ZimRights seeks High Court intervention for Covid-19 vaccination plan

The Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights) has filed an urgent chamber application at the Harare High Court seeking to force the government to provide a Covid-19 National Vaccination Deployment plan.

ZimRights also wants the government to release the accompanying budget for the Covid-19 vaccine roll out plan.

This development comes after the government issued contradictory statements over the funding of vaccines.

Initially, Finance Minister, Professor Mthuli Ncube said ‘private citizens’ would have to pay for the vaccines then retracted his statements, just before Minister of Health and Child Care, also Zimbabwe’s Vice President, Constantino Chiwenga clarified the vaccination rollout would be free of charge to anyone who wished to be vaccinated.

In his state of the nation address, Thursday, President Mnangagwa said the National Vaccine Deployment Framework has been finalised and buttressed that the vaccines would be distributed for free.

Since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, ZimRights has been lobbying the government to make sure human rights are at the centre in the fight against coronavirus.

In pursuit of this agenda, ZimRights said they operationalised a Covid-19 response strategy and one of its Policy Advocacy Pillars, sought to compel the government to take positive steps to stop the spread of the virus as other governments were doing.

“At a time when governments the world over are investing in measures to protect their populations, the government has been investing in destroying peoples’ homes and informal markets while ignoring the most urgent task of saving lives,” said ZimRights in a statement.

In its founding affidavit filed by the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, Zim Rights National Director, Dzikamai Bere stated that Section 29 of Zimbabwe’s Constitution obliges the State to take all practical measures to make sure the provision of basic accessible and adequate health services throughout Zimbabwe.

“Section 29(3) in particular obliges the State to take all preventative measures within the limits of resources available to it, including education and public awareness programmes against the spread of diseases. Section 76 obliges the State to take reasonable legislative and other realisation of the right to health care. Zimbabwe’s constitution has an expanded justifiable bill of rights that provides socio-economic rights,” said the organisation.

“In times of serious diseases, failure by governments to act timeously can lead to loss of lives. It becomes necessary for citizens to speak out and demand action. History is full of such necessary interventions to force authorities to act.”

ZimRights said it was the responsibility of civil society organisations to act and noted that in South Africa, under the Treatment Action Campaign, the same groups used the law to force their government to procure the life saving antiretroviral drugs for providing urgent relief to the population.

In the affidavit, Bere gives examples of measures that other fellow African countries are taking to combat the pandemic.

“The government of Kenya has set aside US$50 million for Covid-19 vaccines. Botswana has procured 940 800 vaccines. Ghana has set up a deployment committee and sourcing US$130 million for vaccines. Rwanda has one million vaccine doses.”

“We are simply asking the government to lead, and save lives,” ZimRights said.

“We don’t understand how anyone can fail to agree with the far reaching consequences of inaction.”

Meanwhile, the government has also received criticism from the Mthwakazi Republic Party (MRP) who criticised officials’ cluelessness in coming up with a formidable plan.

“Mthuli (Prof Ncube) and Chiwenga sing from a different hymn book, regardless that they are from the same useless and clueless Zanu PF government. Chiwenga is just a misguided and a clueless health minister who doesn’t understand anything about health.

“We are actually worried this is the same government that fails to provide painkillers at its hospitals but says it will provide free Covid-19 vaccines,” said MRP leader, Mqondisi Moyo.

“This is the same government, which has failed to serve the citizens with respect and fairness especially when it comes to an equitable health system, which is a right to all, whether rich or poor.”

Moyo said it was sad that the country relied on the Zanu PF government to rehabilitate hospitals and improve access to health care across the country yet these were the same officials who flew out of the country whenever they were sick.

“These are people who never trusted the health institutions of the country they are misgoverning. Whenever they are sick, they would fly abroad with their families,” he said.

Reports said so far, about 100 000 Zimbabweans consisting of frontline workers, elderly and people with underlying illnesses will be vaccinated against Covid-19 courtesy of a donation by China, expected within a week.

Zimbabwe will receive about 200 000 doses of the two-shot Sinopharm vaccine.

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