Zimbabwe’s government has ordered civil servants who are vaccinated against COVID-19 to immediately report for duty after more than a year of working from home, citing a declining in new cases of the virus in the country. Authorities also announced any government workers without proof of vaccination will be barred from workplaces and face punishments, including a freeze on their salaries.
In a statement this week, President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government said it wants its employees to resume meeting in person.
Late Tuesday, Monica Mutsvangwa, the country’s information minister, said the number of people being hospitalized for COVID-19 is on a steady decline.
“This indicates that the national response measures instituted by government continue to pay off. …In view of the continued decline in new cases and deaths, coupled with a declining testing positivity rate that is indicating that the community transmission has gone down, all ports of entry [are to] be reopened, but ensuring that all the recommended COVID-19 prevention measures are adhered to,” she said.
However, the compulsory vaccination rule is not being welcomed by all civil servants. Obert Masaraure, the president of the Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe, says the workers will take the matter to court if the government insists.
“A contract that was signed by civil servants has no provision for mandatory vaccination. So if the Public Service Commission wants to bar civil servants who are not vaccinated, they are in breach of contract and its unacceptable. Secondly, civil servants have a right to dignity, they have right to make choices. No one can be forced foreign substances to be inserted into their bodies,” he noted.
Dr. Norman Matara, the head of Zimbabwe Association for Doctors for Human Rights, says his organization has noted that several other countries are moving towards compulsory vaccination.
“It is something that we are strongly against. We think mandating vaccines is something that fuels vaccine hesitance. There is a lot of conspiracy theory that goes around when people are saying we are being forced to be vaccinated. We really have to get the buy in of people: spread the gospel of vaccines, how they work and then encourage people to get vaccinated and not force them to get vaccinated,” he pointed out.
But Sifiso Ndlovu from the Zimbabwe Teachers Association supports the government’s position.
“Definitely, all workers should take up the vaccination. Not because they want to protect themselves, but they want to protect their colleagues at work. Scientific evidence has it that if you are fully vaccinated it comes with a mild attack. Why not take up that? There is nothing wrong or sinister about it,” he said.
About 3.3 million people in Zimbabwe have received two shots of the COVID-19 vaccines, while about 86,000 have received a third jab.
A number of Zimbabweans have refused to get vaccinated, saying they do not trust the mainly donated Chinese-made Sinopharm and Sinovac vaccines.