Pharmacies defy government on mono-currency regime

The Sunday Mail

Priscilla Kamurira

Some pharmacies in and around Harare continue to sell drugs in US dollars in contravention of a Government directive that bans the use of foreign currency in all domestic transactions.

A survey conducted in Harare’s CBD on Wednesday showed that some pharmacies are selling prescription drugs in US dollars.

A pharmacist defended this action, saying they were importing the drugs using US dollars and thus sold then in foreign currency for them to be able to re-stock.

However, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Child Care, Dr Agnes Mahomva, dismissed these claims saying drugs are readily available from National Pharmaceutical Company (Nat Pharm) and, therefore, pharmacies should sell the same in local currency.

“Drugs are locally available at Nat Pharm and they should be available, and affordable, in local currency in both the public and private pharmacies. The Government outlawed the use of multiple currencies and I think it is everyone’s responsibility to abide by these laws,” she said.

In the survey, drugs like Rocephin and Metronidazole are not being sold in local currency, but are readily available if one is paying using the greenback.

The situation is making life difficult for patients with chronic illnesses such as cancer, diabetes and hypertension, who need regular doses.

On the other hand, the pharmacies that are selling their drugs in local currencies are pegging their prices at a higher exchange rate than the prevailing interbank rate, at times as high 1:20.

The Government recently banned the use of foreign currency in all domestic transactions and made the Zimbabwe dollar the sole legal tender.

Through Statutory Instrument (SI) 142 of 2019, also known as the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (Legal Tender) Regulations, the Government abolished the use of basket of multi-currencies as legal tender.