Tanzania’s COVID-19 Cover-up sparks protest after 3 MPs die in 11 days
The Leader of Tanzania’s Opposition in Parliament has asked his colleagues to stop attending sessions and instead self-isolate following the death of three MPs in just 11 days, supposedly due to COVID-19, Arab online site Al-Jazeera has reported.
Freeman Mbowe, the leader of Tanzania’s main Opposition Chadema party in Parliament, insists that the government of President John Pombe Magufuli is covering up the true extent of the coronavirus pandemic.
Mbowe has asked the Speaker of Tanzania’s Parliament Job Ndugai, himself a skeptic of the widespread prevalence of COVID-19, de to suspend Parliament so that MPs, their families and all staff are tested, and self-quarantined.
“We regret to continue receiving the deaths of MPs and other Tanzanians caused by the COVID-19 infections,” Mbowe said in a statement on Friday, calling on Parliament to suspend its business for at least 21 days and test all MPs, parliament staff and their families.
Mbowe has also asked Chadema colleagues to stop attending Parliament sessions and instead test for the virus and self-quarantine.
By calling for dramatic action to be taken now, has been interpreted by many as a sign that the 3 MPs died from COVID-19.
Mbowe’s rallying call came on Friday, the same day the government announced the death of Augustine Mahiga, the Minister for Constitution and Legal Affairs.
Mahiga’s death at the age of 74, came just two days after the death of another MP Richard Ndassa on April 29, and only week after the death of another MP Gertrude Rwakatare on April 20.
Suspicion and rumours that the three high-ranking members of Tanzania’s society have been fed on the government’s failure to disclose the causes of death of the MPs.
Videos on social media alleging that security forces are burying people at night, deepen fears that the cover-up is real.
Mbowe has over the past two weeks accused President Magufuli of prioritising the economy over the lives of ordinary Tanzanians.
Besides the publicised comments of the Opposition leaders, circumstantial evidence points to the possibility that these reports are closer to the truth.
For example, Tanzania has not released any COVID-19 update or the past 10-days. Al Jazeera has reported that Magufuli directed the Health Ministry to stop the daily updates on grounds they were “causing panic” with their announcements of cases and deaths.
Although the country closed schools and universities, the President has rejected calls for more aggressive steps such as a lock-down as his peers in Uganda and Rwanda, have done.
Instead, Magufuli is giving people false hope that they can weather the COVID-19 storm by working hard and praying to God.
In his latest Update to Ugandans on the state of the fight against COVID-19, President Museveni, in a surprise development said he had come to agreement with two of his counterparts Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, and Paul Kagame of Rwanda, to regulate truck drivers across borders.
Museveni’s admission that he spoke to Magufuli but on a different subject, further strengthens the Cover-up theory by Tanzania, a sister country with Uganda and Kenya under the East African Community.
President Magufuli, in his May 1, International Labour Day address to Tanzanians, said: “As the world is passing through trying times following the coronavirus outbreak, let us keep working hard. Coronavirus should not pull us back from serving Tanzanians. I believe God will make us move ahead,” he said in a message to civil servants on May 1.
With over 12 Tanzanian truck drivers testing positive to COVID-19, Uganda’s Dr. Richard Kabanda, the Acting Commissioner Health Services and Spokesperson of the Health Ministry’s COVID-19 taskforce, has revealed in recent briefs that Tanzania is experiencing Community Transmission of the Coronavirus, meaning that the virus is widespread in the community and that the government can longer afford to track the spread of infections.
Mbowe insists Magufuli is in a “state of denial”.
The government’s cover-up of the pandemic is worrying not only Tanzanians but also her neighbours as well as the international community.
Some reports have emerged indicating that WHO and other UN bodies suspect that COVID-19 infections could be above 3000 with over 500 dead. The official figure is 480 infected. 16 dead.
And this is not the first time Magufuli is trying to sweep things under the carpet. The previous WHO Country Head who dared report just one Ebola case was deported by Magufuli. The current one cannot say anything about true figures.
The fluid situation in Tanzania has serious implications for Uganda, especially considering that Uganda is keeping her border with Tanzania open.
President Museveni is expected to address the nation tomorrow May 4, before the end of the current lock-down period. But confirmation by Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng that a 22-year old Ugandan who had crossed from Bukoba in Tanzania to Uganda, had tested positive to COVID-19, is likely to keep tensions high and force government to maintain quarantine measures in one form or another.