BULAWAYO – President Emmerson Mnangagwa fired his health minister Obadiah Moyo on Tuesday under intense public pressure over a health procurement scandal that threatens to engulf his government.
Moyo was arrested on June 19 following a ZimLive investigation which detailed how officials paid millions of dollars to a company connected to Mnangagwa’s family which was registered only two weeks before it was paid US$2 million to supply vital Covid-19 test kits and devices.
Misheck Sibanda, the cabinet secretary, said in a statement: “President Mnangagwa has… removed Obadiah Moyo from the office of Cabinet Minister with immediate effect for conduct inappropriate for a government minister.”
Moyo was arrested for his dealings with Drax International LLC, Drax Consult SAGL and Papi Pharma, companies prosecutors claim were illegally awarded contracts worth US$60 million by the health ministry without a competitive tender process.
Earlier Tuesday, the High Court granted Z$50,000 bail to Drax’s Zimbabwe representative Delish Nguwaya who had languished in remand prison for two weeks after being denied bail by a lower court.
Nguwaya is a business associate of Mnangagwa’s twin sons, Shaun and Collins. He has also been invited for dinner at State House by Mnangagwa’s wife, Auxillia.
A judge ruled that Nguwaya, who is accused of overpricing and making fraudulent misrepresentations to officials by claiming that Drax was a manufacturer of drugs and equipment, had done little more than “engage in exaggerated business talk” because there was no financial prejudice to the state.
“If there was any form of deception which resulted in financial prejudice, then that could only have been a result of a flawed procurement process. Nguwaya is not a state official. The fact that the medicines were overpriced should have been picked by the state officials during due diligence or a competitive bidding process,” Justice Pisirayi Kwenda said as he overruled the lower court’s refusal of bail.
Before Moyo’s arrest, anti-corruption investigators detained three directors of the National Pharmaceutical Company (NatPharm) accused of failing to follow procurement regulations in the appointment of Drax International and its two linked companies, Drax Consult SAGL and Papi Pharma.
NatPharm managing director Florah Nancy Sifeku, 67, operations manager Charles Mwaramba, 78, and finance manager Rolland Mlalazi, 55, were released on bail.
The Drax scandal has sparked a public outcry amid demands for swift prosecutions, but Zimbabwe has had very little success in securing convictions against corrupt officials.
Public protests are planned for July 31 to force Mnangagwa to step down. The 77-year-old leader may have thrown his minister under the bus to mitigate public anger against his government which is accused of causing economic ruin and impoverishing millions.