Alleged  Limpopo ARV thief  appears in court

Alleged Limpopo ARV thief appears in court

A 44-year-old nurse appeared in the Polokwane Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday after she was arrested for allegedly stealing a local clinic’s stock of life saving drugs for HIV patients and then trying to sell them on the streets.

However, according to her lawyer, the crime was not a serious one and would not have received any media attention had it been headache tablets, and not antiretroviral drugs.

This formed part of defence lawyer Phalane Nkondo’s argument for bail for his client, Monica Ramusi. It also served as part of the argument as to why media should not be allowed to take Ramusi’s picture.

“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.

Magistrate Michael Mamabolo took Nkondo’s arguments into consideration, granting Ramusi R1000 bail and denying the media the right to photograph the suspect.

Ramusi, a nurse at the Botlokwa Clinic north of Polokwane, was arrested on Tuesday after she was caught allegedly selling the drugs on the streets. The arrest occurred after Limpopo police officers conducted an undercover operation.

Limpopo Hawks spokesperson Matimba Maluleke said investigations are still underway to determine if the suspect is part of a larger syndicate.

Ramusi’s case was postponed to August 18 for further investigations.

In response to the incident, the Limpopo Department of Health has vowed to intensify security around ARV medication. It also warned against any officials engaging in criminal activities.

“We are going to strengthen our security and monitoring on allocation of drugs especially in clinics,” said provincial health spokesman Derick Kganyago.

Kganyago said they were shocked and disappointed by Ramusi’s alleged crimes and were thus placing her on precautionary suspension.

He added that the department was aware of an ARV syndicate: “We are aware of a syndicate. As a department, we are warning those who are practicing to stop because we are not going to watch, [we]will make sure they are arrested”.

Once stolen, the ARVs are reportedly used in the production of other drugs.

Kganyago appealed to community members to help the department keep ARVs safe from criminals by reporting any suspicious activities to the police. – ANA