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Youthful Pastor Wins High Court Case Against 'Forced' Covid-19 Vaccination


BY JAMES MUONWA

IT was sweet victory for the institution of the church, as it was for one young cleric-cum-lawyer, who felt the Government of Zimbabwe was trampling on citizen's rights to dignity as enshrined in the Constitution.

Obert Kondongwe is a 30-year-old Christian who attends Christ Embassy, Sunningdale in Harare.He is a graduate of University of Zimbabwe's Law School.

Kondongwe is not vaccinated against Covid-19 and vowed he will "never" be jabbed against the deadly respiratory ailment, which has claimed millions of lives across the globe.

Felt hard done by the 11 August 2021 decree by government that only fully vaccinated congregants could attend physical church services, Kondongwe was determined to change the narrative to protect the country's supreme law and, indeed, constitutionalism.

Also representing unvaccinated church congregants across the country, Kondongwe on 27 August 2021 filed an urgent chamber application seeking to nullify the government ban on unjabbed worshippers from attending sit-in sermons.

Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa, Home Affairs minister Kazembe Kazembe, Health minister and Vice President Constatino Chiwenga, and the Attorney General, were cited as first, second, third and fourth respondents, respectively.

In his ruling on Thursday, High Court judge David Mangota said unvaccinated church-goers could immediately start attending services while police officers were barred from arresting them.

Reads part of the ruling, “Arising from the foregoing paragraph 1 of this order, any purported ban on unvaccinated sit-in congregants in churches and any arrests or criminal proceedings of unvaccinated sit-in congregants of churches enforced by the Home Affairs Minister (Kazembe) Kazembe is unlawful, null and void and of no force or effect and are set aside.

“There shall be no order as to costs unless this application is opposed in which event the respondents that oppose the application shall pay costs of suit on the legal practitioner and client scale.”

Kondongwe, who is founder of Lawyers for Truth, Health, Justice and Freedom, was ecstatic over the Thursday court ruling.

"Absolutely, we are excited and we can't wait to be in church on Sunday because the court order is very clear that we cannot be barred from attending church," Kondongwe told NewsAnchor Saturday.

Last month, Cabinet announced churches must open only to vaccinated congregants with not more than 100 congregants attending.

The interim order passed by the High Court effectively sets aside the Cabinet’s decision.

While waiting for the full High Court ruling, unvaccinated congregants should be granted permission to attend church services.

“The statement issued by 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 attached to the foregoing, the conduct of Kazembe 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," ruled the judge.

In the founding affidavit deposed by lawyers from Mundida and Mudhara law firm, Kondongwe had argued the directive to stop unvaccinated congregants from attending church was not only discriminatory, but illegal and unconstitutional.

"In essence, all unvaccinated sit-in congregants were prohibited from attending physical church meetings. The effect of the statement was also to criminalise any church gatherings of unvaccinated sit-in congregants," said Kondongwe.

He added, "Following this, second respondent (Kazembe) has on the strength of the above Cabinet statement begun to enforce the ban on all unvaccinated congregants from attending physical church services and is carrying out several arrests and instituting various criminal proceedings against violators of same."

Kondongwe further argued that in terms of Section 85 (i) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, the Cabinet statement issued by Mutsvangwa and actioned by Kazembe ordering police to enforce the ban, was illegal and unconstitutional.

"There is no law currently in Zimbabwe which makes vaccination mandatory. Concomitantly, there is no criminal law which penalises church gatherings of unvaccinated congregants.

"It is trite that each person, having fully considered the implications and effects of vaccination, is expected to make a personal decision on whether or not to get vaccinated, and even to make a personal decision regarding the timing of such vaccination," argued Kondongwe.

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