Vax or Axe: Unvaccinated civil servants must stay home, Cabinet says

(pic: EPA)

Government has sent out a message to its workers: if you’re not vaccinated, don’t come to work.

In July, the Public Service Commission instructed that all heads of ministries ensure that all workers are vaccine. Government also announced it would withhold COVID-19 allowances for unvaccinated staff. Now, Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said after Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting that only vaccinated staff should show up for work.

“Pursuant to the previous announcement that all civil servants should be vaccinated, Cabinet further resolved that no unvaccinated civil servants will be allowed to come to work,” Mutsvangwa said.

This order is likely to have an impact on service delivery in government, as many workers are yet to take the vaccine. Zimbabwe has over 300,000 civil servants. Teachers are the single largest bloc of government workers, numbering about 140 000, according to the Ministry of Primary and Secondary School Education data.

Cabinet says current teacher attendance is 85.5%. But unions say due to low wages, less than 50% are attending class, with those that do turn up for work not fully attending to their students in protest.

The Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union has said it will resist “command vaccination”, while the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions says it has already gone to court to challenge government and companies that have mandated vaccinations for workers.

ALSO READ | Jabs and jobs: What these top Zimbabwean companies are doing to push staff vaccinations

Government has been pushing for vaccinations, including among special groups such as churches. Last week, a court suspended an order by government that only vaccinated people can attend church, pending legal arguments on the matter. At a meeting held by church leaders and President Emmerson Mnangagwa this week, churches asked to be allowed to let in more congregants.

Churches can now fill half of their pews, but only with vaccinated believers.

According to Mutsvangwa on Tuesday: “Cabinet discussed the request by churches for a review of number of congregants allowed in church services to at least a third, taking into account the size of the church. Whilst all other gatherings shall not exceed 100 persons, with regards to churches, Cabinet has resolved that only vaccinated congregants can attend and should be limited to 50% of the holding capacity of the Church”.

Zimbabwe has so far procured 11.8 million COVID-19 vaccines, the bulk of which were direct purchases from Sinovac and Shipoharm. However, the vaccine rollout has been slowed down by distribution challenges and vaccine resistance among the population.

By Monday, a total of 2,856,955 people in Zimbabwe had received at least the first vaccine dose, while 1,894,780 had been fully vaccinated.