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Parliament in quarantine over virus as BDP extends emergency powers to six months

Botswana Parliament, Picture:

Parliament in quarantine over virus as BDP extends emergency powers to six months

9 April 2020

Botswana is placing its entire cabinet and members of parliament in quarantine after a health worker screening lawmakers for coronavirus was found to be infected with Covid-19.

Screening was conducted on cabinet members and MPs on Wednesday as they arrived at a meeting to discuss a request by President Mokgweetsi Masisi for an extended state of emergency.

All lawmakers, including the president, will go into quarantine from today, Public Health Director Malaki Tshipayagae told lawmakers on Thursday, in comments broadcast on state television.

“You have to quarantine at home if you can or, if that’s not possible, we will find a place for you to be quarantined,” Bloomberg quoted Tshipayagae as having said. “We will test you on the 14th day and if you are negative, allow you to go out of quarantine.”

Botswana’s confirmed number of coronavirus cases has doubled in the past week to 13. Masisi has called for a six-month state of emergency to confront the pandemic. Botswana’s constitution provides for a 21-day state of emergency, with parliamentary approval required for any longer period.

Opposition leader Dumelang Saleshando accused the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) of not giving reasons for the state of public emergency to last for six months.

He said state coffers would be looted during the state of emergency, claiming that already he was in possession of documents that show that some relatives of BDP members including President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s benefiting from Covid-19 procurement without tendering.

“This will enable the president to give tenders to his party members without being questioned. We will request for a commission of inquiry of the Covid-19 money on how it was used. I want to tell you that you will be the one to answer,” Saleshando said in a televised parliamentary debate.

Masisi’s elder sister, Boitumelo Phadi Mmutle’s company Monteco Solutions has won a tender of $1.2 million (around P13.7 million) to supply antiretroviral treatment. She was not available for comment.

Vice president Slumber Tsogwane said the declaration of state of public emergency in Botswana was necessary for the purpose of taking appropriate and stringent measures to address the risks posed by Covid-19.

BDP lawmakers voted in favour of the extension on Thursday. (Additional reporting by Bloomberg)

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