Zimbabwe: ZCTU Vaccines Case Hits Snag

15 September 2021

Chief Court Reporter

The High Court has found the application by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), seeking to prohibit employers including Government from compelling unvaccinated or untested workers to stop reporting for duty, is not urgent since the ZCTU delayed bringing the case, had seen much of its case overtaken by events.

The ZCTU, an umbrella body of 35 labour unions representing 189 000 workers, took six companies to court for ordering workers to have the Covid-19 vaccine or present frequently a negative test result from a test paid for by the worker.

The ZCTU included the Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare and the Attorney-General in its suit.

The granting of urgency by the High Court is an indulgence which gives considerable advantage to a party by letting it jump the civil queue.

While the legal practitioners acting for those suing certify the urgency this can be challenged and the High Court will only confirm urgency when the suit is launched promptly and irreparable harm may result if the court does not move swiftly to make a decision.

Generally the principle of equality before the law means that everyone takes their position in the queue as their suit moves up the opposed or unopposed rolls, but since there are cases when swift action may be needed there are tests the court can apply. The ZCTU failed these tests.

On the test of the need for prompt action, Justice Emilia Muchawa found the ZCTU failed to bring its application back in July when at least some of the companies introduced the system.

No reasonable explanation was given for the delay.

"It is my finding that the applicant has not passed the test of justifying that its matter be allowed to jump the queue and be given preferential treatment ahead of other similar matters," she said.

"The matter is accordingly struck off the roll of urgent matters with costs."

ZCTU last month sued the Public Service Minister, Attorney-General, ZIMNAT, Zimbabwe National Road Administration (ZINARA), TelOne, Windmill, Seed Co and the Manicaland State University for allegedly workers who were unvaccinated, or at the very least did not have a negative PCR test taken at their own expense, from reporting for duty.

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