Former Health and Child Care minister David Parirenyatwa was yesterday arrested on charges of criminal abuse of office, the first high profile casualty of a crackdown by a Special Anti-Corruption Unit set up in May this year by President Emmerson Mnangagwa, while a graft watchdog announced that more arrests were imminent.

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Parirenyatwa, who served for a long time under former President Robert Mugabe and was part of Mnangagwa’s government until last week, is a Zanu PF Senator from Mashonaland East.

Mnangagwa has promised zero tolerance to corruption that stifled political freedom and economic growth under Mugabe’s 37-year rule and early this year fired the country’s top prosecutor for allegedly failing to pursue high-profile graft cases.

Parirenyatwa becomes the fourthformer Mugabe minister to be arrested on corruption charges after former Foreign minister Walter Mzembi ,who faces charges of criminal abuse of office, and former Finance minister Ignatius Chombo, who has been charged for trying to defraud the central bank over a decade ago.

They both deny any wrongdoing.

Former Energy minister Samuel Undenge was in July found guilty of corruption and sentenced to four years in jail.

According to Parirenyatwa’s charge sheet, the former minister used his position before this year’s elections to arm-twist the National Pharmaceutical (NatPharm) board into appointing a ministry official with a dark past.

“On June 4, 2018, the accused acted contrary and inconsistent with his duties as a public officer by directing the NatPharm board chairman Dr George Washaya to end Flora Nancy Sifeku’s contract with NatPharm as the managing director, thereby showing disfavour to Flora Nancy Sifeku.

“The accused further indicated that he required Flora Nancy Sifeku’s services at the Health and Child Care ministry head office for an indefinite period,” the State outline said. Parirenyatwa’s actions, the State alleges, bordered on the abuse of office and favouritism.

“In the same directive, the accused showed favour to the ministry’s deputy director Pharmaceutical Services Newman Madzikwa by imposing him as the acting managing director of NatPharm with effect from June 1, 2018.

“The board implemented the directive by giving both Flora Nancy Sifeku and Newman Madzikwa six-month contracts effective from June 1, 2018 to November 2018,” the court papers claim.

Madzikwa is reportedly a former employee of NatPharm who was dismissed after being found guilty of selling donated drugs.

“Newman Madzikwa was once employed by NatPharm as branch manager Masvingo and was dismissed on September 3, 2009 for selling donated drugs to private institutions.

“The accused’s actions created a double-dipping of NatPharm funds as NatPharm is paying two salaries towards the managing director’s position, thereby prejudicing NatPharm of $15 003 and $15 003 potentially,” the State said.

According to the court papers, Parirenyatwa was outed by a whistleblower a few days ago.

“The offence came to light through a tip-off on September 11, 2018, leading to the arrest of the accused on September 13, 2018.

The accused’s actions were prejudicial to the good administration of NatPharm and the Ministry of Health and Child Care,” it is claimed.

The State said it had evidence, including correspondence between Parirenyatwa and the board, which was copied to permanent secretary Gerald Gwinji.

Statements from Gwinji and Washaya will also be used during the trial.

Gwinji was reportedly also called in following Parirenyatwa’s arrest as the anti-corruption unit team pieced its case together.

Parirenyatwa, who pleaded not guilty to the allegations, appeared before magistrate Elisha Singano, who remanded him to October 26 on $500 bail.

As part of his bail conditions, he was ordered to report twice a week at CID Anti-Corruption Unit, to stay at the given address until the matter is finalised, to surrender his passport to the clerk of court and not to interfere with State witnesses.

The Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) yesterday said more high-profile arrests of former and current top public officials were imminent.

“This year, we will arrest a lot of people for corruption, and last month alone, we nabbed 20 people who are now facing charges for corruption,” the commissioner in charge of investigations, Goodson Nguni, said at a Transparency International-Zimbabwe roundtable discussion on improving transparency and accountability.

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