Govt graft halts Ekusileni hospital development

THE Joshua Nkomo Legacy Restoration Project Trust (JNLRPT) says the government should allow a South African investor, Clinix Group, to finance the operationalisation of the Ekusileni Medical Centre in Bulawayo which has been lying idle since 2004.

Nkululeko Sibanda

The hospital is the brainchild of the late veteran nationalist and one of the country’s founding fathers, Joshua Nkomo.A litany of hurdles, among them government bureaucracy and unclear tendering processes, have resulted in the institution suffering a stillbirth despite massive resources having been poured into the construction of the magnificent hospital complex.

Government, through Finance minister Mthuli Ncube, set aside ZW$50 million towards the operationalisation of the hospital in the 2019-2020 national budget, but there has been no movement on the ground. This is also despite the hospital being identified as one of the Covid-19 response facilities for Bulawayo.

A recent visit to the institution, showed empty wards in about 90% of the institution, except a few beds that were put up to demonstrate to Ncube and other government officials how the institution would operate as a Covid-19 centre.

Volunteers under the “I am for Bulawayo Fighting Covid-19” initiative, who had earmarked resources towards the hospital, are still to release funds, as they are still fundraising.

Documents seen by the Zimbabwe Independent show that the South African private investment company, Clinix Group, pledged to provide the US$30 million for the operationalisation of Ekusileni Medical Centre.

Under the deal, the company would import and install state-of-the-art equipment, set up laboratories and operating theatres for complex ailments, among other requirements.

In an interview, one of the JNLRPT founding trustees, Kwanele Hlabangana, said the South African investor was still awaiting communication from the Zimbabwean authorities to pave way for the capacitation of the health centre.

“We did engage the Ministry of Health some time ago while minister (David) Parirenyatwa was still at the helm. Our investors came and made representations on what they had up their sleeves, including bringing down some of their state-of-the-art equipment to demonstrate their capacity. Everybody was agreed that they indeed met the criteria. No one knows how and when that decision to award that tender to them was changed,” Hlabangana said.

“We later got to learn, through the media of course, that there was a new investor in the form of Shardah Investment Group of India who were now going to be the ones to operationalise the hospital. How that decision was reached remains a mystery to this day.”

Clinix Group, Hlabangana said, was still ready to come to Zimbabwe and seal the deal.“Our investor is ready to come to Zimbabwe for this deal. It only takes a letter from the Ministry of Health’s permanent secretary and they will eventually land and get things done,” he said.

Hlabangana argues that the government should award his organisation’s investors the deal.“Now that it has become clear that the preferred investors failed altogether to do something, in terms of making that hospital work, government is now supposed to consider the company or the organisation that came second in the bidding process,” Hlabangana said.

“In that regard, our investor was second to the one that was preferred by the government. It is high time that the tender or right to operationalise the hospital is given to our investors and the investors will show that they can deliver on the deal without any difficulties.”

There are allegations that some officials were bribed to ensure the Clinix bid is rejected.

“It was very clear that the Indian investor did not have the money to invest in this hospital. They were just used as a convenient excuse to ensure that the investors from South Africa, who by the way were brought into the picture by the family of the late vice-president, did not get the green light to operationalise the hospital,” an official said.

Reached for comment this week, Parirenyatwa told the Independent he knew about the Ekusileni issue, but said he left the ministry before a conclusion was reached on the matter.

“I was aware of the Ekusileni issue. I remember that there was an effort to bring on board an Indian group of investors whom we were told by our officials had the capacity to have the hospital functional,” Parirenyatwa said.

“The matter was handled by Mr (Anxious) Masuka who worked in the ministry. There was a team of experts from the ministry who only told us that the Indians were the best-placed ones to deliver on that deal. I, however, left the ministry before the finer details of what transpired to them could be tabled with me.”

Incumbent Health minister Obadiah Moyo was recently quoted in the media as saying the Indian investor had a change of heart on the investment.

He refused to comment this week, referring questions to Donald Mujiri, the ministry’s spokesperson.

Since Monday, Mujiri has repeatedly said he is in meetings. Despite promising to call back, he had not done so by the time of going to press.