MEMBERS of staff at Parliament say they fear for their lives as their workmates continue to die due to COVID-19.
But Clerk of the National Assembly Cecilia Nsenduluka Mbewe said the latest death was due to bronchitis adding that, “the whole world there has been in fear [since the outbreak of coronavirus pandemic]”.
An insider, who asked not to be named, told The Mast that another of their workmate succumbed to COVID-19 on Sunday.
The source asked what logic was there to send members of parliament away in the meantime parliamentary staff continue working amidst the surge in COVID-19 positive cases.
“Parliament was closed but the only people who are not reporting are the MPs. But it is open for us (members of staff). Now, one or two weeks ago, one of our colleagues died due to COVID-19,” the source said. “We were tested for COVID-19 and our results came only after 14 days and it’s from there that we knew that our colleague succumbed to COVID-19. People are afraid, trust me.”
The source said, “as I speak to you now (Sunday), another colleague, a member of staff at Parliament, has died.”
“What they should have done was to completely shut down Parliament so that none of us workers go there. Parliament is not an industry where we should be changing shifts. No!” the source said.
“They feared for the [lives of] MPs. But what about us? Even you as a journalist, do you see any rationality in what was done – to close the institution for MPs but leave it open for us? The owners of the institution, the MPs, have been sent home [but] why do they need us to be reporting for work? Essentially, we are support staff of the National Assembly.”
The unnerved source firmly wondered why parliamentary staff should continue risking their lives “when the main people have abruptly been sent home?”
“It seems as workers we are just re-infecting each other. It seems it’s the Speaker [Dr Patrick Matibini) who is refusing [to shutdown Parliament] when everybody in management is saying let us shutdown,” the source said.
The source wishes to see the institution shutdown “even for two weeks” and thorough fumigation of Parliament Buildings done.
“Come September, MPs are supposed to be back to Parliament. But how are they going to come when our colleagues are dying? Remember before Parliament closed, three people died at Parliament and then we had those two MPs (Rodgers Mwewa and Mwenya Munkonge) and now under two weeks, two other more colleagues have died,” the source said. “So, we are talking about seven people dying in one institution! This simply means that there are so many who are infected. Look, you media people reported that when four people tested positive [to COVID-19] at the UN offices in Lusaka, they shut. Same with at Airtel; just one positive case, they had closed the offices to assess.”
The source is worried that at Parliament, “it’s things continuing as usual.”
“You see people exchanging files. Let them explain to us how they are going to call the MPs back when the coronavirus is still circulating at the institution. It means MPs would have to be quarantined first for at least two weeks,” said the source. “Otherwise we’ll have MPs contracting COVID-19 there at Parliament. So, please speak to the clerk madam Mbewe – she is a reasonable and prayerful woman. Obviously she is in Church now but keep on trying [calling her].”
When called to react to the assertions, Mbewe confirmed the death but stressed that it was not due to coronavirus.
“Yes, he died in hospital but it’s not COVID-19. He died of bronchitis – a problem which he has had. Please, get from me, it’s not coronavirus and thank you for clarifying. I commend you for that; that’s highly professional,” said Mbewe. “Fears, yes there can be fears because everybody…The whole world there has been in fear. But that one…We have had some members of staff, like the nurse who died, that was coronavirus even though she had underlining problems. Of course, we have had members of parliament, that Mwansabombwe, that was coronavirus. But this one who died yesterday (Sunday), it is not coronavirus. It is bronchitis which he has had for some for time.”