Zimbabwe: Gwinji Exonerates Parirenyatwa

Former health minister David Parirenyatwa, centre (file photo).
4 December 2019

The decision to terminate former NatPharm managing director Ms Flora Nancy Sikefu's contract and to move her to the Ministry of Health headquarters was reached following a series of consultations between the pharmaceutical company and former Health Minister David Parirenyatwa's office, a court heard yesterday.

Former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Child Care, Dr Gerald Gwinji, yesterday told the court that the appointment of Mr Newman Madzikwa as the acting managing director for NatPharm was not unilaterally done by Parirenyatwa, but it was made following discussions and recommendations.

Dr Gwinji said this while testifying in the matter in which the former Health Minister is facing criminal abuse of office charges. Parirenyatwa is denying the allegations.

He is alleged to have terminated Ms Sifeku's contract as managing director, saying that he required her services at the ministry's headquarters in Harare.

Parirenyatwa is also alleged to have directed former NatPharm's board chair Mr George Washaya to appoint Mr Madzikwa as acting managing director of NatPharm with effect from June 1, 2018. All his actions were said to be out of bound with his duties and responsibility.

"The (NatPharm) board in consultations with the Minister had several discussions and consultations over the issues. The Minister, also in consultation with relevant accounting officer, realised that there was poor performance at NatPharm. Several consultations were made regarding issues of performance. It was then felt that there was need for change in management as the ministry was also seized with the 100-day plan.

"It was then suggested that she comes over to the ministry and someone be seconded in her post in acting capacity until her retirement.

"Madzikwa was then seconded to her post in acting capacity following consultations and discussions."

Dr Gwinji told the court that "there was no double-dipping", which resulted in NatPharm being prejudiced of $30 000, when Mr Madzikwa was being paid upon being seconded to NatPharm, from the Ministry of Health and Child Care.

The former Health Secretary said it was agreed that Mr Madzikwa would continue receiving his salary from the Government as a Ministry of Health and Child Care employee and get a cushioning allowance from the Ministry's partners. He said NatPharm would then pay an additional amount to Mr Madzikwa to take his total earnings above the directors he was supervising.

"The scenario would see NatPharm paying between $4 000 to $5 000 although I am not too sure about the figures," he said.

Asked by prosecutor Mr Brian Vito if he was aware that Mr Madzikwa had been dismissed from NatPharm after being convicted of stealing medication at the pharmaceutical company, making him ineligible for the post, Dr Gwinji said: "I only came to know of that in this court. His appointment was seeking to address a situation which was peculiar at that time. In my opinion, the primary objective was to improve service at NatPharm where there was poor performance. I think Mr Madzikwa is a competent person and that those who interviewed found him to be so," he said.

Under cross-examination by Parirenyatwa's lawyer, Dr Gwinji insisted the termination of Ms Sifeko's contract was done in consultation and that Mr Madzikwa's appointment was procedural.

Dr Parirenyatwa's legal team indicated that they would make an application for discharge at the close of the State case. Magistrate Mr Elijah Makomo ordered the Parirenyatwa's legal team to submit his application for discharge at the close of State case on January 15, 2020 and the State to respond by January 17.

The court will make a ruling on January 21 next year.

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