Constantino Chiwenga, Vice-President and Health minister has dissolved the National Pharmaceutical Company (NatPharm) board, while ministry principal director Gibson Mhlanga is in trouble over a Covid-19 material tender scam which took in Deputy Health minister John Mangwiro.
A parastatal board is legally, appointed and dissolved by the minister.
Billy Rigava the renowned medical practitioner chaired the board, comprising anaesthetist Northburga Harunavamwe Chifamba, procurement and supply specialist Johnson Shonhe, lawyer Rachel Chibaya and banker Gerald Gore, was kicked out during the first week of December last year.
Approached for comment, Rigava denied to discuss the issue, while Mangwiro’s mobile phone went unanswered several times yesterday.
Health ministry acting permanent secretary Robert Mudyiradima wrote the letters of dismissal and the pharmaceutical company was left without a board at a time when the country is battling to contain Covid-19 which has to date killed over 1 200 people, including four ministers.
Mhlanga, a seasoned medical practitioner, who was Health ministry’s preventative services principal director, was caught in a crossfire as he was acting permanent secretary when the US$3,5 million Covid-19 materials tender attracted questions.
Mhlanga was suspe ded according to investigations, pending dismissal over alleged issuance of Covid-19 re-testing directive for travellers from Tanzania. Rather, the real bone of contention is said to be the Covid-19 tender in which Mangwiro allegedly influenced the granting of a tender to a company he had an interest in.
Suspected to be the Covid19 materials scandal whistleblower is the former NatPharm acting managing director Zealous Nyabadza — who lost his job on January 6, 2021, after serving the company for 15 years.
Nyabadza also refused to comment therefore getting information was futile.
However, details gathered by the Zimbabwe Independent show that as soon as the tender debacle got out of the bag, Nyabadza was replaced by Air Commodore Gibson Dumba on October 1, 2020, as he was re-appointed acting operations manager. He was later re-assigned to his full-time role of information technology (IT) manager in December 2020.
Dumba was seconded to NatPharm from the Women Affairs, Community, Small-and-Medium Enterprises Development ministry, where he was made the principal director. He has no medical background that is suitable for him to run a drug manufacturing entity.
As the NatPharm drama took place, on December 30, 2020, Nyabadza received a letter from Dumba, re-appointing him IT manager. The firm’s Mutare branch manager Kudakwashe Chimbarara then took over as operations manager.
On January 6, 2021, things came to a head on, when Dumba cancelled Nyabadza’s contract on three months’ notice. Labou r experts say the contract termination “without valid reasons” could be a clear violation of the Labour Act.
Nyabadza is most likely to contest the dismissal at the Labour Court, in what could be a bruising legal battle.
It also came out that after over a decade of loyal service at the pharmaceutical manufacturer, Nyabadza was forced out empty-handed with nothing.
Nyabadza’s exit came several weeks after the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) opened an investigation file — “Examination of Procurement Procedures for Tender Number — International Nat ITCB FWWK 04/2020 — Laboratory Equipment, Reagents and Consumables for Covid-19 Management at NatPharm (31 August-4 September 2020)”.
A Zacc official report implicated Mangwiro in alleged mishandling of a tender through issuing directives contrary to public procurement regulations.
Mangwiro has refused to interfere with the Covid-19 materials tender describing the allegations as malicious and mischievous.-Zimbabwe Independent