HARARE – First lady Auxillia Mnangagwa’s habit of storming government offices and giving directives to civil servants spilled into parliament on Wednesday, with Health Minister Obadiah Moyo inevitably leaping to her defence.
Mnangagwa, with state media in tow, has arrived unannounced at hospitals around the country and demanded to see senior managers, terrifying staff.
Last week, she was shown on ZBC standing inside the government drugs dispensary, NatPharm, declaring that she had demanded that before she leaves the warehouse staff should provide her an inventory of drugs that had been dispensed to hospitals.
She also directed NatPharm staff to clear the shelves and send drugs to hospitals, saying she had been appalled to walk into a district hospital in Mashonaland Central and discover there were no drugs.
Mbizo MP Settlement Chikwinya (MDC) asked Moyo to “explain what role individuals who are outside government structures have in the operations of NatPharm, seeing that recently we saw the first lady directing operations at NatPharm to the extent that she called the minister to State House on a Sunday together with his board to direct them to explain why there were shortages of drugs.”
“So do private individuals have the capacity to simply go into NatPharm and direct operations?” Chikwinya said.
Moyo, who spoke in Parliament just hours after attending another meeting at State House where the first lady invited senior doctors to meet President Emmerson Mnangagwa, said the first lady was the ministry’s ambassador for health and childcare – a title she was hurriedly given after the NatPharm incident.
“The first lady’s work is philanthropic work… She has done a tremendous amount of work for the country without any doubt. She has managed to acquire on behalf of the ministry, on behalf of all of us, she has acquired equipment that we could never have been able to acquire,” Moyo said in her defence.
“She has worked right through, she is a hard worker and in actual fact as the Minister of Health we do encourage her to continue seeing us as much as possible because there’s no foreign currency in the country yet she manages through her Foundation to be able to gather equipment for us from America, from Europe and from Japan. What more do you want? What more to you want? She is there for us.”
Moyo and his deputy Dr John Mangwiro were at State House earlier on Wednesday for a meeting with representatives of senior doctors, under the directions of the first lady.
The doctors from public health institutions, who were led by Dr Faith Muchemwa, told Mnangagwa of their challenges in delivering a professional service, the ZBC reported. They also thanked him for securing equipment and drugs which they requested at a previous meeting.