BY MOSES MATENGA
BUSINESS almost ground to a halt in Parliament on Wednesday when MPs from across the political divide challenged government’s recent decision to ban unvaccinated civil servants from reporting for duty.
The legislators described the move as unconstitutional, but Higher and Tertiary Education minister Amon Murwira representing government defended Cabinet’s decision arguing “extra-ordinary times require suspension of the Constitution”.
Government on Tuesday announced that its workers, who are not yet vaccinated, will no longer be allowed to report for duty, a week after Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi ordered civil servants who did not want to be jabbed to resign.
Following the government order, Parliament has also ordered unvaccinated lawmakers to stay at home, an order that triggered anger among the legislators who described the prohibition order as an affront to democracy.
On Wednesday, MPs took the government to task over what they said was tantamount to mandatory vaccination.
Mutare West MP Teedzayi Muchimwe (Zanu PF), who is a member of the Johanne Marange apostolic sect, said the directive was unfair to him and others who do not believe in vaccination.
“Is it now mandatory that the COVID-19 vaccination is now compulsory in view of the fact that there are other entities that do not indulge in medication?” he quizzed.
“If people are vaccinated, I am sure they are safe and the unsafe are the unvaccinated. Why is it that now we are denied entry into Parliament because we were not vaccinated?”
He added: “COVID-19, to me and the Johanne Marange apostolic sect is just a drop in the sea, we are not even affected. Since this COVID-19 started, we have been kissing each other and shaking hands, we are not even affected by COVID-19. Why deny us entry into Parliament?”
“Come to us, we will help you to eradicate the disease.”
In jest, Speaker of Parliament Jacob Mudenda said: “Can you bring your spiritual medicine to Parliament so that we see how it works.”
Dzivarasekwa MP Edwin Mushoriwa (MDC Alliance) described the ban as gross violation of citizens’ rights.
“By putting restrictions on those unvaccinated or those that are unvaccinated because of religion or other views, the government is in a way setting a wrong precedence for it is actually encroaching into the rights of individuals?”
In response, Murwira said there were limits to people’s constitutional rights, hence there was no turning back on the order.
“It is, therefore, very important and I want to thank you Hon Speaker for not allowing any member who is not vaccinated to come to this House physically. So to clarify the issue, it is very important that the people who are not vaccinated stay where they are while those ones who are vaccinated can interact while social distancing,” Murwira said.
“Zimbabwe is its living people, when we are all gone and let us say for some reason all of us die, the person who will come here might not call it Zimbabwe because Zimbabwe is us. It is, therefore, important to know that there is a limitation even the Constitution states that rights are exercised with limits.
“Without over-emphasising this point, those who are not vaccinated must stay where they are and not impose the virus on those people that are abiding by the rules of COVID-19.”
Harare North MP Norman Markham (MDC Alliance) said people with no documentation were being turned away at vaccination centres, raising confusion on government policy.