Temba Dube Deputy News Editor
SENIOR officials at Mpilo Central Hospital allegedly engineered cancellation of Bulawayo businessman, Ashton Mpofu’s $3 million tender after he refused to pay a bribe. In a telephone interview from South Africa, Mpofu yesterday said the hospital’s director of operations Duduza Regina Moyo told him that the chief executive officer, Dr Lawrence Mantiziba, wanted money from him to facilitate smooth running of the contract.
Last week, Moyo wrote a letter to Dr Mantiziba requesting a bodyguard, alleging Mpofu had threatened to harm her following cancellation of the tender.
The tender was for refurbishing the hospital’s radio therapy centre and supplying cancer treatment machinery.
Mpofu denied threatening Moyo saying the issue stemmed from the bribe that he did not pay and a personal vendetta that Moyo was pursuing against him. “We asked for $35,000 from the hospital to tie up loose ends on February 3 this year.
“When the engineer informed Mantiziba, he said there was no problem as it’s usual on such huge projects. When he later responded in writing, he was demanding that we bring the steel for the building to the hospital before the money could be released,” said Mpofu.
Chronicle has copies of the correspondence.
He said after receiving the written response, Moyo called him and said she would go to his service station in Nkulumane to map the way forward.
“When she came, she said o-CEO bafuna imali (the CEOs want money). I asked her what the money was for and she backed off,” said Mpofu.
He said Moyo then asked for a piece of paper on which she drafted a letter which she said Mpofu should type on his company, New Planet’s letter head and send to Dr Mantiziba.
“I note in your response dated 03 February 2015 that you have set as a pre-condition that steel should be delivered on site prior to your consideration.
“I herein advise that regarding steel, the facts are that because of the size and weight, it has to be kept at the manufacturer’s workshop where it has to be fabricated as it is a customised product,” read part of the three-page handwritten note that Moyo allegedly drafted, a copy of which is in Chronicle’s possession.
Each of the steel beams, Mpofu said, weighs five tonnes.
Mpofu said they typed the letter and sent a copy to the Public Works Ministry, which then ordered Mpilo Central Hospital to pay the $35,000.
The hospital, in a letter dated February 12, terminated the contract alleging New Planet had failed to meet deadlines and was being uncooperative.
“. . . you should appreciate that you were paid a deposit as per contract, but you failed to deliver the lead and steel shielding for close to a year and half . . . I therefore advise termination of your services with immediate effect,” read the letter.
In a letter to the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Health, Dr Gerald Gwinji, dated February 13, Mpofu said the hospital was to blame for his company’s failure to meet deadlines for completion of the project.
He said New Planet was initially supposed to complete the project in September 2013 but could not because the hospital only completed civil works on which his company was supposed to start building, in 2014.
He rubbished the hospital’s request to deliver the steel to Mpilo Central Hospital saying it was impractical.
He said it would be costly to hire machinery to move the heavy steel to the hospital and back to the factory for fabrication as the hospital officials who inspected the steel at the factory, had expressed satisfaction and had indicated they had no storage space.
“We therefore submit that putting delivery of steel as a pre-condition for requested funding was all in bad faith . . .,” read part of the letter.
Mpofu said when this paper started sniffing for the story on Friday; a panicking Moyo called him in South Africa and advised him to switch off his phone as the Press was looking for him.
He said Moyo did not tell him she had accused him of threatening to kill her.
“On Saturday, she called me again and said two hospital board members came to the hospital and tried to force her to write something about me but she refused.
“She started crying and said she would take poison as she could not go on. I was bewildered as I was still clueless about what was going on. We got disconnected and I could not reach her. This morning I was shocked when friends called me in South Africa asking how I could be such a monster, after reading the story in the Chronicle,” he said.
Mpofu said Moyo had a personal grudge against him. “Last year, she started giving Englington Phiri, my company’s technical expert, contracts behind my back. She told him she wanted information about my contracts in return, so that she could sabotage them,” he said.
Mpofu said Phiri told him about the arrangement when he had a fallout with Moyo on Christmas Eve last year. “Phiri said she swore that she wanted to destroy me and leave me to die penniless. This could be part of her grand plan,” he said.
Moyo was not reachable for comment on her mobile phone.
Dr Mantiziba said: “I don’t want my name to be dragged into that issue.”
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 been charged over the alleged tender fraud.