THE construction of a US$25 million state-of-the-art national pharmaceutical warehouse funded by China has hit another snag after the government shifted goal posts yet again.
By Nyasha Chingono/Andrew Kunambura
Beijing and Harare signed an agreement for the construction of the warehouse when Chinese President Xi Jinping visited the country in December 2015, leading to the signing of agreements for 12 projects in key economic sectors.
Chinese Minister of Commerce Gao Hucheng signed the pharmaceutical warehouse agreement with Health minister David Parirenyatwa.
Despite the availability of funds, the warehouse is yet to be constructed, largely due to bureaucratic red tape and lack of cohesion in government, while an offer from the Global Fund to build a warehouse for approximately the same cost has also forced government to weigh its options. The agreement signed by the two countries stated that the warehouse would be constructed in Harare.
Some officials in the Health Ministry, however, later insisted that the warehouse be constructed in Bulawayo, resulting in a stalemate.
A source close to the project said this week that the government later agreed to have the project in Harare, but at another location.
“This did not make sense, because feasibility studies including the geological surveys had been done at the original site. The work included drilling up to 30 metres below the surface. The designs had also been done,” the source said.
“The position now is that Minister Parirenyatwa has agreed that the project be done at the original site, but now the government says we should build a bigger warehouse. We are just going in circles and it is frustrating.”
Chinese officials are contemplating withdrawing their offer and returning funds to Beijing because of government’s delay in accepting the donation.
Parirenyatwa denied shifting goal posts, saying the plans to have a bigger warehouse came after the government received an offer from the Global Fund to build a bigger warehouse.
“The Global Fund offered to construct a bigger warehouse at the same cost, so we were negotiating with them while also respecting the Chinese donation. We wanted the Chinese to give approximately what the fund offered; we have never shifted goal posts. We have now resolved to proceed with the original project plan as agreed by the Chinese,” he said.
Ahead of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s visit to China in April, where he sought economic and political support, Parirenyatwa wrote to the Chinese embassy officials informing them that the project will be done at the initial site.
The Chinese had planned to discuss the pharmaceutical warehouse delay during the bilateral committee meetings during Mnangagwa’s visit.
Officials say the Chinese were pushing for the warehouse to be constructed, as they risked being punished by their government for failing to utilise resources allocated to them.