DEPUTY Health minister Edwin Muguti was last week forced by government to retract allegations that the National Aids Council (Nac) was abusing funds du
e to fears that it would trigger negative sentiments among donors.
This comes at a time when Muguti has confirmed to the Zimbabwe Independent that there was an attempt to poison him last week, an incident he said was being investigated by police.
Sources this week said although Nac was funded through taxpayers’ money, Muguti was subjected to immense pressure by government and the organisation over the allegations incase donors involved in Aids funding shied away from related projects in Zimbabwe.
Muguti appeared on television two weeks ago saying a large chunk of Nac funds was not reaching the intended beneficiaries — those living with HIV and Aids — only to stage a dramatic U-turn a week later.
In backtracking, Muguti said his sentiments were “misconstrued” and accused the media of having a hidden agenda.
“My sentiments were misconstrued. The media sensationalised what were historical concerns made by a Member of the House of Assembly to his constituency,” Muguti said.
However, sources said Muguti was forced to swallow his words after Nac wrote to him and later met him to warn him that his statements were likely to influence donors, particularly the Global Health Fund, to refuse to release funds to Zimbabwe.
In an interview yesterday, Nac board chairperson Revered Murombedzi Kuchera, confirmed that they wrote to Muguti and subsequently met him, but said whatever had happened was now water under the bridge as both the minister and Nac had set the record straight.
“We wrote a very short letter to the deputy minister and later met him. I do not think you have a story. You should look for breaking news,” Kuchera said.
On allegations that he was put under pressure to reverse his comments on Nac’s priorities, Muguti said: “I am highly resilient, I cannot be pressured. I am a former military man, a major and that combination is dangerous. There may be people who may want to pressure me but they can’t win.”
Asked how he could be misconstrued on television, Muguti said it was through editing out some of his words.
On the issue of poisoning, Muguti said: “There was an issue like that, but I cannot comment as it is under investigation by police.”
The poisoning is alleged to have taken place at a Harare restaurant last week.