BY LORRAINE MUROMO
HUMAN rights activists have described the move to bar unvaccinated people from using public transport as discriminatory and exposing victims to psychological harassment.
Government last week warned that unvaccinated people would be barred from boarding Zupco buses after the country witnessed a spike in confirmed Covid-19 cases in recent weeks.
Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa said Cabinet had also resolved to set up vaccination sites at all bus-termini to nudge people to vaccinate before boarding Zupco.
But human rights experts said forced vaccination was both illegal and unconstitutional.
Human rights lawyer Freddy Masarirevu said the directive was also unnecessary, discriminatory and exposing people to psychological harassment and isolation.
‘The stigma that arises during a pandemic can exacerbate existing inequalities, including those related to race, socioeconomic status, occupation, gender, immigration status and sexual orientation,” Masarirevu said.
“The statement issued by the government violates everything our constitution stands for.
“If you remember when this vaccination programme started, there was an undertaking from government that people would not be compelled to take the vaccines.
“The constitution of Zimbabwe is the supreme law and anything that is inconsistent with it is invalid to the extent of the inconsistency.”
Masarirevu cited section 56 of the constitution, which states that all persons are equal before the law and have the right to equal protection and benefit of the law.
“The section goes on to say discrimination occurs if other people are accorded directly or indirectly a privilege or advantage, which they are not accorded,” he said.
“This whole vaccination debate must also be interpreted in terms of section 52 of the constitution, which provides for the right to personal security.
“In terms of subsection (b), every person has the right to bodily and psychological integrity, which includes the right not to be subjected to medical or scientific experiments or to the extraction or use of their bodily tissue without their informed consent.”
In February, President Emmerson Mnangagwa warned that unvaccinated people would not be allowed to use Zupco transport or get employed in the civil service.
ZimRights executive director Dzikamai Bere said Covid-19 was a public health crisis that called for delicate approaches in balancing rights.
“Many employers find themselves in a catch 22 situation,” Bere said.
“They have the obligation to protect the right to life, make the workplace safe, including the transport systems.
“It is, therefore, imperative that as we seek to protect personal liberties, we also pay attention to the rights of others which includes the rights to life.”
Human rights defender Musa Kika said compulsory vaccination did not work before urging government to encourage people to take the jab.
He said this could be done by availing information on the efficacy of the vaccines.
“There is a choice on the vaccines, and that exemptions are allowed on medical grounds.
“As a society, we have too many remote areas as we speak that have not been properly reached by vaccines, and myths still persist,” Kika said.
“As such, we are not yet at that point to enforce compulsory vaccinations.
“As to the legality of such a move, the limitation of rights in the constitution allows for such provided protective measures are in place, that is it a measure of last resort, and that is necessary and justifiable, in this case on account of public health. So the legal framework is already there.”