2 February 2006

Zimbabwe Elite Said to Be Raiding Aids Drugs

Johannesburg — TOP officials of President Robert Mugabe's government are using their positions to access antiretroviral drugs meant for the poor, according to Zimonline, an independent internet news site that focuses on Zimbabwe.

Zimonline's sources in Zimbabwe say officials intercept the drugs from donors or those purchased by the government's National AIDS Council before they are distributed to state hospitals.

The website, which operates from SA, said it had a list of some of the names of the government and Zanu (PF) officials involved in the drugs scam, but for legal reasons could not reveal them.

It said the list included cabinet ministers, members of Zanu (PF)'s politburo committee, police and military officials as well as some close relatives and friends of the politicians and government officials.

"The (AIDS council) just hands over the drugs (to top officials). It has become so normal it is kind of semi-officialised," said one source, who refused to be named for fear of reprisals.

The source told Zimonline that of the few antiretrovirals that had been received, most had been snapped up by powerful government and army officials or by those who were connected to the ruling elite.

Zimbabwean Health Minister David Parirenyatwa, under whose portfolio the National AIDS Council falls, insisted the scheme was run in a transparent manner.

"I am aware that there are concerns that senior government officials are abusing our free antiretroviral programme, but the allegations are wrong," he said.

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