Deputy Minister of Gender Grace Kwelepeta has hit out at government for hosting returnees from South Africa at Domasi College of Education in Zomba, warning that she will not allow anybody to “import” coronavirus into her constituency.
On Friday, the Zomba Malosa Constituency legislator angrily diverted from her campaign tour and stormed the college to demand an instant eviction of 189 Malawians who arrived in the wee hours to have their samples taken for laboratory tests.
While on the campus, Kwelepeta, clad in the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) T-shirt and a matching blue wrapper, stood in the middle of a tarmac to the males’ hostel housing the returnees and ordered all incoming vehicles to instantly leave the premises.
Frontline workers at the isolation centre described her raid as politicisation of the coronavirus crisis, most likely to complicate the emergency response.
Ironically, Kwelepeta’s ministry is part of the high-level task force President Peter Mutharika assembled to manage the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) that has claimed eight lives from the country’s 674 confirmed cases.
In a lengthy phone call to Zomba District director of health and social services Alexander Chijuwa, the angry deputy minister was overheard accusing the brains behind the decision of importing the pandemic from southern Africa’s epicentre of the fast-spreading pandemic outbreak to the rural villages surrounding the college.
“Go out, this is my constituency. If you don’t leave, I will mobilise my constituents to chase them away. Why do you want to kill my people?” she ranted.
She described the arrival of the returnees in her constituency as “a politically sensitive decision” likely to de-campaign her and the governing DPP ahead of a fresh presidential election the Constitutional Court ordered on February 3 after nullifying Mutharika’s re-election in May 2019.
In an interview, Chijuwa said he was surprised when Kwelepeta phoned him to express displeasure with the returnees’ arrival, but they had agreed to release them by 5pm.
“We have been in talks and she phoned me because she thought the returnees would be quarantined here for 14 days. We have assured her that laboratory processes are almost over and the returnees will be going home when they get their results at around 4.30pm,” he said.
This is Kwelepeta’s second attempt to prevent Domasi from hosting the returnees.
On May 31, she also blocked the task force from ferrying them to the college, sending the frontline team into a desperate search for alternative accommodation at Chiradzulu Technical College (TTC).
However, resistance from village heads surrounding the TTC forced government to accommodate the returnees at Kanjedza Lodge, a privately owned facility near the populous Limbe Market in Blantyre City.