Parliament’s Business Committee is considering the possibility of postponing the Mid-Year Budget Review Meeting scheduled to start on February 8 due to Covid-19 which has affected some legislators and Cabinet ministers, it has emerged.
The Business Committee, which develops and sets the agenda to be discussed in the National Assembly and comprises the Speaker as well as leaders of political parties represented in Parliament, met in Lilongwe yesterday and discussed the issue, according to Parliament Secretariat.
In an interview yesterday, Parliament spokesperson Ian Mwenye confirmed that the matter was under discussion, but said the clear position will be communicated later.
“The Business Committee is still discussing the issue. Its [the committee’s] position will be known after their meeting tomorrow,” he said.
At the centre of the predicament facing the committee is whether the House can meet amid a surge of Covid-19 cases across the country and among members of Parliament (MPs) in particular.
Parliament sources confided that at least 10 MPs have tested positive and are in quarantine. They said the deaths of two legislators last week was another factor influencing the consensus towards a postponement.
One of the proposals on the table, according to one source privy to the meeting, is that the House should be closed for three weeks and then assess the situation after the mandatory 14-day quarantine period for the positive cases.
Said the source: “But the challenge now is that government has some critical bills they want to bring to the House urgently.
“The decision has been reserved because the committee wants the Minister of Finance, who has some bills, and the Leader of the House to discuss on what should be done and address the committee.”
Speaker of Parliament Catherine Gotani Hara, who chairs the Business Committee, could not be reached for comment yesterday while Leader of the House Richard Chimwendo Banda and Leader of Opposition in Parliament Kondwani Nankhumwa referred The Nation back to the Office of the Speaker.
Covid-19 last week hit the Malawi Parliament for the second time in two weeks when it killed two legislators, John Chikalimba of Zomba Changalume Constituency and Jacqueline Chikuta of Ntchisi North Constituency.
The death of the two MPs means that Parliament has now lost three legislators to Covid-19 after Lingson Belekanyama of Lilongwe Msinja South Constituency, who died on January 12 2021.
Belekanyama, who served as minister of Local Government, died the same day and barely hours apart with his then Cabinet colleague Mohammad Sidik Mia (Transport and Public Works) who was also Malawi Congress Party first vice-president.
First Deputy Speaker of Parliament Madalitso Kazombo and Attorney General Chikosa Silungwe were diagnosed with the Covid-19 and have since recovered.
Six members of President Lazarus Chakwera’s 31-member Cabinet were in early January confirmed positive Covid-19 cases. Two died while four recovered.
The President on Janaury 12 declared a State of National Disaster to trigger resource mobilisation and invoke emergency powers for a minister to implement emergency measures.
Yesterday, Malawi recorded 402 new cases from 1496 tests, 330 recoveries, 29 new admissions and 10 new deaths. Cumulatively, the country has registered 24 365 total confirmed cases out of 145 679 tests and 712 deaths since the country recorded the first Covid-19 cases in April 2020 .