HARARE – A government decree that unvaccinated Zimbabweans cannot attend church services has been suspended by the High Court pending legal arguments.
The court has also barred police from arresting congregants attending services without proof of full vaccination.
Thursday’s ruling follows an application by human rights lawyer Obert Kondongwe challenging the August 11 decree which he said had no legal standing.
A provisional order issued by a judge said: “The statement issued by the 1st respondent (information minister Monica Mutsvangwa) on behalf of the Cabinet barring unvaccinated sit-in congregants in churches be suspended pending the return date of this application.
“Further and as attendant to the foregoing, the conduct of the second respondent (Home Affairs Minister) in enforcing the statement by Cabinet and conducting arrests and criminal proceedings against unvaccinated sit-in church congregants be suspended pending the return date of this application.”
The government has seven days to enter a notice to challenge the order.
A final order being sought by Kondongwe cites the government for issuing a directive that “infringes constitutional rights and freedoms set out in the declaration of rights under sections 51, 52, 58 and 60.”
He wants the court to declare that “any purported ban on unvaccinated sit-in congregants in churches and any arrests or criminal proceedings of unvaccinated sit-in congregants of churches… is unlawful, null and void and of no force or effect and are set aside.”
The government announced last month that churches would be allowed to re-open under strict Covid-19 rules with only congregants who have taken two shots of the vaccine in attendance. Churches are allowed a maximum 100 congregants.
The move to encourage congregants to take the vaccine was part of a government plan to boost the uptake of vaccines as it races to meet an ambitious target of vaccinating 60 percent of the country’s 15 million people by Christmas. Since the programme was launched in February, 1.8 million Zimbabweans have answered the call.