Zimbabwe’s Minister of Information Monica Mutsvangwa yesterday, 9 February 2021, announced during a post-cabinet briefing that the Cabinet had approved guidelines for the COVID-19 vaccination programme. The so-called guidelines are a far cry below what ZimRights has demanded of government in fulfilment of its Constitutional obligations to protect the right to life and the right to health.
ZimRights has approached the High Court demanding a comprehensive vaccine roll-out plan including details of the budget allocations. Throwing figures that have no source and details of how it is meant to work does not amount to a plan. Slogans and declarations do not amount to a plan. Propaganda responses to issues of life and death only show culpable negligence on the side of our national leadership.
In November 2020, the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights issued a Statement on universal and equitable access to vaccines for COVID-19 in which it emphasised that every person has the right to have access to safe and effective vaccine. In the statement, the Committee gives further guidance on what the right to health, in the context of COVID 19 entails. The right to health requires States to make health facilities, services and goods, including vaccines, available, accessible, acceptable and of good quality. Vaccines for COVID-19 must not only be produced and made available, says the Committee. They must also be accessible to all persons without discrimination. The right includes ensuring that there is adequate investment in the health services infrastructure, public awareness and measures to combat disinformation.
This pronouncement is in line with both the African Charter and our own Constitution. Article 16 of the African Charter places an obligation on all state parties to take all necessary measures to protect the health of their people and to ensure that they receive medical attention when they are sick. Section 76 of the Zimbabwean Constitution provides for the right to health. Section 29 of the same Constitution creates an obligation on the state to take reasonable measures to ensure everyone achieves access to health services. Access to safe and effective vaccine against COVID-19 is therefore a human right for all Zimbabweans.
The health of a nation must be a matter of high priority for any government. Leaving this task to the benevolence of donors and well-wishers is grossly immoral and outrageous. So far, that appears to be the government’s plan. In order to avert a great catastrophe caused by the government’s abdication of its constitutional obligations, ZimRights will leave no stone unturned. Today ZimRights will file an appeal against the decision of Justice Chatukuta. Beyond the local legal system, other avenues will be explored to ensure that the right to life and health is protected. ZimRights calls on the people of Zimbabwe not to tire in demanding tangible action from the government.