Zimbabwe’s health minister arrested in COVID-19 graft case

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FILE — In this Jan. 9, 2019 file photo Federal Councilor Ignazio Cassis, right, of Switzerland, shakes hands with Zimbabwean Health Minister, Obadiah Moyo, left, in Harare. Moyo, who appeared in court Saturday, June 20, 2020 was arrested Friday by the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission and is accused of illegally awarding a $42 million tender to a company for a supply of COVID-19 drugs and personal protective equipment while aware the company was not a pharmaceutical supplier but a consultancy firm. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi, File)

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — Zimbabwe’s health minister was expected to appear in court on Saturday to face allegations of illegally awarding a multi-million-dollar contract for COVID-19 testing kits, drugs and personal protective equipment to a shadowy company.

The country’s anti-corruption agency arrested Obadiah Moyo on Friday as the scandal roiled the country and played out on social media, where some local journalists exposed how Moyo allegedly chose the company to sell medical supplies to the government at inflated prices that included face masks for $28 each.

The government cancelled the contracts following public uproar.

One of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s sons was forced to issue a statement denying a link to the company after pictures emerged of the Zimbabwean representative of the firm enjoying the company of the president and his wife and sons at several events.

The representative, Delish Nguwaya, and some top officials of the national drugs procurement agency are already facing criminal charges related to the scandal.

Nguwaya is accused of lying in saying the company was a drugs manufacturing company based in Switzerland, “whereas it was merely a consulting company with no experience in the manufacture of drug and medical products,” according to the charge sheet.

The scandal comes as health professionals including nurses and doctors in Zimbabwe are on strike demanding to be paid their salaries in U.S. dollars. They argue that inflation that is now above 750% and the erosion of the value of local currency have rendered incomes worthless. Most traders charge for their goods in U.S. dollars in the southern African country that has long faced economic collapse.

The health professionals also have complained about lack of adequate protective gear as the number of coronavirus cases rises.

Zimbabwe has nearly 500 cases.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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