Tanzania’s parliamentary speaker has threatened to press charges of theft against opposition MPs for boycotting parliament.
Last week, the main opposition party Chadema told its MPs to self-isolate for at least 14 days and stay away from parliamentary buildings in the capital, Dodoma.
It took the decision following the death of three MPs in less than a fortnight – though the deaths have not been linked to coronavirus.
President John Magufuli in response called for the withholding of their allowances paid to them to attend parliament.
Speaker Job Ndugai said the opposition MPs had already been paid a two-week advance for what is known as a “sitting allowance”, amounting to more than $48,000 (£38,000).
“In simple terms this is theft,” the speaker said on Wednesday.
“And it’s a very bad example of these leaders. You are being paid from poor citizens’ money to work for them, but you abscond. You stage a baseless boycott but you’ve already pocketed the money. You have to return this money.”
Many of the politicians live in the coastal city of Dar es Salaam.
Earlier, Dar es Salaam Regional Commissioner Paul Makonda issued a 24-ultimatum to opposition MPs to leave the city or risk being arrested.
Mr Makonda said the MPs were supposed to be in the capital to attend the ongoing budget sessions and promised to deal with them the same way he had dealt with sex workers in the past.
Several opposition MPs have dared him to go ahead and arrest them.
President Magufuli’s critics accuse him of not doing enough to contain the coronavirus pandemic.
So far the East African nation has confirmed 480 cases, including 167 recoveries and 16 deaths.