HEALTH sector donors are ratcheting up pressure on government to assure them that medical supplies given to the country to help alleviate a catastrophic drug shortage are not being diverted towards propping up Zanu PF in its political campaigns.
This comes amid an outcry triggered by a controversial letter which exposed the ruling party’s intentions of using medicines to gain political capital during campaigns for the Lupane East by-election held last weekend.
The by-election was won by Zanu PF.
Over 90% of medicines used in public health institutions are procured through donors as President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s broke government has been failing to provide enough funding to support health service provision.
The donors, mainly consisting of Western governments and blocs including the United States of America, the European Union and the United Kingdom, expressed concern over the use of medicines as campaign material by the ruling Zanu PF.
This follows leaked communication between Zanu PF political commissar Victor Matemadanda and Health minister Obadiah Moyo, which revealed the party intended to use medical drugs as a campaign tool for the Lupane East National Assembly by-election.
In a July 5 letter to Matemadanda — copied to NatPharm managing director Flora Sifeku, Health permanent secretary Agnes Mahomva and the director of pharmacy, Ropafadzai Hove — Moyo assured Matemadanda that he had directed NatPharm to provide medicines to the clinics requested.
The subject of the letter was: “Request for assistance in respect of the Lupane East by-election campaign”.
EU ambassador Timo Olkkonen said they were following the case closely.
“We are, indeed, very concerned about allegations of abuse of medication for political purposes during an electoral campaign, which would be a violation of the constitution. We have immediately met with the Minister of Health and the permanent secretary for clarification, and will continue to follow this matter closely, together with relevant stakeholders and partners,” he said.
The British Embassy said its aid is meant to benefit the poorest and most venerable Zimbabweans and has raised concern with the responsible offices.
“We were very concerned by the allegations around the requests for medicines ahead of the Lupane by-election. All aid needs to be distributed on the basis of need and not for political purposes, adhering to the humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality and impartiality. We have raised our concerns with the authorities. UK Aid is there to support and deliver projects which will benefit the poorest and most vulnerable Zimbabweans,” a British Embassy spokesperson said.
Local civil society groups said they were also unsettled by the use of donated medicines for political campaigns.
“I sent an email to the Minister of Health and Child Care, Honourable Moyo and copied the secretary for Health Mahomva, who responded saying that appropriate action was being taken. Unfortunately, I have been travelling, but will still meet with the Minister soon to personally raise our concerns,” Community Working Group on Health executive director Itai Rusike said.
“Presently, about 90% of medicines used in the public health delivery system in Zimbabwe are funded by donors hence they will obviously need an assurance that their resources are not being used to advance partisan politics but for the benefit of all Zimbabweans irrespective of their political affiliation.”
In a statement after the controversial letter was leaked, Mahomva said there was equitable distribution of medicine.
“Let me, therefore, once again reassure you the public, our donors and technical partners that the MoHCC (Health ministry) teams are there to simply do their work in a professional and efficient way guided by good governance principles and nothing else. This is done for the good of all Zimbabweans, regardless of gender creed or affiliation,” Mahomva said.
“I would like to assure the general public, our donors and technical partners that our MoHCC teams are there to provide equitable and quality healthcare services, including medicines to all citizens regardless of any activities taking place in the communities served. No one is favoured.”