ZimRights Seeks Court Intervention for a Covid-19 Vaccination Plan

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Yesterday, 3 February 2021, the Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights), filed an urgent chamber application at the High Court in Harare, seeking to compel the government of Zimbabwe to provide a COVID-19 National Vaccination Deployment Plan and the accompanying budget in the face of a ravaging pandemic that has killed over two million people worldwide and over 1200 in Zimbabwe. Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, at ZimRights, we have always called upon the government to ensure that human rights are at the centre of the fight against COVID-19. In pursuit of this agenda, we have operationalised a COVID-19 response strategy under the following pillars:
  1. Humanitarian response in which we provided urgent humanitarian support to marginalised communities and institutions reaching out to over 17 000 people and 26 institutions that included rural clinics, schools, quarantine centres and correctional facilities.
  2. Human rights monitoring in which we documented emerging human rights issues and community responses to COVID – 19 pandemic and the measures put in place. 7 reports were published under the ‘Their Voices Matter Series’.
  3. Policy advocacy pillar in which we called for a human rights centred-approach to fighting COVID-19. 2 policy briefs where published and 1 comprehensive analytical report ‘Rights in Crisis’.
It is under the third pillar that ZimRights now seeks to compel the government of Zimbabwe to take positive steps to stop the spread of the virus as other governments are doing. At a time when governments the world over are investing in measures to protect their populations, the government of Zimbabwe has been investing in destroying people’s homes and informal markets while ignoring the most urgent task of saving lives. In the founding affidavit filed on behalf of ZimRights by the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), the ZimRights National Director, Dzikamai Bere states that section 29 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe obliges the State to take all practical measures to ensure the provision of basic accessible and adequate health service throughout Zimbabwe. Section 29(3) in particular obliges the state to take all preventive 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 measures, within the limits of the resources available to it, to achieve the progressive realisation of the right to healthcare. Zimbabwe’s Constitution has an expanded justiciable bill of rights that provides socio-economic rights. 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. Civil society organisations in South Africa, under the Treatment Action Campaign used the law to force the government of South Africa to procure the life saving anti-retroviral drugs 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 USD50 million for COVID-19 vaccines. Botswana has procurement 940 800 vaccines. Ghana has set up a deployment committee and sourcing is USD130 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 us given the far reaching consequences of inaction.”

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