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Informal traders challenge lockdown order

BY MIRIAM MANGWAYA THE Zimbabwe Informal Sectors Organisation (Ziso) has approached the High Court challenging the constitutionality of the recently imposed 30-day lockdown by government to contain the spread of COVID-19. Ziso and Mfundo Mlilo, an ordinary citizen, are seeking an order compelling Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga, who is Health and Child Care minister, to reduce the period of enforcement of the Level 4 lockdown from 30 to 21 days with effect from January 3, 2021. Alternatively, they want an order allowing for all service providers to operate while observing reasonable precautionary measures such as wearing masks, gloves, using sanitisers, social distancing and temperature checks. In papers filed at the court, the applicants, represented by Jeremiah Bamu of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), claim that Chiwenga imposed the lockdown order without consulting the public and without prior notice. They argued that Chiwenga should have placed all the proposed lockdown regulations before Parliament or gathered public views on the issue. Ziso executive director Promise Mkwananzi said Chiwenga enacted “irrational and unlawful regulations” without making any provision for social safety nets for over 20 000 vulnerable people   who depend on informal trading. “I must hasten to point out that the promulgation of the Public Health (COVID-19 Prevention, Containment and Treatment) (National Lockdown) (No 2) (Amendment) Order, 2021 (No 9) has a devastating effect on the livelihoods of the informal traders. “This is due to an abrupt loss of income, as the informal sector is not allowed to operate during the period of the Level 4 lockdown ushered in by the order in question, this prohibition,” said Mkwananzi in his founding affidavit. “Applicants will demonstrate hereunder, that the order in question (the lockdown)  is invalid on account of it being inconsistent with various provisions of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, as well as being irrational and disproportionate to the public health imperative as outlined in the Public Health Act (Chapter 15:17).” The informal traders also questioned Chiwenga’s authority in ordering the lockdown, arguing that section 68 of the Public Health Act (Chapter 15:17), empowered the President, not his deputy to proclaim such an order. ZLHR on Monday also filed another urgent chamber application at the High Court seeking an order compelling government to declare them essential service providers to facilitate their ease passage at security checkpoints during the national lockdown period.