Zimbabwe’s health minister, Obadiah Moyo, who was arrested on allegations of illegally awarding a multi-million-dollar contract for COVID-19 testing kits, drugs and personal protective equipment to a shadowy company, was released on bail following his arrest the previous day.
Sitting in Harare, the Zimbabwe court's magistrate granted Moyo bail for 50,000 Zimbabwe dollars ($2,000). Bail was not opposed by prosecutors who are investigating three charges, including an 'abuse of office' charge that carries a maximum sentence of 15 years.
The country’s anti-corruption agency arrested Obadiah Moyo on Friday as the scandal roiled the country and played out on social media, where some local journalists exposed how Moyo allegedly chose the company to sell medical supplies to the government at inflated prices that included face masks for $28 each.
Moyo was arrested for his dealings with Drax International LLC and Drax Consult SAGL, companies prosecutors claim were illegally awarded contracts by the health ministry without a competitive tender process.
Last week Delish Nguwaya, a local representative of Drax International, was arrested as part of the same investigation.
Drax International, headquartered in the United Arab Emirates, has denied the allegations.
"Most of the articles published on the media are falsehood regarding Drax International LLC," the company said in an emailed response.
"Goods regarding COVID-19 emergency response ... have been delivered and no payment has been made by authorities in Zimbabwe," it added.
Moyo disregarded requests by Zimbabwe’s intelligence services, which conducted due diligence on the two firms, to hand over the contracts, according to a charge sheet seen by Reuters.
The contracts have since been cancelled by President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government.
Moyo, who must appear in court again on July 31, is the second minister in Mnangagwa’s cabinet to be arrested over high-level corruption claims.
Last July, former tourism minister Prisca Mupfumira was arraigned for corruption charges which prosecutors said related to her previous role as labour minister overseeing a $1 billion state pension fund.
The scandal comes as health professionals including nurses and doctors in Zimbabwe are on strike demanding to be paid their salaries in US dollars. They argue that inflation that is now above 750 per cent and the erosion of the value of local currency have rendered incomes worthless. Most traders charge for their goods in US dollars in the southern African country that has long faced economic collapse.
The health professionals also have complained about lack of adequate protective gear as the number of coronavirus cases rises. Zimbabwe has nearly 500 cases.