By Veneranda Langa
Defence minister Oppah Muchinguri was yesterday heckled in Parliament by opposition MPs, who shouted “coronavirus” as she presented the Veterans of the Liberation Struggle Bill for a Second Reading.
Muchinguri torched a storm at the weekend when she claimed that the novel coronavirus, which has killed over 7 000 people and infected over 180 000 others worldwide, was God’s punishment on Western countries, particularly the United States, for imposing sanctions on Zimbabwe.
Muchinguri’s remarks prompted a slap down from President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who issued a statement on Monday that no one should be blamed for the coronavirus outbreak, which he called “the worst global pandemic in our lifetime” and offered condolences to the victims.
Her remarks were widely reported in the international media, embossing the nation and the Zanu PF leader.
The opposition legislators yesterday heckled her in Parliament over the remarks.
Chinese ambassador to Zimbabwe, Guo Shaochun, yesterday also dismissed Muchinguri’s utterances that the virus was the work of God punishing the Western countries.
Speaking at a Press conference held in Harare, Shaochun said: “I do not agree with the notion that this is God’s punishment. Rather, it is a natural disaster that could hit anywhere, henceforth there is need for us to unite and strategise enough vetting systems at all border post.”
Also in Parliament, Beitbridge West MP Ruth Maboyi (Zanu PF) said she had gone to inspect the country’s preparedness to combat the virus at Beitbridge Border Post and found out that it was very exposed.
“After reports that coronavirus had reached South Africa, I went to inspect Beitbridge Border Post, where people from other countries like South Africa enter Zimbabwe and found that there was no protective gear or sanitisers there,” Maboyi said.
“We are in great danger.”
Proportional Representation MP Memory Mbondiah (MDC) said Parliament, as an institution, was even more exposed because there was no running water.
But Speaker of the National Assembly Jacob Mudenda said Parliament’s water problem had been caused by a burst water pipe and Clerk of Parliament Kennedy Chokuda had assured that it had been repaired.
“The presiding officers of Parliament are consulting with the relevant authorities on the immediate steps to take as an institution to safeguard the health and life of MPs and staff and visitors to Parliament against COVID-19. A comprehensive statement will be issued tomorrow (today) once consultations have been concluded,” Mudenda said.
He said the Health ministry would provide a screening machine for use at the Parliament entrance.
“In the meantime, I urge MPs and staff to exercise hygiene by constantly washing hands and MPs must avoid close contact with anyone with a cold. I also urge MPs who travelled to COVID-19 affected countries in the last two weeks to approach the relevant facilities for screening and undertake self-isolation,” Mudenda said.
Mudenda also spoke against disruption of committee meetings.
This was after MDC chief whip Prosper Mutseyami raised a matter of privilege and said Mudenda must set up another privileges committee to investigate the disruptive Zanu PF MPs.
Mutseyami said the most targeted committees were the Public Accounts Committee chaired by Tendai Biti, the Information Communication Technology Committee chaired by Chalton Hwende and the Environment Committee chaired by Concillia Chinanzvavana. NewsDay