THE Limpopo Department of Health has vowed to deal harshly with officials who work with criminal syndicates to steal and sell antiretroviral (ARV’s) drugs that are apparently used to manufacture drugs.
This came after a woman suspected of plundering antiretroviral drugs from a rural clinic was released on R1000 bail by the Polokwane Magistrate’s court on Wednesday.
Monica Ramusi (44), a nurse at the Botlokwa Clinic north of Polokwane, was arrested on Tuesday after she was allegedly caught selling the drugs on the streets.
Magistrate Michael Mamabolo released Ramusi after her lawyer, Phalane Nkondo, successfully argued that the crime his client was accused of was not classified as a serious one.
Nkondo told the court that Ramusi’s alleged crime looked serious only because the media was attracted by the type of medication she is alleged to have stolen.
He said the case would not have received media attention had Ramusi been accused of stealing headache pills.
Nkondo also opposed the media’s application for permission to photograph Ramusi, who had covered her head partly with a black jacket.
“If her picture is going to be published all over the world, it will prejudice this case. The accused remains innocent until proven guilty,” said Nkondo.
But Magistrate Mamabolo was not interested.
He argued that even convicted murderer Oscar Pistorius’ pictures were published before he was found guilty.
However, Magistrate Mamabolo did not give any ruling on the matter.
This left photographers hopeless as the hearings proceed without any word on whether or not Ramusi’s pictures could be taken.
Police said that Ramusi was arrested after she offered to sell antiretroviral drugs to undercover crime intelligence agents.
Limpopo Hawks spokesman Matimba Maluleke said the investigations were still underway to determine whether or not Ramusi was part of a big syndicate.
Ramusi’s case was postponed to August 18 for further investigations.
According to statistics from Limpopo Department of Health, more than 170 000 people were on ARV’s by 2013.
Spokesman Derick Kganyago said they were shocked and disappointed with the allegations levelled against Ramusi.
He said the nurse would be placed on precautionary suspension.
“We are going to strengthen our security and monitoring on the allocation of drugs, especially in clinics,” Kganyago said.
He said the department was aware of ARV’s syndicates in the province.
“We are aware about the syndicates. It might be the picture of syndicates stealing medicines in hospitals and the clinics,” Kganyago added.
Apparently ARV’s are used to manufacture streets drugs.