Drax Scandal: NATPHARM Executives Dismissed
18 July 2020
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Flora Sifeku with other Natpharm employees

SEVEN National Pharmaceutical Company (NatPharm) bosses have been fired as the company reels from allegations of multi-million dollar corruption involving the acquisition of medicines and equipment meant for the Covid-19 pandemic response.

Those who have been fired are managing director Flora Sifeku, operations manager Charles Mwaramba, finance manager Rolland Mlalazi, human resources manager Walter Nhau, regional manager Raguel Mthombeni, stores pharmacist Rumbidzai Kanhema (Matambanadzo) and Bridget Kumapenda.

NatPharm is mandated with the procurement, storage and distribution of medicines and medical equipment for public health institutions.

Some of the managers were implicated in the Drax International LLC US$60 million Covid-19 medicines supply scandal.

They were arrested and face charges of criminal abuse of office.

Sifeku, Mwaramba and Mlalazi were arrested early this month and are being accused of processing government procurement without following proper tender procedures.

In a July 14 internal email with the subject head “Termination of contracts for some managers”, acting managing director Zealous Nyabadza said the seven have been dismissed from their posts with immediate effect. This email serves to inform you that the following managers have been dismissed from NatPharm with immediate effect,” Nyabadza said, without elaborating.

An unprecedented purge has already seen several Ministry of Health officials and chief executive officers of major referral hospitals being fired.

Yesterday, several senior managers at the Health Services Board were also either relieved of their duties or transferred.

“This is part of the large-scale purging of those perceived to be involved in the controversial cases surrounding the procurement of medical supplies and Covid-19 equipment. In fact, more of these senior people are going to fall by the wayside going forward,” an official said.

First to fall was former Health minister Obadiah Moyo, who was fired on July 8 by President Emmerson Mnangagwa for what he deemed behaviour inconsistent with a member of cabinet.

Moyo was arrested last month after an investigation by the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission. He was freed on bail and returns to court on July 31.

Moyo is facing charges of corruption and criminal abuse of office over his role in a deal with Drax to supply personal protective equipment and Covid-19 test kits. If convicted, he faces a fine or up to 15 years in prison.

A representative of Drax, Delish Nguwaya, was also arrested and is facing charges in connection with the contract.

Nguwaya is also on bail. His company has, however, denied wrongdoing and has written to the government protesting the cancellation of the procurement deal.

Apart from the Drax controversy, the Ministry of Health has also been accused of mishandling the procurement of Covid-19 materials through a Namibian-based company, Jaji Investments.

Both deals were concluded without the approval of the Procurement Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe. The Drax deal was cancelled after journalists exposed the transaction, sparking public outrage.

The Health Service Board last week fired chief executive officers of central hospitals, while directors in the Ministry of Health were sent on forced leave as part of what was termed a restructuring exercise.

Those fired are Ernest Manyawu (Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals), Tinashe Dhobbie (Sally Mugabe Central Hospital, formerly Harare Central Hospital), Enock Mayida (Chitungwiza Central Hospital), Nonhlanhla Ndlovu (United Bulawayo Hospitals) and Leonard Mabhandi (Ingutsheni Hospital).