Natpharm boss cleared of criminal abuse of office charges

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By Mary Taruvinga

THE High Court has quashed graft charges against National Pharmaceutical Company of Zimbabwe (Natpharm) managing director Flora Nancy Sifeku who was facing criminal abuse of duty charges.

This comes after Sifeku successfully appealed against a magistrate’s ruling dismissing her application for an exception of charges.

Magistrate Florence Chakanyuka, sitting at Harare Magistrate Court had dismissed her application insisting that she should go on trial.

The trial started in 2021.

Sifeku had challenged prosecution and argued that charges preferred by the state did not disclose a criminal offence. In their ruling, judges of appeal, Justices Webster Chinamhora and Owen Tagu upheld her application before quashing charges.

Their brief order reads, “Whereupon after reading documents filed of record, and hearing counsel, it is ordered that the application be and is hereby granted.

“The 1st respondent’s (magistrate Chakanyuka) decision to dismiss the application for exception under CRB No. ACC 48/20 on the 21st of June 2022 be and is hereby set aside and the charges against the applicant be and are hereby quashed.”

Sifeku had denied the offence, averring that she always followed the required procedure, never showed any favour to any entity or persons, and specifically denied defying any lawful directive.

Sifeku also denied being a public officer because NatPharm is a private company, although State owned.

It was alleged that in March 2019, then Minister of Health and Child Care, Dr Obadiah Moyo was approached by Papi Pharma LLC represented by Delish Nguwaya with a letter of interest offering a loan facility of US$15 million for the supply of medicines and medical sundries.

Moyo referred the letter of interest to then Permanent Secretary for Health and Child Care, Gerald Gwinji for processing.

The State further alleged that on April 11 2019, Gwinji wrote a letter to Sifeku to negotiate a downward review of the prices with 65 product lines of medicines worth US$9,4 million.

In the same letter, Sifeku was directed to come up with comparative international prices for the products and to begin the process of applying for the necessary waiver from the Procurement Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (PRAZ) to go for direct purchase from the supplier.

Dr Gwinji instructed Sifeku to be guided by the financing structure established and approved by the Treasury which was in the process of carrying out a due diligence exercise on Papi Pharma LLC.

The State alleges that Sifeku disregarded the instruction by Gwinji and entered into an agreement with Papi Pharma LLC for the supply of the first tranche of medicines and medical sundries worth US$6 306 115 under tender number NAT DP 11/19 before the outcome of due diligence on Papi Pharma LLC was communicated to her.