Temba Dube Deputy News Editor
POLICE had to be called in after Mpilo Central Hospital’s director of operations reported having received death threats from an executive of a company whose tender to build a $3 million cancer ward has been terminated.Duduza Regina Moyo wrote to the Mpilo CEO Dr Lawrence Mantiziba on February 12 to ask for a security guard because she felt “unsafe”.
In the letter marked “Request for Personal Security” seen by The Chronicle, Moyo said: “Following the executive decision to terminate the contract with New Planet today, I request the services of a guard as I feel unsafe following threats from the company.”
New Planet is owned by businessman Ashton Mpofu, who runs Ashy’s supermarkets, commuter omnibuses, cross border buses and a petrol station in the city.
Police interviewed Moyo at the hospital last week but have been unable to speak to Mpofu, who allegedly made the threats.
Mpofu was yesterday said to be in South Africa, where he has been since the alleged threats were made.
Moyo told detectives that Mpofu showed her a gun and told her the hospital could not cancel his tender, adding that a directive would come from Harare to reverse the decision and allow his company, New Planet, to continue with the construction work.
Moyo has since written to the hospital’s chief executive officer Dr Mantiziba requesting for a guard, saying she feared for her life.
Hospital sources said Moyo panicked after The Chronicle requested for her comment. She declined to speak, but is said to have called Dr Mantiziba saying she feared she could be harmed if the story got published.
Dr Mantiziba allegedly responded by also asking the board for a guard.
Yesterday, he denied making the request, insisting he only needed God for protection.
Mpilo Central Hospital board chairperson Sichelesile Moyo-Ncube last night said the board had discussed the alleged death threats. Two board members, she said, were supporting Moyo when she was interviewed by police detectives last week.
“We’re taking the issue very seriously and we’re looking into it with a sense of urgency,” she said.
“We can’t take it lightly when a member of staff is threatened for any reason.”
Mpofu, under his New Planet company, was awarded the tender to completely refurbish Mpilo Central Hospital’s radiotherapy centre towards the end of 2012.
The scope of the tender ranged from providing new equipment, to re-tiling the floors and painting the walls.
The cancer unit was closed for the duration of the project, forcing cancer patients to travel to Parirenyatwa Hospital in Harare for treatment.
The project was supposed to be completed in September 2013.
Officials at Mpilo said say the deadline has been moved at least three times with the latest being this month. The Ministry of Health and Childcare released $1,4 million towards the project in 2012 and about $1 million last year. The last tranche of $350,000 is expected this year.
A progress report submitted by Mpofu to the hospital shows work is only 90 percent complete, and likely to miss the February deadline.
When the new Mpilo board was unveiled in October last year, Health Minister David Parirenyatwa said his ministry was concerned over the slow pace of work at the cancer ward. “I will expect you to look at the radiotherapy centre as the region is crying for cancer treatment and I expect that Mpilo will build another hospital with this new board,” Parirenyatwa said.
Parirenyatwa’s call, according to hospital officials, sparked a review by the board of all major projects being undertaken.
Board pressure on the Mpilo executive finally led to Dr Mantiziba signing a notice of termination of contract for New Planet.
The Chronicle heard claims yesterday that the executive could not terminate a contract, with that responsibility falling on the board which can only do so in consultation with the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing.
This claim was rejected by a board member who insisted: “It’s within their rights (the executive), but of course that’s subject to review by the board.”
Moyo-Ncube, asked if the executive’s decision was irregular, said: “Investigations are underway and it would be premature for me to say anything. However, I can assure you that as a board we have taken a stance of zero tolerance to corruption.
“If any underhand dealings are unearthed the law will take its course. We owe it to our patients and partners in development to be transparent at all times.”
Mpofu has been named in an alleged $6 million tender fraud at Victoria Falls and Binga district hospitals.
He is also being investigated in another tender con at Mnene Mission Hospital in Mberengwa.
Mpofu has not yet been charged over the alleged tender fraud.