Prosper Dembedza and Geraldine Zaranyika
National Pharmaceuticals (NatPharm) managing director Newman Madzikwa was yesterday jailed for an effective 14 months after he was found guilty of criminal abuse of office in relation to the arbitrary increase of drug prices.
The price increases, with the effect of precipitating a crisis in the sector and endangering public health, were against the directive of the Ministry of Health and Child Care and the NatPharm board.
Harare regional magistrate Mr Hosea Mujaya initially sentenced Madzikwa to 20 months in jail before suspending six months for five years on condition of good behaviour.
The State proved that Madzikwa, contrary to laid down procedures, directed his financial manager Mr Roland Mlalazi, in a management meeting held on September 3, to effect an 11 percent increase on handling fees, a move that could have triggered an increase in the cost of basic drugs.
According to the State, there was a standing regulation for a four percent handling fee for all medical products delivered to the Health ministry.
When there was need for price adjustments, consultations were supposed to have been done with the NatPharm management committee and the board, which then recommends and seeks approval from the parent ministry.
In his ruling, Mr Mujaya indicated that Madzikwa was a first offender and everyone deserved a second chance and to be kept out of prison when necessary.
“The minutes that are available from NatPharm clearly show that the accused gave an instruction to increase the levy from four to 15 percent,” Mr Mujaya said.
Mr Mujaya ruled that the evidence that was placed by the State is very clear and in some aspect was actually confirmed by Madzikwa.
“The Ministry of Health was clear that the accused person failed to comply with the directive of the NatPharm board,” said Mr Mujaya.
He further stated that NatPharm board chairperson Dr George Washaya was also clear that the accused person was supposed to get approval from the ministry before implementing any increases.
In mitigation, Madzikwa’s lawyer, Mr Moses Nkomo, told the court that his client was a first offender, a family man and a pharmacist by profession.
He told the court that his client might lose his job due to the conviction.