By Zvamaida Murwira
Over 70 percent of parliamentarians are HIV-positive and are on anti-retroviral therapy, Matabeleland South Proportional Representative Mrs Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga (MDC) has alleged. Mrs Misihairabwi-Mushonga castigated the legislators for being selfish by supporting the enactment of the Aids Levy for them to get State-assisted life-prolonging drugs yet they were neglecting vulnerable children who were sexually abused through unprotected sex.
She said this in the National Assembly last week while moving a motion calling on the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare to issue a ministerial statement denouncing the sexual exploitation of children who were reported to be abused under the “guise” of selling sex. The legislator did not, however, say how she had obtained the figure.
“You know how selfish we are as a people, when HIV/AIDS started hitting on us, when people started dying, we immediately came up with an Aids Fund so that we can go and buy drugs for ourselves because we want to live. Seventy-six percent of the people who are sitting in this House are living with HIV/AIDS and are taking ARVs,” said Mrs Misihairabwi-Mushonga amid jeering from fellow legislators.
“Yes, very true. You are unable to take out a little bit of money and put it aside so that it can be used to take care of these children. I am not saying it to other Members of Parliament only, but I speak for myself too, because it is not right that I come and sit here and there is a child who is eight or nine-years-old and is being raped everyday and abused, it is sad Mr Speaker.
Members of Parliament have in the past taken voluntary counselling and testing as part of trying to lead by example, but no one disclosed their results. Mrs Misihairabwi-Mushonga narrated harrowing testimonies that she heard from children between eight and nine-years- old who were selling sex for as little as 25 cents. The legislator said she heard these experiences when she was invited by non-government organisation Katswe Sisterhood recently.
“In July, Members of Parliament were taken by Katswe to Hopley House. They went and saw those nine-year-olds. I will not forgive the group of people who went to that place because if you have gone there and seen what I saw, the first thing you would have done was to come to this House and say something needed to stop,” said Mrs Misihairabwi-Mushonga.
Hurungwe East National Assembly Member Cde Sarah Mahoka (Zanu-PF) weighed in saying legislators convicted of rape should be killed while other convicts of the vice should be castrated.
“I have heard that about 70 percent of Members of Parliament here are HIV positive. Let me say that the Honourable Members that are in this august House, that if they get tested, there is a fund that gives them free drugs. So, they should behave and not go about spreading the disease. As legislators they should lead by example. If there is corruption, we would want to see who is perpetuating it, if they are leaders, they should be given deterrent sentences. If a Member of Parliament infects an innocent person, that member should be killed and that would be a lesson to like-minded persons,” said Cde Mahoka.
The motion was supported by several legislators across the political divide who implored authorities to take decisive action.
Legislators also castigated the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare for arresting Katswe representatives who had brought the vice to the fore.