Tanzania’s main opposition party has called on its affiliated MPs to avoid parliamentary meetings and committee work because of the spread of the coronavirus, which has claimed several of its members.
Party for Democracy and Development (Chadema) leader Freeman Mbowe, who has been sharply critical of President John Magufuli’s response to the COVID-19 crisis, issued the statement on Friday. Mbowe also urged all members of parliament to self-quarantine for a minimum of two weeks, called for testing and treatment of all MPs and their families, and pressed for some parliamentary business to continue using Zoom or other technologies.
The announcement follows the death Friday of Augustine Mahiga, the Tanzanian justice minister. Mahiga died in the capital city of Dodoma, which also prompted Mbowe to urge all Chadema MPs to remain in the city and not return to their respective constituencies lest they risk spreading the coronavirus to other parts of the country.
Mahiga’s death followed that of MP Richard Ndassa on Wednesday, and MP Gertrude Rwakatare less than two weeks ago. The government has confirmed a positive case of the coronavirus within the parliamen, but has not verified the cause of these three deaths, though Mbowe’s statement made clear Chadema views them as linked.
“As we have advised several times, it is clear that additional emergency measures should be taken to slow down the infection and thus save, as much as possible, the lives of Tanzanians,” Mbowe said.
He added that Chadema is taking its protective measures while still waiting for Tanzanian authorities to do so. Magufuli has resisted aggressive public health action like a lockdown while seeking to protect the economy, and the opposition has complained of a lack of transparency on coronavirus cases and impacts.
“Chadema continues to emphasize to all Tanzanians that first line of protection is every one of us,” Mbowe added. “We insist, it is negligence to wait to be protected by a partner. Start with you.”