Opinion: "MPs who recklessly contracted Covid-19 in Tanzania are a national shame"

Actions speak louder than words. Therefore, all leaders are expected to set a standard of excellence to inspire others by leading through example which includes our MPs.

So, if an ordinary Ugandan is not observing the Covid guidelines, our leaders should be at least expected to act on the contrary.

However, while some countries were busy restricting public activity to limit the spread of the new Covid-19 variant Omicron, our members of parliament were busy enjoying the East African parliamentary games with their regional counterparts.

The confirmation of around 50 people within parliament after the trip as having tested positive for the new fast-spreading Covid variant is shameful and indeed, selfish. In my view, this is scandalous.

Why is even no one talking about it?

From a reliable source, I learnt that there were at least 260 MPs travelled to Arusha to attend these games which is by no means a small number since these MPs come from different regions within the country.

These MPs were all tested after returning from these games which means that perhaps some had already interacted with their communities. With all this happening, we must ask: was it worth it?

Anyways, work without play makes Jack a dull boy. Not bad, considering that we should all create a balance between work and rest. The problem is that the episode of our MPs trying to live their lives to the fullest, has just backfired in the faces of the ordinary Ugandans.

For those Ugandans who have lost their jobs or whose businesses have closed due to Covid-19  restrictions, news about this MPs covid-outbreak is   “a slap in the face”.

Some pandemic stories of ordinary Ugandans have been very heart-breaking especially those who have not been able to earn an income or bury their loved ones because of restrictions. I wonder how these games would still be allowed to go on when we are still in the middle of the pandemic.

I would not be surprised if parliament itself came out to characterise these games as being understandable. May be some of these MPs are under the illusion that they work harder than the rest of the ordinary Ugandans.

Well even if they did, it is still the ordinary Ugandan that pays their bills. It is still the same taxpayer who is going to be at the receiving end of this when these infections further spread in our communities.

Even if parliament confirms that those affected are being isolated, where are they being isolated from? Is it in their homes or hotels?  Who is footing their bills?

Some Ugandans caught up travelling at the beginning of the pandemic were” isolated” in hotels which meant that they had to pay extra costs beyond their budgets. Being confined to hotel rooms at their own expenses for over two weeks even when one tested negative for Covid-19 felt like a violation of their freedom.

Not to mention as well, the stigma they faced. I hope parliament comes clean on who is paying for their medical bills. How about those who travelled to cheer on the different teams?

Whether they tested negative or not, are they being monitored and how? My guess would be that they are already roaming freely within our communities.

A total disregard to human life!

I felt utter disbelief when it was reported that parliament knew that since MPs were travelling to Tanzania, they would get some positive cases so, they were “prepared”.

This is voluntarily assuming risk. Ok, if a Ugandan MP can fall sick at will, the ordinary taxpayer cannot even afford to catch a cold.

These MPs must be absolutely convicted that they are more important than the rest of society. Of course, “prepared” from a divergent stance could also be subject to different interpretations.

I wonder if emergency beds as well had been prepared in advance in case of serious illness. Indeed, not many would be bothered if they were as privileged as our MPs and I do not expect the taxpayers to be given a reprieve this time.

By way of juxtaposing, I hope these MPs are fully aware that the people who might have to take care of them in hospital are also in need of a pay rise. I mean our doctors  “the real pandemic heroes” some of whom have lost their lives while treating Covid-19 patients.

They are worth every penny unlike some of Parliamentary “geniuses”.  Elitist, camera- obsessed and whose only sense of debt to society is between them and their own egos. WHY- were these MPs not even interested in realising that they had to adhere to the pandemic rules.

Reportedly, the parliament through their spokesperson said that, “there is no cause of alarm or panic as the situation is under control”. This is outrageous and a stunning lack of empathy. Scientists all around the world are trying to study the new Covid-19 variant because there is so much all of us do not know about this new variant. Non- scientists are telling us everything is under control.

In the eyes of many, not much seems to be under our control especially with lots of uncertainty everywhere. Some countries have tightened travel rules and others like the Netherlands have entered a strict lockdown.

Similarly, in the UK, the government is facing close scrutiny due to allegations of some senior public officials secretly breaking Covid-19 rules while the rest of the country was locked down.

In the UK, some officials have had to resign as a result but in our Uganda, even when the rules are broken publicly, and nothing happens.

In typical Ugandan style, I do not expect any show of remorse, but I really hope lessons can be learned from this. Some of these MPs feel they can do anything they want because of the impunity afforded to them by their status even in cases like this.

Such actions by some MPs continue to shrink trust in politicians at least in the long-term.  My only regret is that they still represent ”us”. When the government slaps us with another lockdown, at least we know where to apportion the blame.

The writer is an advocate and a teacher with an intercultural profile.


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