CONTROVERSIAL Bikita West legislator Munyaradzi Kereke’s empire is skating on thin ice with his flagship Rockfoundation Medical Centre (RMC) now on the verge of collapse following the seizure of most of its movable assets to recover a debt owed to Westchase Consultants. Westchase claims it was not paid for services rendered, with the bill being put at US$20 640.
The problems compound a crisis already facing the medical facility, which was recently slapped with a garnishee order by the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA) for an outstanding tax bill. Although ZIMRA had initially demanded US$4 million from RMC, the tax was revised downwards. Kereke has a pending court challenge against the tax claim.
The debt-ridden hospital is understood to have slipped into bankruptcy and frantic efforts are underway to find investors to resuscitate it. The Deputy Sheriff last month attached property, including two ambulances, an X-ray scanner, 20 hospital beds, two X-ray printers, a desktop computer, a scanner, a laptop computer, two sets of sofas and 15 office chairs from RMC after Kereke failed to settle the US$20 000 debt.
High Court Judge, Justice David Mangota, ordered RMC to pay its debt to Westchase Consultants plus costs of the lawsuit.
ZIMRA has since November last year blocked cash-flows due to RMC by issuing garnishee orders to the hospital’s major trade debtors, such as Cimas, Premier Service Medical Aid Society and Stanbic Bank.
The taxes include Pay As You Earn and income and withholding taxes that were allegedly not being remitted to the tax collector. The main hospital unit of RMC, located at 92 Norfolk Road, Mt Pleasant in Harare, has not been functioning since the assets were attached. Also closed were the hospital laboratory and the ambulance, which was crippled by the seizure of ambulances, the pharmacy and the radiology sections. The only functional unit was the trauma section of the medical centre.
“Things are not looking good at all here. The number of patients visiting the medical centre has sharply declined because there is no good equipment anymore. Here at the main hospital, we used to attend to over 80 clients per day but now we are receiving roughly an average of 20, that is on better days but it could be much lower than that,” said an employee who could not be named for fear of victimisation.
“The radiology section, which was our cash cow, used to have 60 patients per day and now it is down to as low as 10 patients. This is because most of their machines are not working and clients are running away,” she added. Many of employees at the medical facility had resigned en masse due to nonpayment of salaries.
RMC staff filed a High Court application seeking to place the company under provisional judicial management, citing its failure to settle US$5 million owed to creditors. RMC clinical director, whose name was only given as Zhakata, tried to play down the gravity of the situation, saying the hospital was still functioning well. “We have problems but we are operating, you can come and see for yourself,” he said.
Kereke’s funeral business, Doves, is also going through a lean spell. A few years ago, the businessman’s medical aid firm, Green Card, collapsed under the weight of increasing liabilities. Kereke is also facing a number of legal battles, including a high profile rape case which is pending at the High Court. Kereke is accused of raping an 11-year-old niece at gunpoint. He denies raping his niece, but family lawyers have successfully sought a court order to be granted for a private prosecution, which Kereke is challenging in the Supreme Court.
Kereke won a Parliamentary seat last year despite serious opposition from his party ZANU-PF, which proceeded to dismiss from the party. He contested and won the polls as an independent candidate for Bikita West and attempts by ZANU-PF to chuck him out of the August house hit a snag after the Constitutional court ruled in his favour.
He is yet to be warmly embraced back into the fold. – Own Correspondent