How COVID-19 has changed MPs’ social life, politics

No more nightclubbing with girlfriends, no more long boozy nights in crowded bars and more important. no more handshakes and hugs with constituents.

In Summary

• Our servant leaders shake hands, embrace their supporters and help them with a little something as they tour their constituencies and projects. Some even dance and drink the night away with girlfriends and buddies.

• All these are now no more because Covid-19 means no more big gatherings.

 

Members of Parliament MPs during the official opening the newly refurbished parliamentary chambers.
OUR SERVANT LEADERS: Members of Parliament MPs during the official opening the newly refurbished parliamentary chambers.
Image: FILE:

Their visits to constituencies have always been greeted with fanfare, large crowds of supporters and hangers-on turning up to welcome their warm, outgoing servant leaders.

These outgoing people-persons shake hands and embrace their supporters as they tour their constituencies and inspect CDF-funded projects, promote themselves and hopefully  win votes. 

On a more private level, some, certainly not most MPs are famous or notorious for living it up in nightclubs with their girlfriends and spending long boozy nights in crowded bars with their buddies. And, of course, there are bonding retreats in Mombasa, well-lubricated conferences and trips overseas.

All these are now no more because of the COVID-19 virus.

Members of the National Assembly and Senators have been forced to drastically change their social life and behaviour to reduce the risk of contracting or spreading the virus.

Wajir East MP Rashid Amin said the virus has completely detached them from their electorate as they can no longer engage them freely.

“This virus is a social inhibitor. It has kept us from meeting our constituents. Barazas and other gatherings have been banned and those are the areas where we meet our people. We no longer see them,” Amin said.

The legislator added that he has been forced to bar his constituents from even approaching his car and when he visits his constituency, he is no longer allows crowds around him.

“I am controlling the number of people who come to my car. When we visit offices we are very careful about what we touch. That is not the character of an MP,” he said,

Homa Bay town MP Peter Kaluma narrated how he was forced to ‘chase away’ his constituents who had crowded around him for fear of the coronavirus when he visited his constituency at the weekend.

He said some constituents took offence and some promised to teach him a  lesson for ‘calling them coronavirus'.

Wajir South legislator Mohamud Sheik said the virus has disrupted his normal life.

“I can no longer hug and shake hands with my people. But it is a disease that we cannot take lightly. We must adjust to the situation,” Sheik, who is a professor of global health (major in infectious disease), said.

The MP called on the government secure all borders and enhance screening at every entry point but also ensure the country does not damage its relationship with neighbours.

“We need to encourage community social distancing as recommended by the Africa Center For Disease Control and Prevention to avoid spread of this disease,” he said. A least a metre.

Nominated Senator Farhiya Ali said the virus has driven a wedge between her and her constituents, adding that youths who have been relying on them for livelihoods will suffer.

“Imagine, we can no longer meet them. It is sad. We cannot greet. I am concerned about these youths and their families,” she said.

Nairobi’s Senator Johnson Sakaja said there are "no more handshakes but warm waves".

National Assembly Minority leader John Mbadi said the confirmation of COVID-19 in the country has put members in a tight corner, especially in relating to constituents during the period of adjournment.

“We are very good at violating rules. I hope on this one we are not going to play clever. If it is said that we should not hold meetings, let MPs honour that,” Mbadi said.

A senator who did not want to be named said he has opted to stop visiting his county to avoid large crowds that may swarm around him.

(Edited by V. Graham)