Mandatory Covid-19 tests for legislators

Source: Mandatory Covid-19 tests for legislators | Sunday Mail

Sunday Mail Reporter
PARLIAMENTARIANS will undergo mandatory Covid-19 testing this week, in preparation for resumption of sittings, following a month-long adjournment after some legislators tested positive for coronavirus.

Two members of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Transport and Infrastructural Development tested positive towards the end of July, forcing the House to suspend business.

A journalist and a driver who travelled with the committee on a field tour were also infected.

The National Assembly subsequently adjourned to August 25 to allow for disinfection of the premises and testing of MPs and Parliamentary staff. Senate adjourned to September 15.

Clerk of Parliament, Mr Kennedy Chokuda, told The Sunday Mail that the National Assembly will sit for the purposes of adjourning business to Tuesday next week, to allow for testing of both MPs and Parliamentary staff.

“We will then conduct testing for all MPs and Parliament staff before sittings resume.”

Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi, who is also leader of Government business in the House, said Parliament will deploy stringent preventative measures in line with World Health Organisation (WHO) protocols.

“What the Parliament administration is doing is looking at modalities for us to safely resume sitting,” said Minister Ziyambi.

“We had closed for the purposes of fumigation and coming up with a strategy, going forward, on how to contain the pandemic within Parliament and among Parliamentarians.

“So, along with the Parliament administration, we agreed that we have to work together with the various Provincial Ministers of State and the rapid response teams so that before we resume business, our MPs are tested.

“That way, when they come back, we will know the status of each and every one of us, as well as that of staff.

“We are looking at mechanisms to enable Parliament to operate as an essential service.

There is need to find mechanisms of ensuring that Members of Parliament and staff are tested.

Minister Ziyambi said Parliament intends to push through Bills that were gazetted, but failed to go through the necessary legislative processes owing to Covid-19-induced interruptions. Parliament is saddled with 15 Bills that have been outstanding owing to the disruptions.

“We are looking at mechanisms of resuming the second session, which is ending this August, before the President opens third session of the Ninth Parliament and sets out a new legislative agenda.

“Right now, we are hoping that Bills that are almost done and those that are before the Senate can be concluded before the President opens the next session.

“We are looking at cleaning up those that we can and those that we can’t we then roll over to the next session of the Ninth Parliament.”

There have been concerns over the low number of Bills passing through Parliament even before the outbreak of the coronavirus.

While opening the Second Session of the Ninth Parliament on October 1 last year, President Mnangagwa exhorted Parliament to expedite the passage of laws, which he described as critical for development.

“The law must be a universal instrument of development. As such, the slow pace in this August House, which has resulted in a low number of Bills passing through Parliament cannot be allowed to continue.

“I, thus, challenge Honourable members in their individual and collective capacities, to play their part in speeding up our parliamentary processes,” he said.

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