Once again our local media has published shocking news, hardly 24 hours after Members of Parliament called for a lockdown and nationwide testing – one of their own has tested positive for COVID-19.
Outspoken Manzini North MP Macford Sibandze has been registered as the first official legislator to have tested positive for the coronavirus pandemic as reported on Times of Eswatini.
Sibandze is one of seven whose positive results were announced by Minister of Health Lizzie Nkosi, yesterday. The news came as a bombshell to the MPs during yesterday’s morning sitting, as Lobamba Lomdzala MP Marwick Khumalo informed his colleagues that he had been asked by one of their own to reveal the news.
It was during the debate of one of the four finance Bills yesterday that MP Khumalo stood and cited Standing Order No.58 (2), which gives the MPs powers to raise an issue which had the potential of disturbing a House sitting.
Khumalo is said to have informed the legislators that MP Sibandze had asked him to relay the news that he had since tested positive and he was encouraging his peers to go and get tested as the virus was real.
Interestingly, MP Sibandze is also Chairperson of the Parliament Coronavirus Task Team, which was established in February to work hand-in-hand with the TB Coordinating Task Team.
The MPs seemed to panic on what their next move should be and Speaker Petros Mavimbela addressed them. He told the MPs that MP Sibandze had also informed him about the latest turn of events, but said he was happy with the manner in which MP Khumalo had addressed it.
The MPs thereafter asked for guidance from the minister of Health on what the next step should be. It was at this point that Nkosi informed the MPs that they had prepared that the legislators would be tested for the virus yesterday afternoon after the sitting.
“We have made arrangements that we will take samples for all the legislators who are interested,” said the minister, insisting that they weren’t forced.
Shiselweni II MP Strydom Mpanza wanted to know if the MPs were not supposed to show some form of symptoms before they underwent the testing. The Speaker, however, was adamant that the MPs should continue with the day’s business and that those interested in having their samples taken should do so.
He said this would also be extended to Parliament staff who worked in close contact with the MPs.
At the end of the sitting, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Thuli Dladla, asked the minister of Health if it meant that after testing they should self-isolate. On the other hand, Hhukwini MP Nkanyeti Ngwenya stated that the legislators should not get carried away, especially because not all of them had been in contact with MP Sibandze.
He said for example, the House of Assembly had last sat over a month ago and therefore they had not been in contact with him.
Minister Nkosi said those who had not been in contact with Sibandze had no way of having contracted it from him. She did, however, state that testing would be for the benefit of the MPs even those who may have been exposed in other areas.
The minister also warned the MPs that testing negative also did not mean that the legislators would be immune to the virus.
“You could test negative today, but contract it the next day,” said Nkosi. Article fully sourced on Times of Eswatini.