Lawmaker sues ED for abandoning the poor during lockdown

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By Robert Tapfumaneyi

MDC legislator Allan Markham and a human rights activist Mfundo Mlilo have hauled President Emmerson Mnangagwa and some of his lieutenants to court seeking an order compelling government to provide safety nets and subsidies to vulnerable communities in Zimbabwe during the current national lockdown against the coronavirus outbreak.

The application filed through the High Court seeks to compel Mnangagwa, Ministers Mthuli Ncube (finance), Obadiah Moyo (health) and July Moyo (health) to come up with subsidies in the form of food, cash handouts and water at a time citizens have been cut from their sources of income.

Markham and Mlilo are represented by Tendai Biti who is working under the auspices of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR).

The two argue that while it was just that government has decreed a business and job break for 21 continuous days, little has been done by way of availing safety nets for the vulnerable.

They also say the order to stay home could also be contrary to the spirit of saving lives without essential material to save the vulnerable.

Restricting movement without providing for safety nets, the two further argue, threatens the right to life and to health care among citizens.

This, they say, was an abdication by the state on its duty to protect citizens in terms of the Constitution and international covenants and instruments.

They further argue the government violated international law, which places a duty and responsibility on the state to protect its citizens from pandemics.

Markham and Mlilo protested government’s failure to pass regulations that provide distress relief and social protection provisions to vulnerable communities, informal traders, unemployed persons.

This is after government passed its Statutory Instrument 83 of 2020, Public Heath, (COVID-19 Prevention, Containment and Treatment) (National Lockdown) Order, 2020.

Against that background, the pair wants authorities to follow that up with a Statutory Instrument, which will enable the provision by government, of food, monetary handouts and provision of water.

The legislator and activist want government ordered to pass regulations and enforce such regulations that provide for emergency relief in the form of door to door food handouts, cash handouts, water deliveries and other related provisions that sustain the livelihoods of affected communities during the National Lockdown period.