Tanzania’s opposition party Chama cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo (Chadema) has directed all its Members of Parliament to with immediate effect stop attending parliamentary sessions and committees due to the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19 )threat in the country.
In a statement on Friday, party chairman Freeman Mbowe also appealed to the members not to set foot in the two parliament precincts both in Dodoma and Dar es Salaam following the sudden death of three MPs in the country who are believed to have succumbed to COVID-19.
Mbowe noted that the lawmakers are at risk of contracting the disease if they don’t adhere to the social distancing directive.
The MPs, Mbowe, said should self isolate for 14 days, after which they will be tested and know if they are safe. The Chairman reiterated that self quarantining is key in containing the spread of the disease in the country.
“The party has continued to receive with deep sadness the deaths of parliamentarians and other Tanzanians as the deadly virus continues to spread… We direct all of our members to self-isolate for not less than two weeks,” the statement reads in part.
“We urge our parliamentarians in Dodoma not to go to their constituencies, rather they should remain in Dodoma (in the quarantine) until proven safe and or to receive any other formal instructions.”
The party also called on all other parliamentarians from other political parties to follow suit and lead the nation in fighting the disease even as President John Pombe Magufuli continues to attract criticism over the government’s response to the disease.
“We want the parliament to take necessary steps including suspension of parliamentary activities for 21 days to allow parliamentarians and all workers in the parliament to quarantine themselves,” said Chadema.
Other steps that Chadema wants the government to take include carrying out tests on all parliamentarians, workers and their families to determine how many are already infected with the virus so that appropriate measures can be taken.
“Specific parliamentary committees, particularly the parliamentary services committee and the steering committee, can conduct their meetings online, in order to make important decisions about the administration of parliament and ensure that important issues are discussed, ” the party added.
Reacting to the statement, the Speaker Job Ndugai said that the House will deliberate on the proposals on Monday and give an official statement on the way forward.
“We will give our details on Monday to parliamentarians about what we will do and how we are going to conduct our activities…since we started we have taken various steps and on Monday we will explain how we are doing,” said Ndugai.
“The MP has the right to resign and not even to enter parliament, I don’t have a rule for dealing with them apart from just wishing them the best of luck…You know it’s good to sit and talk with your colleagues but for them, they’re good at using media networks. It is difficult to deal with such people. However, they haven’t broken any rule, so I can only wish them all the best.”
The latest development comes at a time the house is mourning the death of three legislators.
Sumve MP Richard Ndassa, died on Wednesday aged 69 in Dodoma with Speaker Ndugai indicating that he died after a short illness.
On April 20, the ruling party CCM lost another lawmaker MP Reverend Gertrude Rwakatare who died in Dar es Salaam.
On Friday, the country also lost Minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs Ambassador Augustine Mahigawho passed on at the age of 74 years.
Tanzania media reports indicate that Mahiga died on his way to hospital in Tanzania’s capital, Dodoma.
Word has it that all the three died from COVID-19 related complications.
As of Wednesday, Tanzania had reported a total of 480 cases of COVID-19 and 16 deaths.