Informal Traders Claim Discrimination, Challenge Chiwenga Lockdown

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By Mary Taruvinga

THE Zimbabwe Informal Sectors Organisation (ZISO), through its Executive director Promise Mkwananzi, has approached the High Court complaining that the ongoing national lockdown is unconstitutional.

The organisation says the regulations enacted were irrational since there was no provision for social safety nets for the vulnerable during this period.

Applicants in the matter are ZISO represented by Mkwananzi and Mfundo Mlilo while Health minister, Constantino Chiwenga is the respondent.

Mkwananzi said the regulations adversely impacted on the livelihoods and constitute a threat to the right of life of the applicants.

“The above decision is irrational, arbitrary and whimsical. It is not rationally connected to the intended objective of containing the spread of the pandemic,” he said.

“First of all, there is no evidence that employees in those identified sectors are not prone to the virus as employees in any other sector of the economy.

“Secondly, there is no evidence that the same guidelines will not be effective in other sectors of the economy as they would be in the agriculture, mining or manufacturing sectors.”

He added, “More importantly, no rational explanation linked to the intended objective exists to justify the exemption of those sectors from the operation of the Level IV lockdown.

“The exemption is discriminatory and has the effect of destroying the informal sector, while propping up big businesses.”

Mkwananzi said there was no evidence that any of the recent infections were more prevalent in the formal business or informal sector other than mining, agriculture or manufacturing.

He said no justification therefore exists for closing these sectors of the economy, while the exempted sectors remain open.

According to the activist, there is no evidence to demonstrate that the alleged surge in infections arose from any of the previously enjoyed activities and gatherings, given that these have been in place since May 2020, and the spike complained of only arose during the festive period when businesses were going on their annual shutdown anywhere and when there was an influx of returnees and the opening of the borders.

“In this regard, Applicants aver that the dearth of evidence of connection between the measures sought and the intended objective can only lead to the inescapable conclusion that respondent’s decision was harsh, rushed, irrational, disproportionate and ill thought. It cannot stand. It must be set aside,” he said in an urgent chamber application files with the High Court.

People have complained that they were locked in with no food and basic commodities.

Mkwananzi said applicants are engaged in the informal sector, being units engaged in the production of goods or services with the primary objective of generating employment and incomes to the persons concerned.

“These units may operate without fixed location, or in homes, small shops or workshops. The activities cover a range from street vending, shoe-shining and other activities that involve a certain amount of investment or level of expertise such as tailoring, car repair and professional services.

“The imposition of a level IV lockdown, particularly the act of the sovereign in limiting applicants’ ability to work destroys their source of livelihood and adversely impacts on their right to shelter as they resultantly fail to pay rentals, both for their homes and places of trade during the period of lockdown,” he said.

“I must however emphasise that there is no logic in making Applicants escape death from disease to deliver them to a much slower and more painful death by starvation,” said Mkwananzi.

He prayed that the order be set aside.

The matter is yet to be heard.