Coronavirus: Zimbabwe health minister in court on corruption charges

The charges against health minister Obadiah Moyo relate to alleged procurement irregularities.

police check people's papers in Harare, 06 JuneImage copyrightEPA
Zimbabwe’s lockdown was eased in May

Zimbabwe’s health minister has been granted bail after appearing in court.

Obadiah Moyo was arrested on Friday after the government came under pressure from the opposition and on social media over a scandal surrounding the procurement of coronavirus tests and equipment.

He faces corruption charges related to a $20m (£16m) contract awarded to a Hungary-registered firm, allegedly without going through proper processes.

The government has not commented.

My Moyo is the second minister in Emmerson Mnangagwa’s cabinet to face corruption charges.

He arrived in court in a state-issued luxury car accompanied by aides, the BBC’s Harare correspondent Shingai Nyoka says.

During the hearing, he was charged with several counts of criminal abuse of office and ordered to surrender his passport. He is expected to appear in court again by the end of July.

According to local media, prosecutors had initially opposed Mr Moyo’s release but later agreed that he be granted bail.

The deal with two-month old firm Drax Consult is alleged to have been completed without the legal consent of Zimbabwe’s procurement registration authority.

The opposition has also expressed concern about a $2m payment to Drax Consult. The payment was flagged as suspicious by Hungarian authorities in March.

Last week businessman Delish Nguwaya, who is believed to be Drax’s representative in Zimbabwe, was arrested in connection with the case.

Two others have also been arrested.

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‘Too early to celebrate’

Shingai Nyoka, BBC

It is rare for cabinet ministers to be arrested here. A government spokesperson described this arrest as a reflection of government’s commitment to fighting corruption, adding that no one is immune from prosecution.

But it is too early to celebrate victory.

Since Emmerson Mnangagwa came to power, Zimbabwe has seen a large number of high profile corruption cases, but many have ended in acquittals.

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People started raising questions about how a controversial businessman, who had failed a vetting process months earlier, had managed to set up a new company and secure millions of dollars’ worth of contracts to supply medicines and equipment – some at hugely inflated prices.

The government has since cancelled all contracts with Drax, the state-run Herald newspaper reported.

demonstrating nurses, harareImage copyrightEPA
Zimbabwe is suffering a severe economic crisis – on Wednesday nurses demonstrated over low pay

Zimbabwe says it has confirmed nearly 500 virus cases, including four deaths, but the actual number of cases is thought to be higher.

The country is also facing its worst economic crisis in more than a decade and there is mounting public anger over poor services and corruption.

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