Swaziland
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OWNER OF E800K SMUGGLED MEDICAL SUPPLIES IDENTIFIED

MBABANE – Investigations have unearthed that the E800 000 medical supplies that were intercepted at the Oshoek Border Gate belong to a private pharmaceutical company, which is known to be supplying government.

The consignment of the medical supplies was discovered with a liSwati who was transporting them into South Africa and were suspected to have been stolen locally. The suspect, who was arrested at the South African side of the Ngwenya Border Gate – Oshoek, reportedly informed South African law enforcers upon his arrest that he had been recruited to transport the medical supplies. He supposedly informed the law enforcers that someone had bought the medical supplies locally. However, it is worth noting that the country imports medical supplies as there is no pharmaceutical plant producing them locally. The liSwati who was driving the truck ferrying the supplies was later identified as Bongani Sifiso Shongwe, who is believed to be employed by the pharmaceutical company. The medical supplies were supposed to be transported by air freight or sea, not road as per the South African Medicines regulations.

Shongwe (31) appeared at the Chief Albert Luthuli Magistrates Court on Monday charged for contravening the South Africa Medical Act. He was remanded in custody and will return to court today. Stakeholders in the pharmaceutical industry have confirmed that the consignment of the medical supplies belonged to a local private company. The name of the company is known to this publication but will not be revealed as investigations are still ongoing. A source in the pharmaceutical industry revealed that the medical supplies arrived into the country about three years ago, through the Durban Sea Port from India. According to the source, they did not know where the supplies had been stored all this time and where they were being taken to before they were intercepted at the border.

Permit

The source stated that the medicine required an export permit to be moved outside the country, which was never obtained. When sought for comment on the matter, Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Health Dr Simon Zwane, said they could not comment further on the matter as investigations were still ongoing. Meanwhile, efforts to get a comment from the local pharmaceutical company hit a snag. A woman who is employed by the company, who said she was from the human resource administrator, stated that she could also not comment on the matter. She requested for this reporter’s contact details, adding that she would pass the contacts to the relevant people who would contact her later. The human resource officer was asked to comment on whether the medical supplies belonged to their company and why the regulations to transport the consignment were breached. At the time of compiling this report, no responses had been obtained.

The arrest of the man transporting the consignment happened almost eight weeks after the Auditor General (AG), Timothy Matsebula, submitted a report in Parliament detailing that over E151 million of medical drugs were unaccounted for in the public health facilities.  This, he said, resulted in a shortage of medical supplies yet government had improved its budget for them by over 55 per cent.

Meanwhile, the destination of the medical supplies is yet to be ascertained as the driver supposedly claimed ignorance to the contents of the consignment when he was arrested. In a media statement, which was issued by the office of the Provincial Commissioner in Mpumalanga, it was reported that the suspect was nabbed after failure to produce authorisation for transportation of the consignment across the border. It was stated that the police, who were busy with their routine duties, searched a truck which was pulling two trailers. During their search, the law enforcers reportedly discovered that the truck was transporting a huge consignment of medication and that it was headed to South Africa (SA) from Eswatini.