Zimbabwe health minister detained in police custody over Covid-19 procurement scandal

Obadiah Moyo

HARARE – Health minister Obadiah Moyo was arrested on Friday over an international Covid-19 procurement scandal exposed by ZimLive.

Moyo, appointed to the position in 2018, was initially picked up by officers from the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) on Thursday evening, but President Emmerson Mnangagwa allegedly ordered him released because he had not been informed of the plan to arrest him, according to sources.

ZACC spokesman John Makamure told ZimLive on Friday night: “Yes, he has been arrested and is in detention. That’s all I can say for now.”

Details of the charges were not released. Moyo was spending the night at Rhodesville Police Station in Harare before his appearance in court on Saturday.

A ZimLive investigation exposed how Moyo and top executives from the government-owned National Pharmaceutical Company (NatPharm) handpicked companies not on the procurement register to supply drugs worth millions of dollars during the Covid-19 national emergency.

The ministry’s former secretary Agnes Mahomva, acting secretary Dr Gibson Mhlanga and finance ministry permanent secretary George Guvamatanga all participated in the transactions, which resulted in the country overpaying on critical personal protective equipment and medical devices for frontline health workers.

One of those companies, Drax International, was only two weeks only when it was paid US$2 million dollars to a bank account in Hungary – triggering an Interpol investigation. The payment was part of deals worth US$60 million signed with the company, without a public tender.

Drax International was fronted by a convicted criminal Delish Nguwaya, an associate of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s twin son, Collins. Nguwaya is also known to be close to Mnangagwa’s wife, Auxillia, who has invited him for dinner at State House.

Nguwaya was the first person to be arrested over the scandal which has been dubbed Covidgate. He is currently in jail awaiting trial on fraud charges. Zimbabwean authorities are working on an international arrest warrant for Drax’s sole shareholder, Ilir Dedja, who was born in Albania before moving to Italy where he acquired citizenship. In court, he was described as an “accomplice” to Nguwaya.

Leaked … Health minister Obadiah Moyo’s handwritten letter which appeared to direct health secretary to procure test kits from a Namibian supplier
Money laundering probe … A letter from Interpol to the ZRP obtained exclusively by ZimLive seeking more details on a US$2 million payment made to a two-week-old company

We also obtained Moyo’s handwritten notes instructing the former health secretary Mahomva to hire a company registered in Namibia called Jaji Investments for the supply of Covid-19 test kits. The company had not been trading nor paying tax in Namibia.

Official documents show that Jaji is owned by Garikai Prince Mushininga, who has met President Mnangagwa at least twice from pictures seen by ZimLive. The company’s Zimbabwe representative, Valdano Brown, is Mnangagwa’s nephew and bodyguard.

One consignment of the test kits supplied by Jaji was picked up from DHL’s office in Harare and delivered to NatPharm by Qubekani Muswere, a nephew of Information Technology Minister Jenfan Muswere, our investigation showed. The consignment cost Jaji US$300 in China, according to DHL paperwork, but the company billed the government for over US$66,000.

Earlier this week, ZACC arrested three NatPharm directors accused of failing to follow procurement regulations in the appointment of Drax International and its two linked companies, Drax Consult SAGL and Papi Pharma which was blacklisted after failing to deliver on a tender for the supply of drugs worth US$13,351,071 in 2019.

NatPharm managing director Florah Nancy Sifeku, 67, operations manager Charles Mwaramba, 78, and finance manager Rolland Mlalazi, 55, appeared at the Harare Magistrates’ Courts charged with criminal abuse of office and were released on bail. – ZimLive