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Lawyers challenge mandatory vaccination

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BY PHYLLIS MBANJE

A GROUP of lawyers, going by the moniker Anti-COVID Vaccines, has initiated moves to sue government, churches and employers over compulsory vaccination of employees and congregants.

The lawyers have started circulating a petition to be signed by disgruntled workers and congregants, in support of the legal action.

This followed recent pronouncement that churches would only open to vaccinated congregants.

Recently, the Public Service Commission (PSC) issued a circular barring unvaccinated government workers from physically reporting for work or board PSC buses.

Several private firms and State institutions, including universities, are reportedly implementing a similar policy, forcing employees to get inoculated or risk forced leave.

Some church leaders have been arrested for allowing unvaccinated congregants to attend services in church.

One of the lawyers behind the campaign, Obert Kondongwe yesterday said there was no law in Zimbabwe which made vaccination compulsory despite the health benefits likely to be derived from the exercise.

“It must be noted from the onset that there is no law in Zimbabwe which makes vaccination mandatory. As such, there is no criminal law which penalises church gatherings of unvaccinated congregants. It is trite that each person, having fully considered the implications and effects of vaccination, is expected to make a personal decision on whether or not to get vaccinated and even to make a personal decision regarding the timing of such vaccination,” Kondongwe said.

“The practice of obliging anyone to get vaccinated constitutes an infringement of rights and freedoms contained in the Constitution under sections 51, 52, 56, 58, 60 and 65.”

Kondongwe added: “It is common cause that the Constitution is the supreme law of the land. Section 44 of the Constitution provides that the State and every person, including juristic persons, and every institution and agency of the government at every level must respect, protect, promote, and fulfil the rights and freedoms set out in chapter 4 of the Constitution.”

The lawyers accused employers of invading workers’ privacy contrary to what is  enshrined in section 51 of the Constitution by insisting on COVID-19 vaccination certificates.

They added that the vaccines were still experimental and according to section 52(c) of the Constitution, citizens had a right not to be subjected to medical or scientific experiments without their consent.

“Section 58 gives everyone the right to freedom of assembly and association. Unvaccinated congregants must still enjoy their freedom to assemble as much as the vaccinated,” the petition read.

The lawyers said fair labour practices did not impose mandatory vaccination as a condition for employment.

“This is more so because it appears that employers are only barring unvaccinated employees and not customers. It is also quite clear that a majority of workers are not yet vaccinated and a sudden and unregulated imposition of mandatory vaccination will lead to massive job losses that will have far-reaching consequences on the economy,” the petition further read.

Follow Phyllis on Twitter @pmbanje

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