By NQOBANI NDLOVU/ PRAISEMORE SITHOLE
THE long-awaited re-opening of the Ekusileni Medical Centre in Bulawayo has suffered another setback as the Indian investor who had expressed interest in the project has withdrawn under unclear circumstances.
In 2018, government partnered Sharda Group of Institutions (SGI) of India, for the re-opening of the specialist medical facility, a brain child of the late former Vice-President Joshua Nkomo.
The institution has been lying derelict since 2004 after it was shut down shortly after opening its doors.
State-run pension fund, National Social Security Authority (NSSA), contributed large sums of money for the building of the upmarket 369-bed facility.
However, the operationalisation of the facility has dragged on for over a decade, raising questions about the government’s commitment to preserve Nkomo’s legacy .
Health and Child Care minister Obadiah Moyo told journalists in Bulawayo last week that the Indian investors had abandoned plans to invest in the project.
“The Indian investors we had engaged to invest in Ekusileni Hospital have opted out of the project. We are now discussing with other investors who have shown interest in the project,” Moyo said.
“We went all the way to India where we had identified some investors, but eventually they changed their mind. It was just a legal issue so we had to get them out of the way and bring in new investors. So the new investors are there and they appear to be solid. What we are looking for is funding.”
“We have gone out again and we got potential investors who will be coming through to view the facility.”
However, Moyo could not be drawn into disclosing who the new investors were and when they would visit the health centre.
“We want to make sure that the hospital is up and running before year end. In the meantime, we also have some contingency plans where government will also put in some money towards ensuring that the hospital is resuscitated,” said Moyo.
In 2015, South African firm Phodiso was engaged to equip the hospital and the deal was expected to have been operationalised by April of the same year, but collapsed under a cloud.
The hospital was closed after it was discovered that equipment worth millions of dollars acquired by the Zimbabwe Health Care Trust (ZHCT) was obsolete.
The health facility was initiated as a joint venture between ZHCT and Netcare, a South African healthcare group that provides private healthcare in both South Africa and the United Kingdom.
A super structure development fund was set up which saw NSSA, ZHCT and the Mining Industry Pension Fund (MIPF) becoming partners.
However, MIPF later pulled out of the project and ZHCT failed to contribute towards the construction of the health facility, leaving NSSA to develop it on its own and become the sole owner of the property.