Zambia’s Health Minister Fired Over Leaking Condoms, Defective Personal Protective Gear, and Fake Medicine

Zambian President, Edgar Lungu, has with immediate effect fired the country’s Minister of Health, Dr. Chitalu Chilufya.

Dr. Chilufya, who since last year when Zambia recorded its first Covid-19 positive case increased his fame, as the key man in the fight against the pandemic, has now been sacked at the time when the second wave is hard-hitting the country.

According to a statement availed to Timescape Magazine by Isaac Chipambe, the State House Special Assistant for Press and Public Relations, the President has not given any reasons for sacking the Health Minister.

“The President has thanked Dr. Chilufya for the services rendered to Government and wished him well in his future endeavours,” reads the statement in part.

The firing of Dr. Chilufya follows repeated reports of scandals at the Ministry of Health. One of them is a financial scandal involving the supply of $17 million worth of defective medical supplies, which was unearthed by the Auditor General's Office and the Parliamentary Accounts Committee. 

It has been established that a supplier, Honeybee supplied leaking condoms, gloves, and fake medicine. According to Members of Parliament, the Ministry of Health played a role in this scandal since procurement rules were not followed.

On January 7, the Zambia Medicines Regulatory Authority in its letter addressed to the Managing Director of Honeybee Pharmacy recalled Latex gloves manufactured by Adeshwar Mediate Private Limited of India and male latex condoms manufactured by Universal Prophylactic Ltd also of India.

The letter stated that when the products were analyzed by Zambia’s Bureau of Standards, they didn’t meet accepted criteria for hang and roll, bursting volume, length and package integrity.

The scandal attracted condemnation from various opposition politicians who accuse President Lungu’s government of putting the lives of Zambians at risk.

Hakainde Hichilema, Opposition Party Leader in Zambia (C) BBC

 

Among those that voiced their concern is Hakainde Hichilema, leader of the largest opposition political party in Zambia, who says scandals such as the one involving Honeybee will compromise everyone’s health.

“The sad situation that has now been created is where citizens are losing confidence in our country's health care services. This loss of trust subsequently endangers the lives of our citizens as they resort to seeking healthcare from unregistered and unregulated medical providers,” he says. 

Mr. Hichilema notes that with sadness that even health workers who are working hard have also been put in harm’s way, as they are forced to use defective personal protective equipment.

“This action by the government is not only reckless but criminal,” he says.  

Sean Enock Tembo, President of the Patriots for Economic Progress party expresses similar sentiments, noting in a statement that the expired medicines and leaking condoms put the lives of ordinary Zambian citizens at great risk.

“Leaking surgical gloves actually put the lives of our frontline medical personnel at great risk especially in this era of increased Covid-19,” he says.

Maurice Nyambe, Executive Director of Transparency International Zambia (C) YouTube

Meanwhile Transparency International Zambia (TI-Z) Executive Director, Maurice Nyambe has welcomed President Lungu’s decision to dismiss Dr. Chilufya in the wake of the Honeybee Pharmacy scandal.

“We welcome this move as an important and necessary first step towards cleaning up the rot that appears to be deeply rooted in the Ministry of Health. Our hope is that as important and necessary a step as this is, it will not be the only action we see in response to this scandal,” he notes.

Mr. Nyambe notes that he now expects that law enforcement agencies move ahead to open investigations into Dr. Chilufya’s role in the Honeybee scandal.

“Should he be found culpable, he be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. We do not believe that dismissing Dr. Chilufya should be the end game over this as there are several layers to this scandal. We, therefore, reiterate our call for a full investigation to be carried out into all the layers of the Honeybee scandal in order to get to the bottom of the issue and to hold everyone that was involved accountable for their action,” Nyambe warns.