GOVERNANCE Activist Rueben Lifuka has wondered why the Zambia Medicines Regulatory Authority (ZAMRA) has failed to formally charge Valden Findlay’s company for importing fake COVID-19 vaccines.

Responding to a query, Lifuka said ZAMRA’s conduct, which included the destruction of the vaccines without undertaking any formal testing, was a serious abrogation of duty.

“The handling of the whole COVID-19 vaccines donation saga by ZAMRA leaves much to be desired. It is unimaginable that a country of laws could have a donation of vaccines to tackle a serious pandemic like COVID-19, without the knowledge of the Ministry of Health or indeed the regulator of the sector – ZAMRA. This probably demonstrates the erosion of governance which characterized the previous administration. ZAMRA in their conduct which includes the destruction of the vaccines without undertaking any formal testing is a serious abrogation of duty and it is important that this unprofessional conduct is fully investigated,” Lifuka said.

“In the absence of any testing, how can ZAMRA confidently state that it destroyed COVID-19 vaccines and not any other illegal substances? Why didn’t ZAMRA engage DEC as well, just in case what was brought in were narcotic substances or any illegal drugs? In the event that this case goes to court, how will ZAMRA prove any wrongdoing without the critical evidence and without any test results of what the institution destroyed? To add misery to this whole episode, ZAMRA has lamentably failed to explain why it has not proceeded to formally charge those who illegally brought these COVID-19 vaccines into the country. Is it enough to just destroy these vaccines without taking any action? And why is ZAMRA only taking action now if it was aware of these COVID-19 vaccines which were allegedly brought into the country in July 2021?”

Lifuka urged President Hakainde Hichilema’s administration to clean up ZAMRA.

“Given the conduct of ZAMRA in previous scandals like the Honeybee, questions about the suitability of the management at the institutions are abound. Clearly, it would seem there has been a lot of negligence in the discharge of duties by ZAMRA and unscrupulous people have taken advantage of this. The new Hichilema administration should take keen interest in ZAMRA and urgently clean up this institution which has failed to protect the lives of Zambians from consuming substandard medicines and related materials brought into the country by people who can only be aptly described as merchants of death. ZAMRA needs a complete overhaul and strengthened in its operations,” he said.

Meanwhile, Lifuka said Findlay’s company, Chrismar Earth Moving Equipment, needed to be investigated, adding that it was not enough to simply destroy the vaccines.

“For Chrismar Earth Moving Equipment, the conduct of this company and its beneficial owners should be thoroughly investigated. It is not enough to simply destroy the vaccines illegally brought into the country. We need to understand how it was even possible that this company managed to do what it did without any formal permits and approvals. Is this a one-off incident or this was a pattern of events? Airport officials need to be talked to as well as Zambia Revenue Authority and all other authorities. This demonstrates the state capture that was prominent in the Lungu administration. The Hichilema administration should equally look at all the COVID-19 donations and expenditures. The Auditor General’s report on management of COVID-19 donations points to a number of irregularities. It is unfortunate to see how some people were willing to profit from a pandemic in which innocent lives have been lost,” said Lifuka.