By Isaac Mwanza
Health Minister Sylvia Masebo has accused some suppliers of medicines and medical supplies whose contracts were cancelled of mounting a strong propaganda against government with regards to drug supply.
I fully agree with Minister Masebo and she must know by now that Zambians don’t pay attention to facts. We prefer rumour and innuendo, it’s more exciting, somehow.
Masebo must stand tall and firm otherwise she will go the same way former Health Minister Dr. Chitalu Chilufya did when the cartel of suppliers started fighting him and his staff over award of contract to Honeybee.
The power of the cartel lies in the manner they manage institutions and public perceptions with their propaganda. The so-called scandals are fostered by a clique of pharmaceutical business people with their civil service acolytes who profit from these tenders for drugs and supplies from the ministry of health. The Public Accounts Committee has become a good accomplice in championing the lines by the cartel.
If a tender is awarded to anyone outside the cartel, they mount a campaign accusing a minister of having a personal interest, or the selected supplier not having the resources or the experience, or of supplying sub-standard items which are a threat to safety and health etc. This is true in almost all sectors of government.
If Masebo does not manage this propaganda well, it will soon be the public up in arms against her and this New Deal administration. The cartel will ensure the public begin to accuse President Hichilema as weak to deal with the Health Minister and her officials. Matters of health are so dear among our people that public perception will go against the entire New Deal administration.
Look at how long the so-called Honeybee saga has taken long to resolve. Honeybee’s contract, just like all other contracts for supply of medical supplies, clearly provide for tests by independent laboratories where a dispute arises on the quality of medical supplies. Why do you think the government has not been keen to take those so called expired drugs and leaking condoms to other WHO accredited laboratories for independent tests?
It is now a year since the Honeybee saga erupted and over 6 months from time the New Dawn Administration took over power. Why has the issue of expired drugs and leaking condoms not been subjected to a third independent tests by a WHO accredited laboratories?
Of course, some people have been arrested over the Honeybee contract but not allegations that Honeybee supplied expired drugs or leaking condoms. They were arrested for the manner in which some contract was terminated and the procedures used in awarding Honeybee. The arrests have nothing to do with expired drugs and leaking condoms.
So I challenge Minister Masebo to put the question of allegedly expired drugs and leaking condoms to an end by subjecting the batch of drugs and leaking condoms to an independent test by a WHO accredited laboratory and later brief the nation about the results. If indeed it is found that Honeybee supplied expired drugs and leaking condoms, let the government prosecute them.
Hon. Masebo will soon discover that the cartel of suppliers doing propaganda against her Ministry is the same cartel that could have been responsible for propaganda against the Honeybee supply. The worst is that if she does not manage this propaganda well, it will be the President’s name and the entire administration that will be brought into public odium and disrepute.