Factional battle lines are drawn in Zanu PF over the fate of John Mangwiro, the deputy minister of health who is the subject of a corruption probe by the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC).
ZimLive revealed last week that Mangwiro – a personal physician of health minister and Vice President Constantino Chiwenga – was on ZACC’s radar, accused of leaning on the state-owned pharmaceutical firm, NatPharm, to award a US$5.6 million tender to a company in which he had a “personal interest.”
The Sunday Mail, a state-controlled weekly, on Sunday carried a story with the same details, drawing the ire of George Charamba, the spokesman for the presidency.
Charamba, a Chiwenga ally in Zanu PF factional fights, said the story appeared to have been “sponsored”.
Writing on Twitter, Charamba said: “Why does this story look sponsored? There is an unspoken urge to outrun legal inquiries and processes to agitate for punishment over an alleged crime still to be proven in a court of law! Some hope to stampede due processes, both administrative and legal! Who is behind this?”
Journalist Blessed Mhlanga quizzed Charamba further, asking him: “Who has the capacity to sponsor a story about a minister in a state-controlled paper?”
Charamba, pointing the finger at the state media gatekeepers at the Ministry of Information, told Mhlanga “you may have just answered yourself.”
Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa and the ministry’s secretary Ndavaningi Mangwana are loyalists of President Emmerson Mnangagwa, working to snuff out a Chiwenga challenge for the presidency. They maintain a tight grip on state media.
Chiwenga’s allies say the criminal probe into Mangwiro is being sponsored by former health minister Obadiah Moyo who has powerful allies in the form of the first lady Auxillia Mnangagwa and her twin sons, Sean and Collins.
Moyo was arrested and fired from cabinet in June after a ZimLive investigation revealed how his ministry had awarded contracts worth US$60 million to a company linked to the Mnangagwa twins.
Moyo’s allies accuse Mangwiro of playing a central role in getting the former minister sacked, and are reportedly out for revenge.
A leaked ZACC report recommended an investigation and prosecution of Mangwiro after he allegedly tried to get a company called Young Health Care Limited to be awarded a US$5.6 million Covid-19 tender by NatPharm, although the company was not on a list of approved government suppliers kept at the procurement Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (PRAZ).
The ZACC investigation, carried out between August 31 and September 4, reveals that Dr Gibson Mhlanga, then the acting health secretary, wrote to NatPharm on July 15, 2020, instructing the company to “make direct procurements of supplies from Young Health Care.” ZACC said this was in violation of PRAZ Circular 1 of 2020 which decrees that “only PRAZ-listed suppliers are sources of Covid-19 supplies.”
ZACC says after NatPharm insisted on a competitive bidding process, Mangwiro – a medical doctor appointed to deputy minister in September 2018 – demanded that the tender should be delayed to allow Young Health Care to register with PRAZ. The delay impeded the procurement of vital medical supplies needed by front-line health workers and patients.
“When NatPharm insisted on competitive bidding, Young Health Care Limited subsequently submitted a bid price of US$3.6 million for the same items. This saw a reduction of 36 percent in the price,” ZACC’s report says.
ZACC says when the emergency 48-hour tender was finally floated on August 5 and closed on August 7, 22 bidders including Young Health Care Limited made bids.
Young Health Care missed out on the tender. ZACC, citing the acting NatPharm managing director Zealous Nyabadza, says this infuriated Mangwiro who summoned the company’s top managers late at night “to explain why the tender was not awarded to Young Health Care Limited.”
“The deputy minister also demanded that a purchase order be issued that same night. The adjudication team was picked from their homes around 10PM and were interrogated by Mangwiro until the early hours of the following day. The deputy minister threatened the team with dismissal for failing to award Young Health Care the contracts,” the investigators reported.
“Given the extent to which the deputy minister was involved in the said tender process, indications are that he was acting on his own capacity and not on behalf of the ministry… The conduct of the deputy minister during this tender process warrants further investigations for criminal abuse of office for possible violation of Section 174 of the Criminal Law Codification Act [Chapter9:23],” the ZACC report said.
Mangwiro declined to comment.