Two security officers appeared in the Seshego Magistrate’s Court on charges of theft on Monday and were remanded in custody. They will appear in court again today (Thursday) for a bail application.
The suspects were arrested last Friday for the alleged theft of medicines worth R1,2 million at the provincial medicine depot in Seshego. A pharmacy assistant who was also arrested, has been released since.
The medicines included TB drugs, vaccines and schedule 6 drugs for mentally ill patients.
Department of Health Spokesperson Thabiso Teffo said “We are very disappointed because we as a country do not have many resources, yet people steal this kind of medication.”
Earlier this week Provincial Police Spokesman Moatshe Ngoepe confirmed that leads pointed towards the existence of a syndicate that may be involved. He said the Police expected to make more arrests as investigations continue but did not want to reveal further information that could possibly jeopardise inquiries.
Teffo said the department was concerned that theft was chipping away at its already limited resources, and said losses could amount to millions of rand. He added that this was creating a supply shortfall in clinics and hospitals.
Last year, during an undercover police operation, a nurse from Botlokwa was charged with theft after she was reportedly trying to sell 24 bottles of antiretroviral tablets for
R7 500 and in Polokwane, Adekunle Adefila, a doctor, was arrested for the illegal possession of ARV medication. He was charged with fraud and forgery after he was allegedly found to be obtaining other prescription drugs, including morphine, fraudulently. Adefila was released on
R 5000 bail and the case is ongoing.
Teffo said other health officials were also arrested after they were caught with meat meant for patients at a hospital and an iron was stolen from the premises of Mankweng Hospital last week, where after a case was opened. He said in the recent case Police had been monitoring suspicious movements at a house in Seshego for some time before discovering boxes containing medications.
Teffo said the Police assured them that more people will be arrested and said the syndicate possibly involved more people, including officials. According to him the department’s risk unit had noted instances of theft from the depot for some time and some of the theft cases were uncovered after the department made a call for all facilities to tighten security. He added that thieves are putting the lives of people at risk if medicines are not being stored at the correct temperature and in proper conditions as it could be harmful to people buying them from fraudsters or people not qualified to handle such medication. He asked people with any information about medicines theft to contact the department or Police.
Story: NELIE ERASMUS