By Kumbirai Mafunda
The High Court has removed an urgent chamber application filed by Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights) seeking to compel the government to provide a National Deployment Vaccination Plan and present a budget for the purchase of coronavirus vaccines before Parliament after ruling that it is not an urgent matter.
Through its lawyer Tendai Biti of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, ZimRights had on 3 February 2021 filed an urgent chamber application at Harare High Court seeking an order to compel President Emmerson Mnangagwa, Health and Child Care Minister Constantino Chiwenga, and Finance and Economic Development Minister Mthuli Ncube to promulgate regulations relating to the public policies and measures to deal with registration, acquisition, and distribution of coronavirus vaccines.
Through the urgent chamber application, ZimRights, represented by Dzikamai Bere, its National Director, had argued that President Mnangagwa, Chiwenga, and Ncube had failed to put in place measures to ensure the rollout and availability of coronavirus vaccines to Zimbabweans.
Bere said the government’s failure to acquire vaccines had resulted in unnecessary loss of lives while President Mnangagwa had failed to protect people through acquiring, testing, and providing a rollout plan for coronavirus vaccines.
Ncube, ZimRights said, had committed a serious breach of people’s constitutional rights by failing to provide financial resources in the 2021 National Budget for the acquisition of coronavirus vaccines.
Through its application, ZimRights wanted President Mnangagwa, Chiwenga, and Ncube to be compelled to publish and lay before Parliament a detailed coronavirus rollout plan providing full details on the acquisition of vaccines, storage and distribution of drugs, priority recipients of the vaccine, and a detailed budget for procurement of vaccines.
But High Court Judge Justice Felistus Chatukuta on Friday 5 February 2021 told Biti that the ZimRights application had been removed from the roll of urgent matters as it was deemed not urgent.
Justice Chatukuta stated that the ZimRights application was not an urgent matter as the government had first declared a national lockdown in March 2020 while the National Budget was presented to Parliament in November 2020.
ZimRights, Justice Chatukuta ruled, ought to have been aware and took action over the past one or two months that the National Budget had not made provision for the purchase of vaccines and other countries had started receiving batches of vaccines in December and early in January.