Four caught selling ARVs

KANYAMAZANE – Two officials of the local clinic and two other persons were arrested on Saturday in connection with the theft and selling of ARVs. The two individuals informed the police that they had received the pills from two departmental officials.

After questioning the officials, a pharmacist assistant and nurse, police arrested them, read a statement from the Department of Health. This matter has envoked an angry reaction from the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) in the province and has raised a serious concern regarding the state of security in public health institutions, especially local clinics.

Mpumalanga News learnt that this is not the first incident at the clinic. In August 2016 a lay counsellor, Mr Mthobisi Malambe, who was stationed at the clinic, was arrested by police and also suspended by the department. He was dismissed for the incident last week.

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TAC’s provincial trainer, Mr Professor Mthembu, said such offences must be taken seriously and that suspects must receive harsher sentences. “This is the second incident in one place, which shows that more needs to be done to improve our security system, especially in clinics. We have noted that the security companies are not doing justice; in most cases they don’t search bags of people going in and out of the clinics. They are only focusing on checking vehicles,” said Mthembu.

He said the theft and selling of ARVs created an unnecessary shortage of drugs at health institutions. “KaNyamazane Clinic is large, but we have noted that in most cases you only find two security guards. We hope that the law will play a vital role in ensuring that people who are involved in such offences face the music,” he added.

The spokesperson of the provincial police, Sgt Gerald Sedibe, confirmed the incident. Sedibe said the SAPS carried out a cross-border operation between Mpumalanga and Limpopo. They received a tip-off that there were drug dealers who were going to The Grove in Mbombela at about 01:30 on Saturday. Four people were spotted when police arrived.

When the SAPS searched them they found the ARVs. The four confessed that it was going to be used to manufacture nyaope. The nurse and the pharmacist assistant’s homes in KaNyamazane were later searched, where more ARVs were discovered. Three suspects appeared in the Nelspruit Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday and were released on bail of R6 000 each. They will appear in court again tomorrow.

The pharmacist assistant’s case has been put on hold, pending the outcome of forensic tests. A docket has been opened and will be referred back to the prosecutor for a decision. The Department of Health has instituted an investigation into the matter.

Phumla Nkalanga

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