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Vice President Chiwenga accuses Biti of defending ‘criminals’ in court

Vice President Constantino Chiwenga who doubles as the Minister of Health on Tuesday accused former Finance Minister Tendai Biti of defending “criminals” in court.

This comes after Biti dismissed Chiwenga’s claim in the National Assembly that the country allocated US$305 million towards the ‘successful’ fight against Covid-19 pandemic. Biti interjected Chiwenga saying the money was stolen.

The issue happened during the debate of the Health Services Amendment Bill that seeks among other things to institute an executive commission.

But Biti and other opposition legislators were arguing that the part where the bill seeks to establish an executive commission be edited to put in an independent commission for oversight purposes.

But Chiwenga explained that the bill was seeking to deal with matters of public health and “public health cannot be independent”.

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“There is no independent commission under the Executive. I hear they have talked about those other independent commissions like ZACC (Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission), I am the line Minister.

“PRAZ (Procurement Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe) is a commission, I am the line Minister but I never interfere with them. All what I do is, when their work cannot be done, that is when they come to my office to say we want an amendment here and we make those amendments.

“That is all what we do. This is public health we are talking about. Public health cannot be independent. This is why Zimbabwe ranked number one in the African continent when the pandemic struck. Even if we did not have, we took everything we had to serve our people,” Chiwenga said.

Former Finance minister Tendai Biti
Former Finance minister Tendai Biti

When the former Army General tried to explain about the money that the government allocated to fight Covid-19 in the past two years, Biti interjected saying the money was stolen.

“Right now we are the only country who forked out 84% of our own resources and put $305 million to make sure every Zimbabwean is safe from this pandemic,” Chiwenga said.

“Yakabiwa (it was stolen),” Biti interjected.

Chiwenga fired back: “My dear, let us not talk about what we read in social media. This is why we have got ZACC. We are an effective country when it comes there; you steal, we arrest.

“We do not give – of course Hon. Biti when he puts on his other hat, he goes and defends those criminals. When he comes here, he is putting another one, now he is saying no, no. So what we want here is to make sure that our health delivery system is put in the right perspective.”

Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health and Child Care Ruth Labode said that consultations about the Health Services Bill had revealed that stakeholders wanted an independent commission.

“When we went out for public hearings, a lot of health worker stakeholders felt very strongly that when the Health Services Bill was coming in to insert a commission, it was going to be like other commissions in the Constitution and not a department in the Ministry of Health.

“I feel strongly that maybe we need to go back to the drawing board and redraft this Bill so that it sets up an independent commission,” she said.

Biti’s argument was that, if the commission was being established for the sake of oversight, then it had to be an independent institution.

“If the function of this commission is to deal with labour issues, it is an executive commission and not an independent commission.

“If, however, this commission’s functions are to play an oversight role in the health sector, then it is an independent commission covered by Chapter 12 of the Constitution. You have got a problem now with Clause 2 because it is a hybrid.

“It is a half donkey, half horse, half mule, half cow because the people who drafted it are not clear what they are trying to achieve. Are we trying to create an executive commission that deals with employment issues, negotiation of salaries and so forth? This clause, Mr. Speaker Sir, is badly drafted.

“If we go on the hybrid as it seeks to do, then surely it must have more powers. One of the powers that we must give to the commission is the power of oversight over the health sector.

“There are so many shortages of drugs and so on. If we are going to create that oversight component, which is incorporated in Section 4, then let us give them that function,” Biti said.