it was late afternoon I decided to take the supplement and will replace it with a book for their bookshelves, from my collection of books.  The wise words of an old Judge come to mind and I repeat them here ‘Knowledge is no load’.

To highlight certain relevant points concerning breast cancer:

Oliver O’Connor, Chief Executive, Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association

the fact is, the prices are agreed as an average of 14 EU countries and, of those countries, Ireland is last among Western European countries for the adoption of new medicines….Ireland comes 18th out of 28.

Bryan Hennessy, Clinical Lead, Cancer Trials Ireland‎

  • Cancer trials can be the ultimate win-win, with patients getting the best care possible, plus potentially getting access to a new breakthrough medicine…Unfortunately Ireland is lagging behind a lot of Europe.  We only get around 3% of people in Ireland with cancer on new drug trials.  You need to get the funding in place to get new medicines trialed in the clinical environment.
  • You need phase I, II and III trials involving patients to be able to show that a new medicine is safe and effective outside the laboratory.
  • Patients get a lot of from cancer trials because, ultimately, they re going to get far more attentive care.  There is always a control group in any trial, who don’t get the new treatment, but rather a placebo.
  • Cancer is a global phenomenon so no one country is ever going to defeat it on its on.

Professor Seamus O’Reilly Consultant Medical Oncologist, Cork University Hospital.

  • Since 2008, a mass centralisation of cancer care in Ireland has seen the treatment of breast and ovarian cancer change for the better.
  • Professor O’Reilly says “We’re better resources, and we’re seeing quicker diagnoses, referrals and clearer treatment pathways for patients.
  • Breast cancer is the most common form of the disease in women, accounting for 17% of all cancer deaths in Ireland.  However the survival rate continues to improve with the figure now around 80%.
  • Precision therapy is helping to enhance and improve existing treatments.
  • In breast cancer, an increased presence of the ‘HER2’ gene causes cancer tissues to multiply faster, occurring in roughly 25% of breast cancer cases.  ‘HER2’ testing establishes whether someone is ‘HER2positive’, meaning they have the specific gene abnormality that can play a role in the development of breast cancer.  Treatment then targets this genetic abnormality directly.
  • In someone with HER2 positive breast cancer, their cancer is likely to come back more quickly that in others.  We can now target that abnormality and we’re seeing better results from that.

The supplement refers to other cancers and articles which can be accessed on the above link.

Another month over – I have read through this with no recollection of writing it but then this is the process of living in Groundhog Day and its routine.  It has advantages when cancer is your companion because you constantly forget about cancer and just live in the day.
















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Essay: Trinity College Dublin – Sociology 1999/2000 (Critically examine the economic, socio-cultural and political factors which have influenced the success of Zimbabwe’s current land reform programme) Hilary Term Business Economics and Social Studies





In the light of recent events (1997) in Zimbabwe, which will be reviewed in this essay, it would appear inappropriate to refer to Zimbabwe’s current Land Reform Programme as a success.  A critical examination of the economic, socio-cultural and political factors giving rise to this assumption is required.  This involves giving one’s judgment about the merit of theories or opinions or looking for the truth in line with the facts, and to then support one’s judgment by discussion of the evidence. Having defined the word ‘Critically’, I first want to provide an outline of the essay structure.   I will  establish the historical basis which is largely responsible for the Land Reform Programme in question. Then, I attempt to answer the question – What is Land Reform?   The main content of the essay is a critical examination of the economic, socio-cultural and political factors which have influenced the success (or lack of success) of Zimbabwe’s current land programme.  My conclusion reviews the motivation factors of the colonial settlers who chose to remain,  President Mugabe, ZANU-PF and the citizens of the Independent Zimbabwean.



The idea gleaming and dancing before one’s eyes like a will-of-the-wisp

at last frames itself into a plan.  Why should we not form a secret

society with but one object, the furtherance of the British Empire

and the bringing of the whole uncivilised world under British Rule,

for the recovery of the United States, for the making the

Anglo-Saxon but one Empire? 

What a dream, but yet it is probable, it is possible.

Cecil Rhodes (aged 23) in His Confession of Faith – 1902


Cecil Rhodes – similar to religion, gave encouragement and endorsement to the people of  the declining British Empire. Rhodes referred to the fact that since Africa was lying ready for take-over, it was the duty of the people of the British Empire to acquire it. Rhodes, at the age of 21, is said to have sided with those, who believed that everyone was entitled to the same opportunity.  However, 7 years later, he no longer believed in this idealism.

The timing of  the arrival of Cecil Rhodes in South Africa is a very important contributing factor to his success.

‘An Industrial and technological revolution in Europe and the United States had given him unique advantages at the precise moment he was able to profit from them…when he arrived, it took 8 months to receive a reply by letter from England.  In the next decade, when Rhodes was ready to expand his interests, Southern Africa had been transformed.  The telegraph offered instantaneous communication.  Cape Town, and Kimberly were linked by rail and the journey to London had shrunk to 19 days’ (Thomas, A. 1996: 348)

Opportunities abounded.  Financial markets became accessible.   There was dynamite for mining purposes and electricity available.  Labour was plentiful and virtually without value, economic or otherwise. ‘Rhodes achieved a near-monopoly of the world’s diamond markets, by audacious take-overs and the secret purchase of shares.  He had a perfect understanding of public relations and the power of the press, acquiring newspapers, both openly and secretly, in the belief that ‘the press rules the minds of men”  (Thomas, A. 1996:  12,13)

 The foregoing paved the way for what is known as Settler Colonialism which began in 1889.  Cecil Rhodes by way of the British South Africa Company (BSAC) received a Royal Charter of Incorporation from Great Britain.  This meant the BSAC had power to make agreements and treaties with African Rulers and Headmen to expropriate land.  This land they then distributed to white settlers.  The BSAC exploited the mineral resources.  They hoped to find similar wealth generating deposits to those found in South Africa.  However, Rhodesia was not sufficiently mineral rich and the focus switched to agriculture.

In 1930, the Land Apportionment Act segregated land into legal racial holdings.  The European land mass was 50.8%, the native purchase areas a mere 7.7% and the native reserves comprising 22.4%.  Only 5% of the population were European settlers who could purchase land in the superior areas while Africans could only occupy poor land areas.   The ‘Divide and Conquer’ strategy was applied by Great Britain resulting in a small number of Africans being allowed to purchase land.  These were to be the indigenous ‘elite’ who would distance themselves from the masses creating hostility sufficient to prevent the formation of a united front that could challenge the minority settler population.  However, the intention was defeated by the lack of credit facilities and the existence of discriminatory pricing mechanisms which applied to this elite and not the white settlers and which excluded them from assimilation with the settlers.   It is worth noting at this stage the impact of the Christian Church on African Nationalism.  When the missionaries arrived in the early 1800’s,  to advance African Nationalism was not their concern.  In many ways, they have been visible supporters of colonial rule.  Their contribution to African Nationalism was by default.  Before the missionaries arrived in Africa, there were 700 languages but only 4 had a script of their own.  This meant a very real problem with illiteracy.  By 1959, literacy had increased to 10-12%.  Education is cherished in Africa and the ambition of even the poorest of parents for their children.

Ian Smith, The Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia, a British colony since 1923 – rejected British conditions proposed for Rhodesian Independence in 1965.  Britain responded by imposing sanctions which fueled the internal conflict between the White 5% minority and the African majority.

‘We can safely say then that the study of history has placed very powerful political weapons in the hands of many Africans and that historical consciousness is one of the chief factors under-girding African nationalism.  The educated African has very powerful ideas and ideologies that are highly explosive and dangerous due to colonialism’ (Sithole, 1959:  61)

Reference is often drawn to the docility of the African people who had to all appearances, acquiesced to white domination.  History, the education first provided by the Missionaries, effected the dissolution of tribalism in favour of nationalism.  There was a time when African students used to resent being taught by a black teacher.  However World War II altered opinions.  For the first time, Africans saw their ‘betters’ suffer defeat.  This fostered the de-mystification of the white man.  Sithole sums it up as follow:-

‘Time has given birth to a new African who is more self-asserting, more enterprising, more aggressive and more self-reliant than his forebears. It is impossible to push this new African into Time’s womb…’ (Sithole, N.  1959: 159)

The outcome was that in April 1980, Zimbabwe became Independent.  The Lancaster House agreements with Britain brought to an end 15 years of unilaterally declared independence. The former white minority Rhodesian Government withdrew and The Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) have been in power since 1980.  It was a coalition government with Robert Mugabe as Prime Minister, and Rev. Canaan Banana in the largely ceremonial role of president.  However, the transition was not smooth, factional differences arose between the former Guerrillas.  In 1983/84, unrest by Pro-Nkomo dissidents in Matebeland resulted in thousands of Government troops being deployed – many Matebele died and vile atrocities were carried out.  By 1988 this was resolved.  Joshua Nkomo (Matebele) and Robert Mugabe (Shona) signed a Unity Agreement and ended the conflict.

In 1991, ZANU-PF initiated a substantial economic reform process.  In the mid 1990’s, Parliament approved legislation allowing the compulsory acquisition of land by the Government, which was further facilitated by President Mugabe winning the elections held in those years.  Cracks became apparent in 1997.  The Government was accused of misusing funds intended for veterans of the Independence Struggle.  The Government responded by granting large benefits for the war veterans which were financed by increased taxation.  The response from the Trade Unions was strike action and demonstrations.  President Mugabe re-focused on the land resettlement programme, the ideal scapegoat to capture the attention of the dissatisfied masses.   In 1997, Mr. Kangai said ‘it was what he termed a fact of history that these countries had, in the past, pledged financial support for land reform in Zimbabwe’ (Internet, BBC News Online: Despatches, 1997).  He also said that the white settlers would not be financially compensated, that the obligation to remunerate them rested with the UK.  In November 1997, a list of 1,000 targeted properties was published.  ZANU-PF stated their goal to acquire 5 million hectares over a five year period.  Moreover, 223,112 hectares (120 farms) were offered for sale in 1998.

What is Land Reform?

Encyclopaedia Britannica describes it as a purposive change in the way land is held or owned, how it is cultivated and moreover how it relates to the rest of the economy. Land reforms may be initiated by Government, revolution or the work of interest groups.  In the past, the aim of Land Reform has been concerned with the abolition of feudalism or colonial owners.  The aim is to improve the conditions of the peasants.

A basic foundation for a land reform programme is that it must be concerned with restructuring an existing system of landed property.  Normally what happens is that the State acquires the landed estates at the estimated market price with the intention of subdividing them into small parcels, and to sell these with full private property rights of use and exchange, to the beneficiaries.  The rationale being efficiency and equality (Atkins, 1988). The fact that Third World poverty has not been eradicated is seen as a systematic failure by the left as well as the proponents of the market economy (Sobhan, R. 1993).  Collectivist failures have occurred in other countries such as Taiwan, Russia, North Korea but on the other hand re-distributive agrarian reforms of a highly egalitarian nature took place in Japan and South Korea.  In these cases – an external force played the catalytic role.  The US instructed the re-distribution of the 37% of arable land to 66% of all agricultural households.

‘Within the constitutional constraints inherited by the first black government in Zimbabwe, there was not much scope for major land reform, but there was scope to buy out white settlers and to bring unused lands under cultivation.  Thus abandoned farms were taken over and surplus lands under white settler farms were subsumed by the State, with payment of compensation.  ‘This was designated for distribution to the landless and the poor’ (Sobhan, R.  1993: 73).  35,000 peasant families, per consequence of this, were assembled in 50 settlement schemes.  By 1984, 18% of the land held by white settlers had been redistributed to Africans.  It is important to consider the role of  bureaucrats and bureaucratic agencies.  The reality is that they have vested interests in the protracted proceedings relating to Land Reform and in particular the Ministries of Agriculture and Lands and certain para-statal affiliated groups, who have no desire for a resolution which would entail a loss of job for them or their supporters.  Moreover international aid agencies can likewise hinder policy and planning discourse.  International aid is about shifting funds to Third World governments and sometimes it is necessary to have a vehicle to effect the transfer.  Land settlement schemes provide a useful method.  (Hulme, D, 1987).

At the centre of rural development issue is the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, i.e. the World Bank.  The World Bank raises its money from international capital markets and re-lends it at interest to governments to finance specific projects.  The World Bank together with its associate the IMF, were set up in 1944 at Bretton Woods.  The aim was to encourage free flows of trade, investments and profits, the main promoter being the US.  Irrigation schemes are funded and sponsorship is available.  The World Bank is presently supporting ‘green revolution’ technology in line with its poverty lending focus.  The World Bank is still in favour of conservative fiscal policies, liberal trade, exchange rate policies and protection of foreign investment.  Lending policies thus favour right-wing military regimes.  In other words, those who redistribute the income and benefits derived from economic growth to the rich (Williams, G.  1981).  This falls in line with the urban-bias practice engaged in.

Over 11 million hectares of land is owned by approximately 4,500 commercial farmers (Internet, IRIN).  9th September 1998 Mugabe warned of Land Reform Anarchy while attending a conference in Harare to raise funds for redistribution of land.  Donors had pledged to provide $1.5 m but were considering withdrawing from the commitment.  Mugabe informed them that if the 5 year plan did not come into effect, squatting would increase to the point of anarchy.  The last number of months in Zimbabwe has seen a high  proportion of this reality.  There has been an invasion of white-owned farms.  The accusation is that ZANU-PF have breached their promise for land redistribution  (Internet, BBC News, 1998).

Zimbabwe, like other indigenous African countries, has a corrupt ruling elite.  They boast and display their wealth.  In a speech in 1989, Robert Mugabe similar to Joshua Nkomo, having tried to place a check on the corruption, capitulated and said ‘I suppose we have to learn how to be rich as well as having to learn everything else’  (Lessing, D.  1992: 9).    It is acceptable that it is a difficult transition, involving a whole new process of learning but one hopes that ‘in learning how to be rich’ that the corruption that ‘can’ accompany being rich, could be displaced.

Critical examination of the socio-cultural and political factors which have influenced the success of Zimbabwe’s current Land Reform Programme:


‘The government has no economic or social record on which to campaign.  With the country in deep crisis – long queues for diesel and petrol, increasingly frequent power-cuts, a dire shortage of foreign exchange, massive government borrowing, numerous reports of corruption in government and state owned companies – ZANU-PF will campaign on emotive issues such as land and race.  If the party win next month, it will be by exploiting the land issue, depicting the business community and especially the 70,000 white minority as economic saboteurs, and promising a new ZANU-PF, albeit with many of the same leaders’ (Financial Times, 2000)

I cannot describe the current Land Reform Programme in Zimbabwe as a success.  Based on the foregoing history and the land reform issue, it is apparent that land redistribution is mainly a ploy used by President Mugabe and ZANU-PF to remain in power.  If President Mugabe wins over the rural community and is re-elected in April, the cost to Zimbabwe will be high.  International donors – the US, Sweden, Norway, and the The Netherlands, have provided US$920,000 through the UN Development Programme, as yet another tranche of funding to Zimbabwe recently.  The purpose of this donation was to aid the Zimbabwean Ministry of Agriculture to progress the inception phase of the land scheme drafted to resettle 77,000 rural families on millions of hectares of farm land in a 2 year time period.

Why 20 years after Independence is the land redistribution issue so prominent? 1% of the population are white settlers holding most of the productive, income yielding land, the remainder are the indigenous population. Zimbabwe wanted the US$193 million which the IMF reluctantly pledged to them in August 1999 on the basis of Zimbabwe’s officials’ confirmation that it was spending only $3 million per month on keeping troops in the Congo to support the Congolese government.  October 4th, the Financial Times, had sourced an internal memo from the Zimbabwean Finance Ministry showing that $166 million had been spent over 6 months, January to June.  This highlights the reliance that the IMF and World Bank have on local staff.  The emphasis on truth and trust is made more difficult in the light of such revelations.  This method is unreliable.  Whistleblowers need to be fostered to reveal any discrepancies (Economist, 2000: 64).  Given the foregoing, the following question is pertinent but extremely difficult to answer.

Will the donors continue to fund and what will be the implications if the donors withdraw?

White Supremacy in Action, comprises white people, who equate economic power with political power.  The economically strong are also politically strong.  Given this premise, it follows that the objective of the European ideology of white supremacy is to keep Africa politically weak.  The means of effecting this is to keep it economically weak.  In other words, political domination presupposes economic exploitation. Zimbabwe is predominantly an agricultural economy, the crops include tobacco, cotton, sugarcane.  Gold is also mined.  Zimbabwe gained Independence in 1980. The Zimbabwe of 1980 was more industrialised than most other African countries.  It had a diversified productive base, a well developed infrastructure and a sophisticated financial sector.  To date, most large-scale commercial farms are owned by the white minority.  Agricultural land is the main foreign exchange earner in Zimbabwe.  From 1991 to 1995 Zimbabwean economic growth was approx. 1.7%, this increased to 7.6% in 1996 but dropped to 3.5% in 1997 (mainly due to poor performance in agriculture and mining).  Growth in 1998 was 1.6% and similar for 1999.

Zimbabwe is an now an unstable economy, exports are considerably reduced, the currency devalued 90% since November 1997.  Inflation runs over 60%.  The reality is that the commercial farms will have to be revived to generate economic returns.  An election looms, an opposition poses a threat, namely the Movement for Democratic Change, Mugabe lost the draft constitutional referendum in February, he accuses the white farmers of causing this.  To regain the much needed rural support, he has now introduced a constitutional amendment to seize white-owned farms.  Written by Mr. Mugabe himself, the clause says that Britain is obliged to pay for the land that Rhodesian colonists took from the Africans.  If Britain does not pay then the Zimbabwean Government can confiscate the land without compensation.  (Economist, 2000, 58).


Sub-Saharan Africa women produce between 60 and 80 percent of agricultural foodstuffs and cash crops.  Yet, in many parts of the African Continent, women lack legal access to land and support services for production and distribution.  As a result, women are frequently left to provide for their dependents without adequate agricultural, educational, institutional, and financial support….First, legal barriers to women’s land rights must be challenged.  Second, women have to be provided full extension and support services tailored to their needs.  Third, support must be given to non-governmental organisations and movements that actively promote women’s land rights’.  (Peters and Peters, 2000: 7)

By custom, by way of colonial policies and in such schemes as Julius Nyerere’ Tanzanian Ujamaa Village Act – women only have usufruct[1].  The advantages derived from the land or property belong to their husbands or male guardians.  This precludes women from gaining credit, joining co-operatives and being available to marketing facilities.  Women in Africa are often left to provide for their families without substantial educational, agricultural, and financial support. Women often worked 16 hours a day, and still do.  They carry out the ordinary tasks as per the gendered division of labour but moreover they are involved in the agricultural work while husbands migrate to the urban areas for work.  Yet, while permit holders, mainly men, can raise government sponsored credit, through the Agricultural Finance Corporation, women do not have access to loans in their own right.  In spite of the evident and essential contribution of women, in August 1994, President Mugabe stressed that cash crop production was the main goal of resettlement in Zimbabwe, but while saying that there should be Justice for both partners in a marriage…he rejected calls for the registration of both spouses’ names on land permits, saying that these were foreign ideas not acceptable in Zimbabwe where the man was head of the household’ (Resettlement Now 1994, 7).  This could only be described as a biased statement and unjust.

It was kinship and inheritance that provided the basis of organisation for the Shona and Ndebele.  Interestingly, land was not owned in pre-colonial Shona and Ndebele societies.  The male chief of the Patrilineage held and distributed it.  Daughters were often granted usufruct rights over the lands of their fathers, the same applied to a divorced woman.

‘Land Reform as an instrument of development policy was widely acclaimed in the 1960’s and 1970’s and was vocally, if not financially, supported across the whole political spectrum.  The broad support rested on a range of opinion which saw traditional land tenure systems as responsible for political unrest, the reproduction of social injustice and as a principal cause of economic stagnation (Atkins, F. 1988: 935)

‘For both the reformers and revolutionaries, ‘in the post-colonial era agrarian reform was seen as one of the levers to modernisation and structural change of their ‘backward’ societies’ (Sobhan, 1993: 1).

Land Reform was seen as a means of eradicating poverty.

Capitalism represented development and the reformers wanted to provide incentives to the agrarian workers so that they would engage in more intensive farm methods.  The surpluses in turn would be used to underwrite the industrialisation process.  The aim was to remove the elite of the ‘ancien regime’ (Sobhan, 1993: 1).  Zimbabwe has a high donor presence.  They include the World Bank, the European Union, the IMF etc.  Many countries also donate e.g. US, Britain, Nordic countries etc.  Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO’s) are very much involved in areas relating to Aids, gender, community development. The World Bank has 8 active projects in Zimbabwe and has contributed funds amounting to US$448 million.  Projects supported include finance, public sector management, agriculture, environment, infrastructure and social sectors (World Bank, 1999). Sustainability is a most important factor.  It involves environmental, institutional, social and economic dimensions.  The urban bias is easily identified in Harare, the capital city.  Harare 1992 provided a needy respite for world-wide construction related business.  Architects, Engineers, Contracts Managers and large international companies diverted their attention from the recession/depression of their home market in the UK and Ireland, and adapted to Third World markets, in favour of profits.  Ironically, the buildings which tended to be the largest were the Reserve Bank, the 17 Storey Post Office Savings Bank, the armed forces accommodation areas/runways etc.  What will the impact of E-commerce be?  This was not envisaged!  The locations of employment are mainly for para-statal bureacracy.  What about Eco-Tourism?

‘The external debt of developing countries climbed steeply during the late 1980’s and early 1990’s.  Servicing this debt places a heavy burden…and imposes a serious constraint on the economic and social development of the poorest and most indebted…Irish Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) is given solely as grants, never as loans…Ireland is actively involved in international measures to alleviate the debt burden’ (Irish Aid – Ireland’s Official Development Assistance 1998; 18,19).


  • £1 million approximately
  • Population:  11.2 million
  • Human Development Report Ranking 130th out of 174 countries

Zimbabwe at one time was the 10th wealthiest country in the world but this is far from the case at present.  Equity in debt provision by donors is a key factor.  The objectives for donors i.e. apart from altruism, is to gain significant financial returns, given the risk element.   Idi Amin (Uganda), to Banda (Malawi), to Mobuto (Zaire) to name but a few, provide prime examples of how donated funds can be misdirected.  Ultimately no-one gains by corruption and particularly those 70% of the peasant population who work the land in the case of Zimbabwe.

By the time of UDI, exports amounted to 47% of GDP with imports at 36%.  At Independence, Zimbabwe’s indigenous population were better educated than their counterparts in other countries.  Large publicly floated companies like Lonrho, RTZ, BAT existed.  Historical dependence on foreign capital inflows, imported technology, and expatriate managerial inputs through transnational arrangements provided a strong support system.

Will Zimbabwe survive in the globalised markets of today?  In the case of Zimbabwe it is not a question as to whether the Government will use power, it is how they use the power?   The direction to which it is put is the prerogative and given the foregoing, there appears to be a ‘hedging bets’ strategy in place.  In 1990, Robert Mugabe formally abandoned Communism.  The Economic Structural Adjustment Policy (ESAP) was the new policy in vogue at that time.  Some commentators viewed this  as a method of getting the most out of capitalism without having to let go of socialism.  The message to the people was ‘The sugar is over’ (Lessing, D.  1992: 431).  Investment is sought by the Party from international markets.  Does this equate to pleasing the Master i.e. the Donors.  A survival by a new form of paternalism.


The fabled riches of Africa – ivory, gold, diamonds, emeralds, copper.  Crops like cotton and palm oil could be grown on plantations cutting out direct sales.  Africa was too rich to be left to the Africans who they considered to need civilisation and Christianity.  The Africa they seized was technologically in the Iron age and politically divided into thousands of units.  Paternalism was the ploy used by the Europeans to win over the Africans.  Africa was a storehouse and was steadily exploited.  The Africans received only a small fraction of the wealth generated.  For the Africans, ‘Wonders have come’ – this was the general response to what the West offered.  They learned skills, they worked on construction sites, they worked as carpenters, bricklayers, they worked the land etc.   They still do.  Africans did benefit from the provision of schools, hospitals, modern administration systems, infrastructure but we must never forget that  European occupation was short but the impact was considerable.   ‘The coming of  European powers brought to Africa: the coming together of different tribes, better communications, a new economic system, the creation of new classes among African people’ (Sithole, 1959: 68).  What is interesting is that the colonial powers in their assistance with de-tribalisation paved the way for nationalist aspirations.  The development of the infrastructure also had the by-product of facilitating nationalism.  The media, the press, the radio opened up whole new areas of information to the indigenous, another beneficial resource.  The change from the tribal African to the nationalist African occurred.  I commenced this essay with an outline of the history of  Rhodesia/Zimbabwe, I then reviewed land reform.  The main context contains a critical examination of the economic, social-cultural and political factors which have influenced the success of Zimbabwe’s current Land Reform programme and under this section I have looked at women’s contribution to agriculture in Zimbabwe.  I do not consider the Land Reform Programme a success as can be concluded from this essay.

I will conclude my drawing reference to a poem called The Boss, which is referred to by Doris Lessing in her book, African Laughter.  Accompanying the poem, in a prominent position, in a Government office was the following quote.

‘Zimbabwe is run by Bosses – Robert Mugabe is a good man fallen among thieves’

 The message:  It is easy to be a ‘Boss’ but not so easy to be a ‘leader’





Lessing, D. 1992.  African Laughter – Four Visits to Zimbabwe.  London:  Harper Collins.

Moyo, S. 1986.  ‘The Land Question in Mandaza, in I (ed.)  Zimbabwe the Political           Economy of Transition.  1980-86.  Dakar: Codesria

Rhodes, C. 1902.  ‘Confession of Faith’ in A. Thomas (ed) in ‘Rhodes – The Race for          Africa.  London:  BBC Books.

Riddel, R (ed) 1980.  From Rhodesia to Zimbabwe.  Morris-Jones, W.H.  New Jersey:       Frank Cass and Co.

Sithole, N. 1959.  African Nationalism.  London:  Oxford University Press.

Sobhan, R.  1993.  Agrarian Reform and Social Transformation.  Preconditions for            Development.  London.  Zed Books. Limited

Thomas, A. 1996.  Rhodes –  The Race for Africa.  London:  BBC Books.

Williams, G.  1988.  The World Bank and the Peasant Problem in Heyer, J. Roberts, P       and Williams G., (eds). London:  MacMillan


Internet Sources:

BBC New Online: Special Report.  “Zimbabwe’s History: Key Dates”:  [Internet].

2 December1998.…zimbabwe/newsid


Encylopaedia Britannica.  “Land Reform”.  [Internet].  18 March 2000.

World:  “Africa Mugabe warns of Land Reform Anarchy”:  [Internet]. 9th September       1998.   

World Bank Group.  “Country – Zimbabwe”.  [Internet] July 1999.

Zimbabwe:  “Donors Back Land Reform”:  [Internet].  19th May 1999.          9.html

Zimbabwe Minister on Land Grab Plans: [Internet].  2nd December 1997.

http://BBC News/Despatches/Zimbabweminister on landgrabs



Atkins, F.  1988.  ‘Land Reform:  A Failure of Neoclassical Theorization’.  World   Development.  16:8:935-946

Hulme, D. 1987.  ‘State Sponsored Land Settlement Policies: Theory and Practice’.

Development and change.  18:3:413-36



Hawkins, T.  ‘Land Appropriation may prove to be Mugabe’s lifeline.’  Financial      Times.  1 March 2000



Irish Aid, 1998, Ireland’s Official Development Assistance: 18, 19, 22, 42

Weekly Journals:

“Zimbabwe:  Official Invasion.”  Economist  11 March 2000: 54..58′

‘Zimbabwe:  The IMF rescues Mugabe.’  Economist.   11 September 1999.  Vol. 352.

‘Zimbabwe:  Creating Accounting in Africa – Hidden Skills.’  Economist.  9 October          2000:  64  Vol 353





NO:  97810959

[1] Law, the use and enjoyment of lands or tenements without the rights to alienate such

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