By Everson Mushava
VICE-PRESIDENT Constantino Chiwenga opted to take over the Health and Child Care portfolio following differences with President Emmerson Mnangagwa over the sacked Obadiah Moyo’s successor, it has emerged.
Mnangagwa last week announced that he had appointed Chiwenga the new Health minister, sparking speculation on the motives behind the surprise move that has been described as unconstitutional by some legal experts.
Lawyers say a VP is not allowed to double up as a minister in terms of the constitution.
Insiders told The Standard that Chiwenga wanted Health and Child Care deputy minister John Mangwiro, who is his personal doctor, to take over the ministry, but Mnangagwa did not agree.
After the haggling, the VP is said to have volunteered to take over the portfolio.
Chiwenga is said be among a section in government that were said to be unhappy with the scandals that have rocked the Health ministry related to the procurement of medical equipment to fight Covid-19.
Moyo is on $50 000 bail over abuse of office charges after he was accused of single-handedly awarding a tender to Delish Nguwaya, a close friend of Mnangagwa’s children.
Nguwaya was arrested over a US$60 million drugs procurement scandal.
He was also freed on $50 000 bail by High Court judge, Justice Pisirayi Kwenda, who said the businessman cannot be blamedfor approvals made by government officials.
According to sources, Chiwenga pushed for Moyo’s sacking following his arrest.
Chiwenga, according to sources, feels the corruption in the Health ministry will dent the party’s performance in the 2023 general elections.
Mnangagwa also appointed Air Commodore Jasper Chimedza as Health permanent secretary, replacing Agnes Mahomva, who was moved to the new position of chief coordinator for the country’s response to Covid-19 in May.
“Chiwenga’s first task is to get doctors and nurses back to work and I am sure he is going to do that this coming week,” a well-placed source said.
“He will try to make things work in the Health ministry and all hospitals to function and save lives, reinventing his legacy in the process.”
It was, however, not immediately clear how Chiwenga would get the health workers back at work, but the source said negotiations for government to pay them United States dollar-based salaries were already in progress.
Mnangagwa’s spokesperson George Charamba refused to comment on Chiwenga’s appointment, saying: “I am too serious for those kind of conversations.”
A fortnight ago there were reports that Mnangagwa and Chiwenga clashed over an alleged plot against the president in the ruling Zanu PF.
Some of Chiwenga’s loyalists were accused of being involved in the organisation of the July 31 protests and this led to the suspension of politburo member Cleveria Chizema after posters publicising the demonstrations were allegedly found in her house.
Chizema has denied being involved in the plot and says she suspects the posters were planted by her enemies in the party.