By Shingirai Vambe
OUTSPOKEN Norton independent MP Temba Mliswa stormed out of parliament Wednesday afternoon over fears of contracting COVID-19 amidst uncertainty over who, amongst his colleagues and parliament staff, had recently tested positive to the dreaded virus.
Infections have been surging at the back of the discovery of a new variant – omicron – by South African experts, which has since been confirmed in the country, with the country’s 4th wave having been confirmed.
It is feared 50 percent of parliament staff have tested positive with the Speaker of Parliament reportedly self-isolating after one of his aides tested positive.
Mliswa stood on a point of order to express his concern triggering chaotic scenes as lawmakers argued on whether to proceed with physical meetings or adjourn to enforce World Health Organisation regulations.
Acting speaker of Parliament, Hon Khumalo chucked him out and he then stormed out in a fit of rage.
Deputy clerk of Parliament Helen Dingani however told this publication that the situation was under control and all the affected staff and their contacts were known.
“It’s all lies! There is nothing of that sort. Our staff have been tested and some are still being tested having some asked to go into quarantine” Dingani said.
She said Parliament was fully aware of the risk the virus posed and was following all the WHO protocols with those who have recently travelled out of the country going into isolation for the recommended 10 to 14 days.
Dingani admits that there has been delays in PCR test outcomes.
“We are going through PCR testing. It’s unfortunate that the results are taking long. Once they are ready, we will inform the speaker and will disclose,” Dingani said.
A number of parliamentarians are concerned for their safety which have now gone beyond 4 000 as at Wednesday.
Deputy Clerk Dingani has however promised to avail information on how many had tested positive once all the test results are returned.
following the chaotic parliament Wednesday session, the Thursday session was subsequently directed to be done virtually without any physical appearance at parliament building.
Harare North Legislator Norman Markham told Parliament that there is complacency at points of entry and the required isolation of all travellers coming from outside of the country is not being followed.
The debate around COVID-19 is however being viewed by skeptics as a ploy to delay and not to pass the 2022 budget which is under debate.
Some legislators have vowed that they would not vote to approve the 2022 budget due to perceived inconsistencies and variances with the 2021 budget.
A spike in COVID-19 cases is threating the to disrupt the festive season and tourism industry having some legislators already asking to have another budget which is pegged in US dollars.