THE Pharmaceutical Society of Zambia (PSZ) has condemned Lusaka Province Minister Bowman Lusambo for allegedly harassing pharmacy operators, who did not reduce prices of hand sanitizer following government’s waiving of taxes on the commodity.

And PSZ has urged Lusambo to “stay away from pharmacists and take his physic elsewhere because Zambians need Ministers who can exhibit maturity and clear understanding of how prices of commodities are set”.

In an interview, PSZ president Jerome Kanyika said it was wrong for Lusambo to have gone on a rampage last weekend, forcing pharmacies to reduce prices of hand sanitizer as a way of making it affordable for consumers during the COVID-19 pandemic because some of the commodity currently in stock was bought before the waiving of the taxes.

Kanyika expressed concern that having ministers like Lusambo in government could be detrimental to the country’s economy because it was clear that he did not understand the basics of how an economy worked.

Last Friday, Finance Minister Dr Bwalya Ng’andu announced the suspension of excise duty on imported ethanol for use in alcohol-based sanitizers and other medicine-related activities, subject to guidelines to be issued by the Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA).

“What we saw on Saturday by the Minister for Lusaka Province is very much uncalled for, and all well-meaning Zambians should condemn such behaviour coming from a big person like a Minister. A ministerial person does not require someone to use their physic, no! We don’t want these ministers to be using their physic. We want leaders, who can use their mental capabilities and reasoning, unlike going to a place and start threatening people. The tax on hand sanitizer was waived on Friday afternoon by the Minister of Finance. So, all the other hand sanitizers that were in stock at that (time) when the Minister waived taxes on the commodity, was one that was bought at a very expensive price some time back, it’s old stock. So, what Mr Lusambo was supposed to do was to engage pharmaceutical businesses on what could be done,” Kanyika said.

“What is happening is that these pharmaceutical businesses are buying these hand sanitizers from the wholesalers. These wholesalers are also buying all their hand sanitizers from Trade Kings. So, you will find that Trade Kings is selling a 50 mls (militres) at K16. Then it goes to a wholesaler who is selling this between K20 to K25, then it comes to a retailer who is then selling at K30 to K35. So, this is what it happening, the retailers mainly sell their products depending on the wholesale price. So, if the wholesale price goes up, then the price that the retailer is going to give to the members of the public will be up.”

And Kanyika urged Lusambo to stay away from pharmacists and take his physic elsewhere because Zambians needed Ministers who exhibit maturity and a clear understanding of how prices of commodities were set.

“The reason that was being given by Mr Lusambo of saying that the President waived the taxes on hand sanitizer on Saturday and so pharmaceutical businesses needed to reduce their prices for commodity, I think the Minister needs to know that once a tax is waived, it not instantaneous for things to start reducing in prices. We need to think about the products that were bought before the taxes were waived. Then, another thing is that once a law is passed like it did on Friday, it does not affect the things that happened some time back before the law was changed. So, for Bowman to go and harass my members in their work places, I think it was very much uncalled for! That kind of behaviour should not be practiced by someone from a higher office like that of Bowman Lusambo. That behaviour should be exhibited by a complete cadre, who is not schooled! We should not allow ourselves as a country to have such type of people as ministers because they are very detrimental to the economy of this country if they are failing to understand the basics of economy,” Kanyika argued.

Meanwhile, Kanyika called on government to further waive taxes on raw materials that were used to manufacture drugs to reduce wholesale prices.

“My other appeal to the pharmacists is that they should not take advantage of the COVID-19 to start exploiting the members of the public and government should go again further to waive the taxes for other raw materials that we use in the manufacturing of drugs that can be used to prevent the COVID-19. So, that’s our call; we have been making this call, but it’s not been attended to. We hope this time government is going to waive these taxes on the commodities we use just as a way of jump-starting the pharmaceutical industry,” urged Kanyika.