Courts Cannot Overturn Cabinet’s Covid Measures: Judge

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By Mary Taruvinga

HIGH Court Judge Justice Owen Tagu has ruled he cannot overturn measures put by the Cabinet in curbing the spread of the deadly Covid-19 virus.

His ruling follows an application by the Passengers Association of Zimbabwe (PAZ) challenging public transporters, the Zimbabwe United Passengers Company (ZUPCO)’s monopoly in the transport business.

PAZ argued the imposition of national lockdown regulations that culminated in the ban on private commuter omnibuses by the government last year, were discriminatory and unconstitutional.

However, Justice Tagu ruled the measure should remain in place.

“In my view, the restriction imposed on the applicants serves a legitimate purpose and the 1st respondent is empowered in terms of s68 of the Act to make these restrictions, and accordingly the 1st respondent should be afforded the space to put in place measures necessary to curb the spread of Covid-19 in Zimbabwe,” the judge said.

Vice President Constantino Chiwenga, who is also the Health Minister, was cited as the first respondent in the court application.

The judge added: “There is, therefore, no justification at this stage for this court to order the suspension of the 1st respondent’s order made in SI 83 of 2020 as this would be tantamount to prescribing to the government how it should exercise its mandate in preventing and containing Covid-19. It is ordered that; the application is dismissed.”

PAZ; together with the Zimbabwe Chamber of Economy Associations (ZCIEA) and Constantine Chaza were challenging  Statutory Instrument 99/2020 which they regarded as unconstitutional.

It was also their submission that the national lockdown regulations violated their members’ constitutional rights to freedom of profession, trade or occupation enshrined in section 64 of the Constitution.

In May last year, the applicants had approached the High Court with the same application, but it also flopped.

Justice Mary Zimba-Dube dismissed the application at the time before the complainants appealed at the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court upheld their appeal and ruled that Justice Dube had erred in dismissing the application.

The matter was referred back to the High Court to be heard by a different judge, and Justice Tagu ruled the government’s imposed Covid-19 restrictions cannot be changed.